ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — A day before the looming threat of a lake-effect snowstorm led to the Bills’ home game against Cleveland being shifted indoors to Detroit, Dion Dawkins happily reminisced about how much fun he had playing in the snow in 2017.
“I promise you it’ll be one of the funnest games that you’ll see,” the left tackle said on Wednesday, referring to his rookie season when the Bills defeated the Indianapolis Colts 13-7 in overtime in near white-out conditions.
It wasn’t until the subject turned from snowfalls to Buffalo falling out of the AFC lead following two straight losses when Dawkins’ mood suddenly soured.
“Does anybody else have a question?” he said.
The Bills (6-3), evidently, don’t need to be reminded of their midseason slump. They’ve blown second-half leads in each of their past two outings and skidded from top spot in the conference to sixth overall — and third in the AFC East thanks to a loss to the New York Jets.
As if they haven’t faced enough adversity from injuries this season, the Bills now lose their raucous home-field advantage by having to play at the Lions’ home, Ford Field, on Sunday. The NFL made the switch on Thursday, citing safety and travel concerns stemming from a lake-effect storm projected to dump between 1 and 3 feet of snow on the region through Saturday.
“You can’t let it buckle your knees. Things happen in this business all the time,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said, before urging the team’s fans from Michigan and points beyond to show up.
The Bills could use whatever boost they can get.
Last week’s concerns about Josh Allen’s sore throwing elbow have shifted to the quarterback’s sudden run of turnovers and Buffalo’s second-half scoring troubles, which preceded the injury.
Allen leads the NFL with 10 interceptions after being picked off twice in each of his past three games, and also muffed a snap in his end zone, which the Vikings recovered for a touchdown in Buffalo’s 33-30 overtime loss on Sunday. The offense, meantime, hasn’t scored a second-half touchdown over the same stretch.
Allen acknowledged he’s pressing and needs to place more trust in those around him.
In Cleveland, the Browns (3-6) have lost four of five and are running out of chances to stay in the playoff picture while waiting for quarterback Deshaun Watson to complete his 11-game NFL suspension. He was allowed to begin practicing this week.
Jacoby Brissett will make what should be his second-to-last start on Sunday, with Watson due to take over when the Browns face his former team, Houston, on Dec. 4.
Inconsistency on both sides of the ball has been a season-long issue for the Browns. After their first three losses were decided by a combined margin of six points, two of their past three have been routs, including a 39-17 loss at Miami.
With sideline temperatures approaching 100 degrees in South Florida, coach Kevin Stefanski acknowledged the heat played a factor, while insisting that shouldn’t be an excuse for managing a season-low 297 yards offense while surrendering a season-high 491 yards.
The Browns at least escaped the prospect of going from a hot extreme to a cold one, with the game now being played indoors.
“We lost in Miami so I don’t really want to play there again,” receiver Amari Cooper said. “It doesn’t really matter where we play to be honest.”
The Bills’ last major snow game against Indianapolis in 2017 featured Brissett as the Colts’ starter. He finished 11 of 22 for 69 yards and a touchdown as the Bills won thanks to LeSean McCoy’s 21-yard TD dash over a snow-covered field.
“I don’t want to talk about the results of the game,” Brissett said with a laugh.
SNOW DAYS II
A major storm the same weekend before Thanksgiving in 2014 led to the NFL shifting Buffalo’s home game against the New York Jets to Detroit. The Bills won 38-3. With some 5 feet of snow falling in a few days, the Bills hired snowmobiles to pick up players unable to dig their cars out at home in order to get them to the airport.
SNOW DAYS III
In 2007, the Browns beat the Bills 8-0 in a game played in blizzard conditions in Cleveland with Phil Dawson hitting two field goals and the Browns scoring a safety. The weather forced the Bills to spend the night in Cleveland, and they bused home the following day after their charter plane got stuck in mud off a runway.
“It seems like when it rains it pours. But in this case it’s snow,” defensive end Chris Kelsay said.
Buffalo’s Von Miller and Cleveland’s Myles Garrett are the NFL’s only players with with at least seven sacks in each of the past six seasons, and both attended Texas A&M.
Miller, who spent his first 10-plus seasons in Denver, recalled exchanging jerseys with Garrett following a 17-16 loss to Cleveland in 2018, when Miller set the Broncos’ career record for sacks.
“I didn’t really think about it until like a couple years later, I was like, ‘Dang, I don’t even have that jersey,’” Miller said. “And honestly, if somebody had to have it, it’s Myles Garrett. That’s my guy.”
AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Berea, Ohio, contributed to this report.