The Cleveland Browns emerged Thursday night with a solid 37-24 win over the Buffalo Bills. Both starting quarterbacks were knocked out of the game, creating chances for the defenses to shine. The Browns won with the help of two non-offensive touchdowns and a little Brandon Weeden magic for old time's sake.
Here are a few of the biggest takeaways for both teams after Thursday night:
Kiko Alonso is really good
The rookie linebacker was everywhere for the Bills, leading all players with 12 tackles on the night, including a stuff on Willis McGahee for a loss of four yards in the first quarter. He spearheaded a relatively solid night defensively for Buffalo. With 44 tackles, one forced fumble and four (!) interceptions on the season, Alonso is arguably the early favorite to win NFL Rookie Defensive Player of the Year honors.
C.J. Spiller is a gamer
Spiller was limited during Thursday's game, which wasn't surprising. Before kickoff, reports were calling him a "true game-time decision" due to an ankle injury. Spiller was held in check for much of the night, but his 54-yard touchdown run in the third quarter showcased how special he is. Spiller finished the run limping to give the Bills a boost, proving he is the team's best scoring weapon even on one ankle.
Calling Josh Freeman
The Bills turned to Jeff Tuel after E.J. Manuel went down during Thursday's game. The undrafted rookie couldn't live up to the standards of the first-rounder, going 8-for-20 passing for 80 yards and an interception. If Manuel is forced to miss extended playing time, the recently banished Freeman may be more than willing to step into a starting role with the Bills.
Let Travis Benjamin touch the ball more
Benjamin gave the Browns their halftime lead with a weaving 79-yard punt return for a touchdown. Benjamin has a slight frame, but he clearly proved he has the juice to score every time he touches the ball. Coupled with Josh Gordon, few teams can match the Browns' receiving corps in terms of pure explosiveness. Perhaps Benjamin can take on a greater role in the offense? At the very least, let him handle kickoffs as well.
Brandon Weeden is much easier to forgive coming off the bench
There was something very heartwarming about Weeden's 197-yard, one-touchdown passing performance. Getting over the fact that he probably shouldn't have been a first-round pick, there's no denying that he can at least be serviceable in the NFL. It's unfortunate Weeden has been unable to live up to the pressure of being a starter, but as a backup he is perfectly fine and very easy to root for. The Browns won't be needing to call Josh Freeman.
The Browns are good?
At the very least, three straight wins suggest that the team probably isn't awful. There are a lot of kinks to work out on offense still, but the defense appears to be capable. The next three games against the Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs will identify whether or not the Browns truly have an elite defensive unit.