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Bills return to Buffalo by bus after loss in Cleveland

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Mother Nature sure had it in for the
Buffalo Bills this weekend.

Bad enough that a blizzard contributed to Buffalo's loss at
Cleveland on Sunday, ending the team's playoff chances. Then,
following an unscheduled overnight stay because of bad weather, the
Bills were forced to bus home Monday after their charter plane got
stuck in mud off a runway in Cleveland.

"It seems like when it rains it pours. But in this case it's
snow," defensive end Chris Kelsay told The Associated Press by
phone as the Bills' five-bus caravan left Cleveland. "It's
definitely been an odd weekend."

Sure, like something out of "Planes, Trains and Automobiles."

Only the Bills found nothing funny from this script.

Buffalo (7-7) was mathematically eliminated from playoff
contention following an 8-0 loss to the Browns. The game was played
in conditions so horrendous it was nearly impossible to track a
team's exact field position because of the snow that blanketed the
Cleveland Browns Stadium turf.

Buffalo managed 11 first downs and 232 yards offense, and didn't
threaten to score until a last-minute drive ended when running back
Fred Jackson was tackled for no gain on fourth-and-5 at the Browns
10.

"It was just unfortunate our playoffs hopes were squashed
yesterday in the conditions we played in," Kelsay said. "We knew
it was going to be cold. It's just unfortunate that the field was
in as bad shape as it was. The conditions were definitely a big
part."

Even the Browns' potent offense was stifled, limited to two
field goals. Their other two points came on a safety after
Buffalo's Ryan Neill snapped the ball over punter Brian Moorman's
head.

The loss came after the Bills had won six of their previous
eight games, the team showing resilience in rallying from a 1-4
start and overcoming a rash of injuries. Buffalo entered the game
at Cleveland with 14 players on the season-ending injured reserve
list.

Buffalo will now miss the playoffs for an eighth straight
season, the longest drought in franchise history.

Not including Houston, which rejoined the NFL in 2002, Buffalo,
Detroit and Arizona are the league's only teams that haven't made
the playoffs this decade. Arizona's streak is the longest, dating
to 1998.

The Bills are now relegated to the role of spoiler as they
prepare to host the New York Giants (9-5) in their home finale
Sunday.

"We'd like to get a win there and finish the season on a high
note with two more victories," Kelsay said.

At least they got home safely, the team arriving in Buffalo at
around 12:30 p.m., some 14 hours later than expected.

Unable to fly out of Cleveland following the game, the Bills
booked back into the hotel where they stayed Saturday night. The
team was also treated to dinner courtesy of safety Donte Whitner
and receiver Lee Evans, both Cleveland natives.

Whitner lined up the catering company, Taste of Faith, which
provided a meal of soul food dishes at the team's hotel.

The Bills' travel luck turned against them again Monday morning.
That's when the pilot of their charter plan took too wide a turn
from one taxi way to another at Cleveland Hopkins International
Airport and the front wheel of the plane got stuck, airport
spokeswoman Pat Smith said. The team was not on board the plane.

"It wasn't snowing at the time. We don't know why he did
this," Smith said.

The Bills had just arrived at the airport by bus when they were
told about the plane.

"It was kind of scary," linebacker John DiGiorgio said. "We
hoped everyone was safe on it."

DiGiorgio wasn't bothered by having to bus home, something he
got used to while playing at Division II Saginaw Valley State in
Michigan.

"We took buses everywhere," DiGiorgio said. "We took an
11-hour bus ride one time to the Upper Peninsula in Michigan. So
nothing new for me."

Players were given the rest of the day off and are not scheduled
back until Wednesday, when they resume practice.

Bills spokesman Scott Berchtold said this was the first time the
team experienced weather-related travel problems since 1995. Then,
the Bills were flying back following a late-season win at St. Louis
and were forced to land 20 miles away at Niagara Falls Airport
because of a winter storm. The team spent the night at Niagara
Falls, before finally getting home the following day.

"That's the way it goes this time of year," Berchtold said.
"Everybody's fine."