By Tom Withers
AP Sports Writer
BEREA — That giant zero hanging on the Browns right now might as well be a bull’s-eye.
Nobody wants to lose to the NFL’s only winless squad.
At 0-13, Cleveland has become an unlikely target.
“That’s one of the challenges when you go this long without winning a game,” Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas said.
“You’ve gone from maybe a team that other teams are going to overlook to the team that you’re definitely not going to get overlooked because teams don’t want to be the team that lost to you, and they are going to circle that game.”
Three losses from a most imperfect season, the Browns will try to snap a losing streak stretching to last Dec. 13 on Sunday when they visit the Buffalo Bills, who have had their own struggles and whose coach, Rex Ryan, might be in a little trouble.
A loss to the dismal Browns could seal Ryan’s fate.
On Wednesday, Buffalo defensive tackle said the Bills aren’t looking past the Browns and promised victory.
“That’s just a guarantee,” Dareus told the Buffalo News. “We ain’t gonna be that team. We’re not going to be the team that busts (the Browns’ streak). Nobody in the league wants that to happen (to them), no.”
Thomas faked disgust and anger when told about Dareus’ promise.
“I hate that guy!” Thomas yelled through a smile. “I’m gonna kill him!”
Thomas, though, got somewhat serious when explaining the motivation behind Dareus’ pledge as it’s the same thing driving the Browns, who don’t want to be remembered along with the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only 0-16 teams.
“The mindset we’re going to have is just the same way,” he said. “We’re going to make them the team we break the streak on, so I think that’s, as a football player, our competitive nature, that’s the way we train ourselves to think every single week because you want to go in on that Sunday expecting to win.”
The Bills understand what’s at stake. Two straight losses and five in their past seven games have damaged a promising season.
They need to win out to have any chance of making the playoffs, so a loss to the Browns would be doubly devastating.
“We can’t let that happen,” wide receiver Sammy Watkins said. “It’ll look bad on everybody, not just Rex, but the organization, the players. We’ve got to come out ready to fight and play a full battle because they’re going to come out and try to beat us.”
Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III, who will make just his second start since Sept. 11, isn’t expecting any sympathy from the Bills.
In fact, he believes they’ll be more focused than if they were playing a 3-10 team.
“No one wants to be that team that gets beat by us because we don’t have any wins right now, and everyone knows it,” Griffin said.
“No one is just going to walk out there on the field and give us a win and say, ‘Here you go. We feel sorry for you. We will give you guys a win.’ Everyone is trying to kick us while we are down, so we are going to have to go take it.
“We are going to get everybody’s best shot because nobody wants to lose to us. It is just a matter of us going out and putting a full game together.”
Thomas fondly recalled a visit to Buffalo in 2009, when the Browns beat the Bills 6-3 despite completing just two passes.
The win snapped a 10-game losing streak dating to the previous season and was Cleveland’s only victory in a 1-11 start.
“It was like winning the Super Bowl,” he said. “That win was an awesome moment even though it was insignificant in the grand scheme of things, so certainly when we get that first win it’s going to be an exciting moment in the locker room for the players, probably only the players because it doesn’t matter to anyone else. We’re really battling hard to get that first win.”
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