Buffalo's Joe Cribbs fumbled three times today, but the Bills could laugh about it after the he caught three touchdown passes from Joe Ferguson and rushed for 85 yards, sending the Cleveland Browns to a 22-13 defeat.
"He's a big-play guy and we couldn't stop him," said Cleveland Coach Sam Rutigliano. Buffalo improved its record to 6-3 and dropped the Browns to 4-5.
Ferguson, among 14 completions in 30 passes for 297 yards, teamed with Cribbs on touchdowns covering 58, 15 and 60 yards. Cribbs, who had 52 catches as a rookie last year, caught five today for 163 yards.
Cribbs also ran the ball 20 times in helping the Bills to a 459-270 advantage in total yardage, but he was featured as a third wide receiver who had Brown linebackers at an obvious disadvantage.
Buffalo, which had seven sacks last week, increased its 1981 total to 31 by throwing Brian Sipe for losses six times. Another play that appeared to be an end-zone sack of reserve quarterback Paul McDonald by Buffalo's Sherman White was ruled intentional grounding by McDonald for a safety and a 15-6 Buffalo lead in the third quarter.
Matt Bahr accounted for Cleveland's scoring until the fourth quarter with field goals of 36 and 39 yards. Each came shortly after a touchdown pass by Sipe was called back by a penalty.
The Browns drew within 15-13 on a 12-yard touchdown pass, Sipe to Ozzie Newsome, in the fourth quarter, but Cribbs followed with his longest touchdown reception of the game.
Buffalo defensive backs Bill Simpson and Mario Clark intercepted passes late in the game to end Cleveland threats.
The Buffalo insurance touchdown came on a four-play, 73-yard drive: a 13-yard pass to Cribbs, a run by Cribbs, an incomplete pass to Cribbs and the 60-yard play.