CLEVELAND - In an instant, two weeks of excitement and spark were reduced to a limping trip to the locker room. Now, Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer won't play again this season.
Hoyer scrambled for a first down early in the first quarter of Thursday night's 37-24 Browns' win but came down awkwardly as he was hit by Bills' linebacker Kiko Alonso.
Head coach Rob Chudzinski said Friday that Hoyer would need to have season-ending surgery for a torn ACL in his right knee.
Hoyer left the game due to the injury, which paved the way for the return of Brandon Weeden.
"I think it was a little bit of a shock for the guys at first," head coach Rob Chudzinski said. "Brandon came in and played really well. I think the guys rallied around him."
Weeden, the starter in the Browns' two losses this season, was immediately booed after missing Travis Benjamin by a wide margin on his first pass attempt.
"At first he was a little rusty but I think he shook that off and really got it going," tight end Jordan Cameron said.
Weeden agreed he was rusty at the outset, having only thrown routes on Tuesday, but settled in as the game went on, throwing for 197 yards and a touchdown. It wasn't his first time coming off the bench and into a game.
As a redshirt sophomore at Oklahoma State, Weeden took the helm at halftime against Colorado and led the Cowboys to a win.
He remembered that one well. It was also on a Thursday night and his guys were also in monochromatic uniforms, wearing all black that night as the Browns wore all brown in their win.
"It's kind of eerie the similarities," Weeden said.
His performance that night sparked the Cowboys and ultimately set in motion Weeden's fruitful career as a college starting quarterback, which culminated in a Fiesta Bowl win over Stanford.
At halftime Thursday night, Weeden said he went to see how Hoyer was doing and wish him luck.
"You hate to see it, just hate to see it, because he's a teammate, a friend," Weeden said. "I tried to be as positive with him as he could and he was in there celebrating when we won."
Head coach Rob Chudzinski would not speculate about Hoyer's condition after the game but did say the right knee sprain was serious enough for an MRI. With the result showing a torn ACL, the worst fears have been confirmed.
"Whoever's in there I expect the same: to go out and play and be prepared at that position to lead our team," Chudzinki said after the game about his quarterbacks.
The back-and-forth quarterback drama has now been decided in a way no one wanted - by Hoyer's injured knee.
"This football team has relied on him," Weeden said about Hoyer. "Whether or not I've been in the last couple weeks or not, this team has relied on me."
Above .500 and in sole possession of first place in the AFC North, at least for a couple days, the onus is now on Weeden to keep up the momentum.
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A couple of die-hard Cleveland Browns fans have composed a song called “The Ballad of Brian Hoyer.”