CINCINNATI—The good news is Johnny Manziel’s second start against the Bengals was much better than his first.
Unfortunately, the outcome was the same as the Bengals scored 17 unanswered points to finish the game and won 31-10 going away to improve to 8-0 on the season in front of 65,816 fans at Paul Brown Stadium. The Browns fall to 2-7 (1-1 AFC North).
Similar to last week’s loss to the Cardinals, the Bengals shut down the Browns in the second half, outscoring the Browns 17-0.
“We competed well for a half,” Mike Pettine said. “(The game) snowballed in the fourth quarter. Nobody’s happy where we are.”
The Browns started the game on offense and picked up a first down on a nine-yard pass to Travis Benjamin, but ended up punting after a false start on Joe Thomas put the Browns in a 3rd-and-13 position and Manziel’s third down pass to Benjamin was broken up by Adam Jones.
On the Browns second drive, they went 71 yards in 14 plays and ended with a 27-yard field goal by Travis Coons. Manziel hit Jim Dray for 13 yards ,then Gary Barnidge for 10 yards. The next play Isaiah Crowell ran for 13 yards to the Bengals 36 before Manziel hit Crowell for 15 yards on third-and-4 to the 15. Manziel picked up a first down on a seven-yard run to the four. However, on first down, Duke Johnson was dropped for a five-yard loss and then Taylor Gabriel couldn’t hang on to a pass in the end zone. Manziel overthrew Barnidge in the back of the end zone to force the field goal.
Trailing 14-3, Manziel led the Browns on their most impressive drive of the night. The Browns took over at their own eight-yard line and Manziel led the Browns on a 92-yard touchdown drive with Manziel hitting Johnson for a touchdown on third-and-5 from the 12-yard line. Manziel hit Johnson earlier on the drive for 26 yards and then hit Barnidge for 26 yards to the Bengals 28. Crowell had an 11-yard run to put the Browns in position for the score.
Manziel finished 15-of-33 for 168 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. His rating was 71.3. Manziel rushed for 31 yards on four carries.
Pettine was asked to assess Manziel’s performance.
“I think it was inconsistent,” he said. “I thought he did some good things, but I just thought in the second half, especially after we fell behind, he was just trying to make too many big plays instead of just taking completions. It’s also a function of and you guys are probably sick of hearing me say this, but it’s how well did we play around him. I don’t know if in the second half we played well enough around him for him to play well.”
Manziel had a strong first half as he was 11-of-18 for 128 yards with a touchdown and a rating of 101.2. He had two rushes for 11 yards.
Manziel and the offense didn’t have much to show for the second half as the offense didn’t do much. The Browns started the second half with four-straight possessions that resulted in three-and-out punts.
“Obviously, we didn’t get a chance to extend our series in the second half,” Manziel said. “We never got that going until it was too late.”
Manziel offered no excuses for being short-manned at wide receiver with two starters missing.
“There’s no excuses,” Manziel said. “No short week, no missing guys. We went in at the half, down 14-10, and had a chance to come out and do some good things. There’s no turning back.”
Manziel wasn’t sacked until the first drive of the fourth quarter and he was dropped on successive plays. He ended up being sacked three times.
In Manziel’s first NFL start against the Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium last season, Manziel was 10-of-18 for 80 yards with two interceptions.
“We put some points on the board at least.”
Pettine was asked if he can say if Manziel will start next week’s game at Pittsburgh.
“No, I can’t,” he said. “When we get in and get back from this time off, we will assess what pool of players are available and go ahead and make those decisions from there. This will be a good time to step away and reassess where we are moving forward.”
Huge Mistakes: DL Randy Starks had two big penalties that cost the Browns on the same drive that resulted in the Bengals second touchdown. Starks stopped RB Gio Bernard for no gain, but was called for a taunting penalty for 15 yards. The bigger penalty occurred on fourth-and-2 from the Browns five-yard line. Rather than kick the field goal, the Bengals went for it and threw an incomplete pass to WR A.J. Green. However, Starks was offside to give the Bengals a first down and QB Andy Dalton threw his second touchdown pass to TE Tyler Eifert to give the Bengals a 14-3 lead with 4:34 to play in the first half.
“(No excuse) for penalties that come from lack of discipline,” Pettine said. “There’s no place for that. He let his emotions get the best of him and he knew it right away. Those self inflicted wounds (hurt).”
Backs Night: RB Duke Johnson had two receptions for 38 yards including a 12-yard touchdown. He had three carries for no yards. Meanwhile, RB Isaiah Crowell had 10 carries for 38 yards and caught three passes for 26 yards. RB Robert Turbin did not carry the ball. After the touchdown in the first half, Johnson didn’t catch a pass in the second half.
For Starters: The Bengals took the ball after the Browns opening drive resulted in a punt and marched 63 yards in 10 plays to take a 7-0 lead on a six-yard pass from QB Andy Dalton to TE Tyler Eifert with 7:08 to play in the first quarter. The Bengals converted a fourth-and-one from the Browns’ 13 to set up the score. In the game, Eifert caught three touchdown passes.
Bowe’s Night: WR Dwayne Bowe caught his first pass of the season on a four-yard quick slant from Manziel to the Bengals’ 11 yard line. Bowe caught a 16-yard pass from Manziel late in the game and a 11-yard reception to give him three catches for 31 yards, WR Marlon Moore played as the third receiver. WR Travis Benjamin caught three passes for 22 yards and TE Gary Barnidge had two receptions for 35 yards.
Tough Night: WR Taylor Gabriel had at least three passes that he had his hands on and couldn’t come up with , including a pass in the back of the end zone. Gabriel finished with just one catch for three yards on six targets.
Moore Block: WR Marlon Moore blocked a punt in the fourth quarter deep in Bengals territory but the Browns were unable to turn it into points.
Sack Men: DL Desmond Bryant sacked QB Andy Dalton for a 7- yard loss and LB Paul Kruger added the only other sack on Dalton.
Gilbert Plays: DB Justin Gilbert played cornerback for DB Pierre Desir in the first half and broke up a pass in the end zone to WR Marvin Jones. He also had one tackle.
Injured: OL Joel Bitonio was taken to the locker room after Browns touchdown with an ankle injury but returned for the first series of the second half. DB Ibraheim Campbell injured his hamstring but finished the game.
Three Rookies Start on D: The Browns had three rookies on the field for the first defensive play in DL Danny Shelton, LB Nate Orchard and S Ibraheim Campbell. Campbell made a tackle on WR Marvin Jones for a two-yard gain early in the game. Orchard sacked QB Andy Dalton in the third quarter on third down to set up a field goal.
Couch in the House: Former Browns QB Tim Couch was in the press box before the game at Paul Brown Stadium. The Kentucky graduate who was the NFL’s number one pick overall in 1999 by the Browns still follows the Browns. Couch has been a broadcaster for Kentucky and SEC games.
Five Starters Down: The Browns will play the nationally televised game tonight without the services of five starters, three on offense and two on defense. Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden and safety Donte Whitner will be missing in the secondary, while wide receivers Andrew Hawkins and Brian Hartline will not play on offense.
Rookie Ibraheim Campbell started his first NFL start in place of Whitner, while Pierre Desir will start in place of Haden. Taylor Gabriel will start in place of Hartline and Travis Benjamin will start in place of Hawkins, while Johnny Manziel will start in place of Josh McCown.
Six of the seven inactive players for the Browns were injured with Haden, Hawkins, Hartline and Whitner all inactive with concussions. Defensive back Jordan Poyer is out with a shoulder injury and McCown is sidelined with a shoulder and rib injuries.
The only player inactive player that wasn’t on the injury report was linebacker Jayson DiManche.
Rookie E.J. Bibbs was active for the first time this season after third team tight end Rob Housler was placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. De’Ante Saunders was promoted from the practice squad to replace Housler on the 53-man roster. It will be the NFL debut for both Bibbs and Saunders.
Johnny Manziel is starting in place of McCown with Austin Davis as the backup with McCown inactive.The Browns have just four active wide receivers with Hawkins and Hartline inactive. Dwayne Bowe and Marlon Moore are the backups to Benjamin and Gabriel. Bowe was active last week but did not catch a pass. He is still looking for his first reception of the season.