Quarterback Brandon Weeden replaced injured starter Brian Hoyer and rallied the Cleveland Browns to a 37-24 win at home Thursday night over the Buffalo Bills, who also lost starting rookie quarterback EJ Manuel with a knee injury.
Weeden threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Josh Gordon in the third quarter as the Browns (3-2) won their third straight and temporarily moved into sole possession of first place in the AFC North.
Safety T.J. Ward intercepted rookie Jeff Tuel’s pass and returned it 44 yards for a TD with 1:44 left to end any comeback hopes for the Bills (2-3).
Hoyer sustained a potentially serious right knee injury on a scramble in the first quarter, and Manuel was forced out after taking a helmet to his right knee on a run in the third. Neither returned. Hoyer will undergo an MRI today.
C.J. Spiller had a 54-yard TD run and Fred Jackson had a pair of 1-yard TD runs for the Bills, who could do nothing on offense once Manuel left the game.
Beyond the quarterbacks, both teams had one other key player go down with an injury.
Bills leading receiver Stevie Johnson injured his back in the first half and didn’t return.
Browns defensive end Desmond Bryant was taken to the Cleveland Clinic in the third quarter after experiencing shortness of breath.
Weeden started slowly but finished 13 of 24 for 197 yards, and was sacked five times.
Tuel, an undrafted rookie out of Washington State, went just 8 of 20 for 80 yards.
Bucs end Freeman saga
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-4) have released quarterback Josh Freeman, one week after benching the fifth-year pro in favor of rookie Mike Glennon.
Freeman struggled the first three weeks of the season, completing just 45.7 percent of his passes. He’s Tampa Bay’s career leader in completions and touchdown passes and is second in passing yards.
The Bucs released the 25-year-old after contacting every NFL team in an unsuccessful attempt to trade him. The club must pay him the remaining $6.25 million of his salary for this season.
Around the League
Jacksonville obtained rookie linebacker John Lotulelei off waivers from Seattle. The team waived linebacker Kyle Knox to make room for Lotulelei on the 53-man roster. … Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews (sore hamstring) plans on playing Sunday when Green Bay hosts Detroit. Matthews was injured in a loss to the Bengals two weeks ago. He was limited Wednesday in practice but back to full speed on Thursday. … Wide receiver Chris Williams, who negotiated his release from the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger Cats this week, signed a contract with the New Orleans Saints, his agent said. Contract details weren’t immediately available, but the 25-year-old will make much more than the $48,000 base salary he was scheduled to earn this season in Hamilton. The NFL’s 2013 minimum salary is $405,000. … New England signed four-year veteran receiver Austin Collie. They also placed defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (torn Achilles tendon) on injured reserve and released struggling rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld. … Detroit formally announced the signing of wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, who was released by Tampa Bay on Tuesday.