ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – One play never decides the outcome of a football game.
But Cleveland Browns rookie running back Terrance West was adamant he was responsible for his teams undoing in a 26-10 loss against the Buffalo Bills.
"I blame it on me. Turnovers killed us," West said solemnly in the visiting locker room.
Early in the third quarter West caught a toss to the left side and began cutting up the field. Bills defensive lineman Jerry Hughes closed in on West's backside, wrapping up him up for what seemed like a tackle. But the running back eagerly pushed forward for more yards. But in doing so, Hughes was able to lodge the ball loose, scoop up the fumble and sprinted home for an 18-yard Bills touchdown.
West's costly mistake all of a sudden put Buffalo up 14-3, sapping the momentum Cleveland had carried for most of the first half.
"That's what games come down to. Close games are going to come down to turnovers. Like I said, the West fumble changed everything. It's inexcusable.
"It comes with the game, man. We are going to make mistakes," West said. "It's just about how you react to it."
That was the problem: the reaction from Cleveland's offense came when the game was already out of reach. Quarterback Johnny Manziel's touchdown drive in the early fourth quarter made the score more respectable, 20-10, but the Browns weren't able to pedal out of the hole they dug.
West pinning the blame on himself is honorable, but it isn't completely justified.
Fellow running back Isaiah Crowell was not of much help either, 29 yards on 17 carries. Buffalo's defensive line lived up to the hype. They plugged every running lane and attacked Cleveland ball carriers in droves.
"They were tremendous in all categories and they proved it all day," said Joe Thomas. "We weren't able to open up holes. They did a great job of stopping us up front.
In three combined losses to the Bills, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars, the Browns have averaged 2.6 yards on the ground. Just like Cleveland has proven they have a formula for winning, opponents are finding method for success by limiting the Browns running game.
The frustrating part for the Browns is that in the first half, Cleveland was moving the ball at will. A drive in the first quarter went for 91 yards and another tallied 61 – but the Browns only had three points to show for it.
Then, when Joe Haden picked off a Kyle Orton pass to begin the third quarter, quarterback Brian Hoyer was sacked on third-down pushing the Browns out of field goal range and forcing a punt. Cleveland knocked on the door for too long at Ralph Wilson Stadium, instead of tearing the door off its hinges.
"In this league you have to make the most of your opportunities when you get them and this is a defense here that you don't get that many opportunities," Pettine said.
"We weren't able to finish in the red zone. If we do that, it's a totally different game," said Thomas.