All eyes were on the Browns-Bengals game. Not for its playoff implications, but for the start of the Johnny Manziel Era.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) December 14, 2014
Manziel takes over at quarterback after incumbent Brian Hoyer failed to get the offense going in recent weeks. However, it wasn’t a strong start. On the first two plays, Manziel handed the ball off to running back Terrance West, who ran for a total of eight yards. Then Manziel was forced to scramble for a yard on third-and-two.
Junk playcall by Browns on 3rd down. Four WRs to the right not running a route and Gordon on slant from under center. CIN dropped to slant — Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball) December 14, 2014
The Browns would punt on the following play. It wasn’t impressive.
Manziel would complete a pass on the opening play of the next drive, a four-yard toss to Jordan Cameron. And then get sacked on the next play.
It would be another three-and-out, which saw Manziel complete one of his two passes for four yards while losing six yards on two carries at the end of the first quarter. In other words: the new quarterback looks a lot like the old quarterback.
Manziel would finally get a first down on a pass, thanks to illegal use of the hands by Bengals defender Leon Hall. Then promptly throw an interception two plays later.
Brutal throw by Manziel. Lazily floated a sideline pass that was begging to be a pick-6.
— Bart Hubbuch (@BartHubbuch) December 14, 2014
Finding themselves down 20-0, the Browns would go three-and-out on the next drive, with Manziel overthrowing a wide-open receiver well beyond the first-down marker. He would hand the ball off on each of the next five plays of the subsequent drive, converting on a fourth-and-one after the first three. On the sixth play he would pass, only to have it batted down by Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga. Maualuga would then intercept Manziel’s next throw, which would get nullified by an offsides penalty.
The Browns offense was so out of rhythm, they needed to call a timeout after the two-minute warning.
Manziel would end the half with an interception in the end zone, completing four of his eight passes for 22 yards and two interceptions for a 12.0 passer rating after two quarters. He would gain just three yards on three carries and, according to Advanced Football Analytics’ win probability added, reduce the Browns chances of winning by 12 percent. But hey, I am sure hovercraft racing at halftime will make fans forget all about what they just witnessed.
Alas, not even the hovercrafts could help turn the momentum Cleveland’s way in the second half. Manziel ended the game completing 10 of 18 passes for 80 yards — 32 coming on a single throw to Gordon — and two interceptions for a 27.3 passer rating. He would also be sacked three times. It may be worth noting that Hoyer got benched after posting a 29.3 passer rating against the Indianapolis Colts.
So Manziel will end up in the teens in attempts… because the Browns ran 37 offensive plays. Not a typo. NFL avg. = 65
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) December 14, 2014