CLEVELAND — It's taken a month, but Coach Marty Schottenheimer says the Cleveland Browns have returned to form.
Bernie Kosar passed for 346 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Ray Ellis returned a fumble 27 yards for another score Sunday as the Browns downed the Buffalo Bills, 27-21.
"The players have worked hard, and we're back to where we were before the strike," Schottenheimer said.
"We had too damn many penalties, (which) we fortunately can correct, but we performed well. Bernie got the pass protection, and it is obvious what happens when he does."
The victory kept Cleveland (6-3) tied with Houston for first place in the AFC Central heading into a showdown with the Oilers in the Astrodome next Sunday.
Kosar completed 24 of 34 passes, including a 52-yard scoring pass play to Webster Slaughter to outduel former University of Miami, Fla., teammate Jim Kelly. Jeff Jaeger added two field goals as Kevin Mack had 48 yards in 17 carries and Slaughter caught 4 passes for 78 yards.
"We had a couple of turnovers, but really moved the ball well and executed our game plan," Kosar said. "The offensive line handled the blitz well and produced steady protection. The defense and special teams were tough, too.
"I don't get caught up in any so-called confrontation between me and him (Kelly). A quarterback has enough to do without worrying about that."
Buffalo (4-5) dropped out of a five-way tie in the AFC East. The Bills lost to Cleveland for the fourth straight time despite the passing of Kelly, who completed 22 of 35 for 222 yards and 2 fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Kelly had a team-high 42 rushing yards in 4 carries and Chris Burkett caught 6 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown.
"We need to run the ball if we're going to win," Kelly said. "We can't base our whole offense around the passing game. (But) we're headed in the right direction.
"Cleveland controlled the ball and they cover the receivers pretty good.
The Bills got a 56-yard fumble return for a touchdown by safety Mark Kelso, but Scott Norwood missed two field-goal attempts.
Buffalo led, 7-3, after one quarter, but Cleveland rallied for a 17-7 lead at halftime. Slaughter's touchdown and a field goal by Jaeger made it 27-7 before the Bills rallied.
"The two missed field goals were important," Buffalo Coach Marv Levy said. "There's six points, both inside the 40, and you have to count on them being made."