ORCHARD PARK, NY (AP) – Quarterback Kyle Orton and defensive end Jerry Hughes helped the Buffalo Bills build a lead so big that not even Johnny Manziel could overcome.
Orton threw a 3-yard touchdown pass and Hughes returned Terrance West’s fumble 18 yards for a score 10 seconds apart midway through the third quarter in leading the Bills to a 26-10 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon.
Dan Carpenter then sealed the win by hitting four of his five field goals in the fourth quarter as Buffalo (7-5) stayed in a tightly contested AFC playoff picture. The Bills also matched their best start to since 2000, when their 14-year playoff drought began.
The Bills were back home after a severe snowstorm forced them to relocate to Detroit, where they routed the New York Jets 38-3 on Monday night. With temperatures in the mid-50s on Sunday, there were only a few remnants of the 6-plus-feet of snow that fell on the Buffalo region.
The Browns (7-5) had their postseason hopes dented in a game that Manziel enjoyed his most significant playing time of the season.
The rookie quarterback took over with 12:01 left after Brian Hoyer threw his second interception, which set up Carpenter’s 34-yard field goal that put Buffalo ahead 20-3.
The rookie first-round pick provided an initial spark in getting his first appearance since a 23-21 loss to Baltimore in Week 3.
Manziel went 3 of 4 for 54 yards and added 13 yards rushing in capping an eight-play, 80-yard drive with a 10-yard run to cut Buffalo’s lead to 20-10 with 8:47 left.
The Bills responded with a 5-plus minute drive that ended with Carpenter hitting another 34-yard field goal. The Browns then went nowhere on their next possession. They gave up the ball on downs at the Browns 29, after Manziel threw a 5-yard pass to Miles Austin on fourth-and-6.
Manziel, whose first NFL completion was a 12-yard completion to Austin on his first attempt of the game, finished 5 of 8 for 63 yards, and added 13 yards rushing on two carries.
Hoyer had a sloppy outing in going 18 of 30 for 192 yards and two interceptions.
The quarterback switch leaves open questions as to who will get the start next week, when the Browns host Indianapolis.
Hoyer has now thrown six interceptions in his past three starts, including a season-worst three in a 26-24 win at Atlanta last weekend.
For Buffalo, Orton overcame a sloppy start, and got plenty of help from an opportunistic defense.
After throwing two interceptions on Buffalo’s first seven possessions, Orton finally found a rhythm on the Bills’ second series of the third quarter.
He engineered an efficient eight-play, 79-yard drive that included Orton completing a 34-yard pass to Robert Woods on fourth-and-3 from the Browns 37. A play later, Orton rolled to his right and found a wide-open Hogan for the touchdown.
The Bills defense shined in front of its former coordinator, Mike Pettine, who left Buffalo to take over the Browns in January.
Hughes’ fumble recovery came when West was stood up by Hughes and linebacker Preston Brown near the left sideline. Hughes got his hands on the ball and pulled it out before West tumbled out of bounds. Hughes then scooped up the loose ball and ran it in untouched.
Safety Da’Norris Searcy had two interceptions, while Kyle Williams and Nigel Bradham each had a sack to up the Bills’ NFL-leading total to 48.
Browns defensive back Joe Haden had an interception and blocked Carpenter’s 53-yard field-goal attempt at the end of the second quarter. Safety Jim Leonhard intercepted Orton’s pass into the end zone early in the second quarter.
Josh Gordon had seven catches for 75 yards in his second game since serving a 10-game NFL suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.