Sunday’s 8-0 siege against Buffalo might have been the Browns’ biggest win of the expansion era.

Sunday’s 8-0 siege against Buffalo might have been the Browns’ biggest win of the expansion era.

It called to mind the most embarrassing loss.

Almost three years to the day earlier, in weather as brutal, the offensive linemen from a weather paradise, San Diego, set out to prove they were tough enough for Cleveland’s cold. They all played in the cold and snow in short sleeves.

In a comparative wuss-out, several Browns linemen dressed for winter. Mom might have approved, but Browns fans became disgusted during a 21-0 loss.

On Sunday, before heading into snow, cold and misery that kept a few thousand fans home, Cleveland’s offensive linemen made a pact.

“It was kind of a no-brainer,” guard Eric Steinbach said. “I talked to the other four guys on the line.

“We just decided, hey, there’s no way we’re wearing long sleeves. I think it makes a statement.”

This can be said of Sunday’s game:

- It left the Browns at 9-5, guaranteed a playoff berth if they win at Cincinnati on Sunday.

- It put them in position to finish 11-5. Forget expansion era; in the NFL’s 16-game era that began in 1978, Cleveland has finished at 11-5 only in 1980 and 1994, and better only in 1986, at 12-4.

- Jamal Lewis rushed for 163 yards, a must on a day Derek Anderson went 9-of-24 for 137 yards and a 57.1 rating worse than all of his 2007 starts except a 57.0 at Oakland.

- The defense exploited the snowstorm’s effect on rookie quarterback Trent Edwards, allowing a season-low 232 yards.

- The shutout was the third of the expansion era.

- The win left the Browns in position to finish 2007 with a 7-1 home record; the 1980 Kardiac Kids, Bernie Kosar’s 1986 Browns and Bill Belichick’s 1994 team all finished 6-2. The Browns host the 49ers in the season finale on Dec. 30.

Longtime placekicker Phil Dawson, whose 35- and 49-yard field goals were huge, nicely put the day into words:

“A game late in the year, at home, a chance to go to the playoffs in just horrible weather, and the Browns coming out on top. I hope the fans enjoyed it. I know the players did.”

Freezing one’s drawers off never felt so good.

“The fans were as excited about the snow as we were,” said rookie left tackle Joe Thomas.

Snow apparently fires up Lewis, who has been hot lately (406 yards over the previous four games), but was smoking on a lumpy, white field.

“He’s perfect for this type of weather,” Thomas said. “He kept his shoulders north and south, put his head down, and knocked guys over.”

Dawson treated his first field goal try like a golf shot, finessing it from
35 yards for a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

This was the British Open from hell.

“When you line up to hit a golf ball and have to change your address by four inches ... it was like that,” Dawson said.

In some cases, the Browns didn’t move the ball; they hoped it down the field.

The first field goal was set up by a pass that went off Braylon Edwards’ hands and happened to deflect to teammate Joe Jurevicius, who turned the accident into a 25-yard gain.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” running back Jason Wright said. “I’m from Los Angeles.”

The Browns took a 5-0 lead on a safety resulting from a ball snapped over punter Brian Moorman’s head.

Bills coach Dick Jauron could only shake his head at the conditions.

“There was an unbelievable storm when I was in Green Bay and we played at Chicago,” said the 57-year-old Jauron. “Here, with rain and snow on the field, you didn’t know the yard line most of the time.

“This is the worst I recall being involved in.”

One of the best kicks in Dawson’s nine years as a Brown came out of this giant slush puppy. His low-flying 49-yarder with 1:22 left in the first half provided the 8-0 lead.

Ever the team man, Dawson assumed a “gosh-thank-them” posture toward snapper Ryan Pontbriand and holder Dave Zastudil.

“The snap came back perfect,” Dawson said. “Dave had just cleaned off some snow with his hands. I’m sure they were frozen.”

Maybe, but this wasn’t a poor-baby Browns performance.

It was, as is par for the season, tense at the end.

The Bills staged their only serious drive, 50 yards, winding up with fourth-and-5 from the Cleveland 10. A dump pass to Fred Jackson got nowhere.

The flushed faces flooding through the Browns’ tunnel had that going-somewhere look.

Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or e-mail steve.doerschuk@cantonrep.com