Manziel struggles in Browns' loss to Bengals
Dec. 15, 2014
CLEVELAND (AP) — Flames shot skyward from two giant Browns helmets as rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel ran onto the field for his first start.
That's as close as he came to providing a spark on Sunday.
Manziel looked overmatched and overwhelmed for much of the game as the Cincinnati Bengals wrecked his anticipated debut as an NFL starter with a 30-0 smashing of the Cleveland Browns.
Playing in front of NBA megastar and friend, LeBron James, and a Cleveland crowd loaded with No. 2 jerseys, Manziel failed miserably. He never got to flash his "money" sign and the 22-year-old did little to convince the Browns that he is their quarterback of the future.
"Looked like a rookie, played like a rookie," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "He made some obvious mistakes that typically a veteran quarterback won't make."
Manziel completed 10 of 18 passes for 80 yards with two interceptions — a third was nullified by a penalty. He finished with a 27.3 rating, hardly what the Browns (7-7) were looking for when Pettine benched veteran Brian Hoyer and put Cleveland's playoff hopes on Manziel.
The Browns lost their third straight game, and any chance of winning the AFC North.
It wasn't all Manziel's fault, but he didn't play well enough to inspire any of his teammates either.
"I felt like it was a fail on my part for the position, and it's tough," said Manziel, Cleveland's 21st quarterback since 1999. "It's going to take time. It's a process for sure. Yeah, I'm a rookie, but that's out the window. I needed to play better."
The Bengals (9-4-1) were determined to not let Manziel get the best of them. They chased, harrassed and even taunted Manziel, with several Cincinnati defenders mimicking his signature "money-rub" gesture — just as Pettine predicted they would.
"We didn't want to let him be Johnny Football versus us," Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap said.
Manziel looked completely lost at times. Although he denied that the stage was too big for him, it certainly looked that way. It had to be tough on Hoyer, who led the Browns to a 24-3 win at Cincinnati last month, but was relegated to a backup role after 13 games starting for his hometown team.
The Browns picked up just five first downs, were outgained 347-107 and shut out for the first time since 2009. It was Cleveland's worst loss since a 41-9 defeat to Pittsburgh in the 2010 finale.
The first-place Bengals, on the other hand, stayed in control of the division with their fourth straight road win.
"We're still in control of everything," quarterback Andy Dalton said. "We know what we are facing."
Here are five other things of note from Cincinnati's runaway win:
KING OF THE HILL: Bengals running back Jeremy Hill backed up his strong words about the Browns by rushing for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
After the teams played last month, Hill ripped the Browns, saying "they're probably worse than I thought." He provided bulletin-board material but then went out and ran all over Cleveland.
HADEN'S INJURY: Browns cornerback Joe Haden left in the first half with a shoulder injury. Cleveland's best defensive player is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday.
The loss of Haden further taxed a depleted secondary and then rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert went out with a concussion.
MAJOR MISTAKE: The Browns' only legitimate scoring chance ended when Manziel forced a pass into the end zone and was picked off by cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones.
"Whether you're playing Pop Warner or if you're 6 years old playing in the driveway, you can't throw that ball," Manziel said. "That's 100 percent on me."
FOR DAD: Bengals kicker Mike Nugent made three field goals, capping an emotional week following the death of his father. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said because Nugent couldn't practice to be with his family he was at the stadium kicking at night with his wife, brother and sister.
"That's the kind of guy you want on your team," Lewis said. "We haven't ever done much as far as giving out a game ball after the game, but Mike Nugent got one. Guys understand that with anybody that's been through losing a loved one."
NOT ENOUGH: The Browns ran just 38 offensive plays, the fewest in the league this season.
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