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Manziel’s debut starting performance aside, entire team needs better effort vs. Panthers

Well, that went poorly.

Johnny Manziel’s debut as a starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns went as bad as one could have imagined. No, worse, actually.

There was buildup. The Browns were leading national sports programs all week. “Here comes Johnny Football. This guy is going to be electric. The Bengals are in trouble.”

Aaaaand then the game started and Manziel finished 10 of 18 passing for 80 yards with two interceptions and ran the ball five times for 13 yards.

Bengals 30, Browns 0 – final.

Remember those national sports programs? Now they were having fun at Mr. Manziel’s expense. And rightfully so. He brought it upon himself.

So, now what?

Manziel can’t possibly play that bad of a game again. Maybe that is just what he needed to be humbled, to take things serious and to understand what he can and can’t do on an NFL football field.

But as bad as Manziel played the bigger issues was that the entire team played poorly. That loss was not solely on Manziel’s shoulders. The offensive line couldn’t block. The receivers couldn’t get open. The running backs couldn’t run and the defense, woah, that defense.

For the second time this season the Browns allowed more than 200 yards rushing to an opponent. The Texans gashed the Browns for 213 yards in Week 11 and the Bengals got the Browns for 244 yards last week.

Yes, the Browns miss their running game.

Yes, the Browns need better play from the quarterback position.

Yes, the Browns would like to see Josh Gordon score a touchdown.

But that defense, though.

Teams are averaging 4.5 yards per carry against the Browns. It doesn't matter that Joe Haden isn’t healthy or Justin Gilbert is having a poor season. Teams know the recipe to beat the Browns – run the football.

In the Browns’ seven wins, opponents are rushing for 114.1 yards per game. In their seven losses, opponents are rushing for 161.1.

Here’s the good news, the Panthers offense is ranked 21st out of 32 with an average of 20.6 points per game.

Here’s the bad news, they rushed for 151 yards last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Derek Anderson played quarterback for Carolina in that game. Yup, that DA. He was 25-for-40 for 277 with a touchdown and no picks. See what a good running game can do? Jonathan Stewart had 75 yards rushing on 22 carries. In all, the Panthers attempted 32 runs and 40 passes.

Expect that to be to be imbalanced this week. Cam Newton returns at quarterback after a week away because of a car crash. No sense placing him back in the pocket if you’re Carolina. Hand the ball off and watch the yards pile up.

This will be a big game for the Panthers. Even at 5-8-1 they are still in the hunt to win the NFC South.

For the Browns, win or lose, it really doesn’t matter. All hope of a positive future came crashing down with the back-to-back losses at home coupled with Manziel’s performance. Does he rebound this week or do all those positive vibes become pointed in a familiar direction – the NFL Draft?

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