If the Johnny Manziel era for the Cleveland Browns is going to look like his first start, it’s not going to last very long. The Cleveland Browns failed to score a single point as their quarterback was roughed up by the Cincinnati Bengals 30-0 without the need for Andy Dalton to even play well.
That’s the funny thing about the Bengals: Their starting, franchise quarterback throws for 0 touchdowns, one interceptions and 117 yards, completing 14-of-24 passes, and they win by a landslide. Jeremy Hill ran for a couple of touchdowns and 149 yards, Giovani Bernard added 79 yards and Rex Burkehead, long forgotten since his days with Nebraska, also got in on the fun with a touchdown run of his own. Two interceptions from Manziel helped the Bengals need less of a special effort from their passing game.
Mazniel was sacked three times, completing just 10-of-18 throws for 80 yards. This looked a lot like the game between Army and Navy with both teams trying to do everything possible to not throw the ball. The Browns didn’t get a lot from their running game either, going just 53 yards over 17 carries. The Browns finished with just 107 yards of offense, five first downs a,d going 1-of-10 on third down attempts. Manziel finished with a QPR of 1.0 according to ESPN, tied for the worst first career start for anyone in the last five years. Brandon Weeden, another Browns (former) player, shares the honor.
The Browns can’t think about the playoffs anymore at 7-7. They offense problems, with Manziel or Hoyer, are so deep and bad it doesn’t really matter anymore. This kind of momentum needs to be stopped, or the feeling of moving forward through this season will be erased, and we’ll be seeing another summer of turmoil. A very good defense has been built there for the last couple of seasons, but you wouldn’t had known it by the way things looked on the field.
The Browns ran just 38 offensive plays, the fewest by any team this season and the fewest for a Browns team since 1999. They’ve gone four consecutive games without a passing touchdown while throwing at least two interceptions. The Buccaneers, “accomplishing” that for five straight games in 1977, are the last team to make that mark. It was also the first time the Browns were shut out since 2009, losing 16-0 to the Baltimore Ravens.
But what about the winners? The Bengals improve to 9-4-1 and are one win away from making the playoff in the AFC, although it will once again be through the Wild Card game, as the bye week everyone wants will probably go to the Broncos and the Patriots. Their defense is doing very well, their power running game, crushing through the middle of the line, was dominant against a very good defensive team. Their quarterback? They’ll just hope he doesn’t mess up for them.
Great quarterbacks have had bad debuts. Manziel’s chapter in the NFL or for the Browns isn’t over, regardless of whether or not they threw him in too soon into the deep water while carrying a bad momentum on his shoulders. But there wasn’t a single heartwarming or promising thing about Manziel’s first appearance in the NFL that suggests even a shred of hype around him was worthwhile. This might have been the beginning of the nightmare, not the end.