Bengals Monday Morning QB: Zoning Manziel

When the Bengals outbattled the Browns and former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, they also outfoxed them.

The Bengals took down a high-profile quarterback at home Thursday when they beat the Browns.

It's a case of been there and done that for Cincinnati.

When the Bengals took care of Cleveland and money-rubbing former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny "Football" Manziel, they merely added to an impressive big-game list at Paul Brown Stadium.

A list that also includes Super Bowl winners, never mind Manziel, who hasn't done much in the NFL.

According to the team's official website, the Bengals have won 20 of their last 24 games at PBS with a defense that has taken down six Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks.

On Thursday, they added their second Heisman Trophy winner in that stretch while limiting Manziel to just four second-half completions for 40 yards while sacking him three times (he was 11-of-18 passing for 128 yards at halftime).

Cincinnati cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said the game plan was similar to the one they had for the last Super Bowl winner they beat at home -- Seattle’s Russell Wilson. They forced Manziel to beat a zone.

“Same two guys in that we knew he was going to try and break the pocket,” Kirkpatrick told the team's site. “I felt like early on, (Manziel) hit us a couple of times on the (shallow routes). We went more to a zone-type coverage. That was the best call, and coach (defensive coordinator Paul Guenther) did a great job making that call."

Kirkpatrick said Manziel didn’t have free-access throws after the change was made.

"He had to throw in holes," said the cornerback. "We wanted to keep him in our vision. When he was making plays; the secondary had its back turned. It was those break-down plays where they’d shake free of a guy and be wide-open. Once we went zone, it kind quieted up.”

The Bengals believed that if they slowed down the tempo by calling off the blitz, and going Cover-2, that would help keep the nimble Manziel in front of them and minimize collateral damage if and when he escaped the pocket.

The plan worked, and Manziel seemed to notice.

He told Cleveland media, in retrospect, that he should have checked down to a tight end or a running back a few more times than he did against the Bengals once they backed off the blitz.

"Their coverage changed," Manziel said. "But, they didn’t bring a lot of pressure like they did earlier in the game.”

Chalk that one up to Guenther, who made the necessary adjustments that kept Manziel from working that old magic of his.


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