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Cleveland Browns lead AFC North after win vs. Bills

The Cleveland Browns took a punch to the gut early Thursday night when they lost starting quarterback Brian Hoyer to a knee sprain and fell behind by 10 points against the Buffalo Bills.

Most Browns teams over the years would have folded at that point. Just like most folks thought this Browns team gave up on the season when it traded running back Trent Richardson. No matter what happens from here on out, this is not your average Browns team.

The Browns stormed back to beat Buffalo 37-24 on Thursday night behind an aggressive defense, big punt returns from Travis Benjamin and timely throws by Brandon Weeden. It's October and the Browns are in first place in the AFC North at 3-2. This was their first comeback of eight points or more in 25 games. It's the first time the Browns have been over .500 since 2007.

Like most Browns stories, some caveats are involved. The Bills, now 2-3, lost starting quarterback EJ Manuel to a knee injury in the third quarter, and Buffalo's undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel was not prepared to move the ball. So the Browns should have won this game. Defensive lineman Desmond Bryant went to the hospital after having shortness of breath. NFL Media's Alex Flanagan reports that the Browns fear Hoyer tore ligaments in his knee. He'll undergo an MRI exam Friday.

Weeden had his moments; he can throw a pretty deep ball when protected. But he also displayed the same lack of pocket awareness and lack of touch that led to him getting booed often by the home crowd. The Browns are a better team with Hoyer behind center. The ceiling for what the Browns can accomplish this season is lower if Weeden is the starter again.

We can't help feeling for Browns fans after this one. Even on a great night for the organization, Hoyer's injury was a sobering development. But that bad news is a lot easier to swallow after a win.

Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron are offensive cornerstones to build around. The defensive front seven is as deep as any group in the league. This is a young team with a boatload of draft picks in 2014, and it already has shown the ability to win in tough situations.

Let's call Cleveland a factory of cautious optimism for now.

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