BEREA—The Browns are at the halfway point in the four game evaluation period of Johnny Manziel for the season’s final quarter of the season.
After having an impressive start in the win over the 49ers last week, Manziel appeared to take a step back against the Seahawks.
“I thought playing in a – just look at the environment and dealing with all of the circumstances, the crowd noise," Mike Pettine said. "Our circumstances going in to the game as a team, playing against a team that’s hot that’s known for their defense and feeds off the home crowd. I thought he handled it very well. There wasn’t at any point during the game where I felt he was unnerved or flinched or lost his poise, however you want to say it. He was just as interactive coming over to the sideline in the fourth quarter as he was in the first.
"I thought how he – the first drives a good example," he said. "He was very calm, made some plays. We went right down the field, made some throws. I thought he made a heck of play on the zero throw to Gary for the touchdown. I think overall, Johnny did a lot of positive things. I’m sure there’s some plays that he would want to have back as most quarterbacks would but overall a lot of positives, a lot to learn from. I think the reason that he did the good things that he did they’re a result of his preparation. He doesn’t coast through the week and all of a sudden just show up and play. That’s a product of how well he’s preparing.”
Gary Barnidge thought Manziel played well in Seattle, despite the hostile environment.
“I think he still played well, still managed the game well,” Barnidge said. “They brought a couple more blitzes than what we thought they were going to do. Getting flushed out of the pocket makes things a little difficult. I don’t think he did a bad job at all though.”
Joe Thomas said he has been impressed all season with Manziel’s preparation, compared to a year ago and has changed his mind regarding Manziel.
“I wouldn’t say it has changed in the last few weeks,” he said. “I think it changed kind of at the beginning of the season when he showed that dedication and commitment that he didn’t have last year. I think what we are seeing out on the field is the fruits of the hard work he has been putting in, the dedication that we have seen with him in the film room and meetings. I think it is natural when you spend that extra effort you are going to see those results on the field and that is what we are seeing from Johnny.”
Manziel started strong as he led the Browns on an impressive opening drive as he led the Browns 80 yards on 15 plays capped with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Barnidge. Manziel was 6-of-8 for 60 yards and a touchdown on the drive. Manziel connected with Travis Benjamin twice for 22 yards on the first drive, while throwing to Duke Johnson twice for 17 yards. Taylor Gabriel had a catch for 14 yards beside the touchdown pass.
However, after the first drive, Manziel threw for just 101 yards. He was victimized by five dropped passes and was sacked three times.
“I think it was referenced earlier, we had some balls dropped and we had some protection breakdowns," Pettine said. "That’s a good front. We lose John Greco the first series, that’s a difficult circumstance for us to deal with. Quarterback play is you can only evaluate the player, did he perform his job? Did he do all that he could do on a particular play? And as I’ve said for the past two years, quarterback play is going to be a function of a lot of things and there are a lot of things that are outside of his control.
"The things he could control we thought he was solid with," he said. "Could he have done some better things? Absolutely. But I’m not going to sit here and put that ‘just 100 yards after the first drive’ I’m not going to hang that on him.”
Manziel finished 19-of-32 for 161 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also ran twice for 17 yards, including a long of 12 yards. He finished with a rating of 69.9.
Barnidge said Manziel is growing as a quarterback in his leadership and is gaining confidence from the team.
“I think he’s doing a good job showing that leadership part and taking command in the huddle,” he said. “You can see that each game he’s out there, you can see he’s continuing to grow.
“I don’t think anybody has any really negative opinions of his play or anything,” he said. “I think all the guys they have confidence in him. We back him and we’re looking forward to these last two games with him.”
“I saw a lot of poise and composure,” Thomas said. “I think he did a really good job of the operations side of things from an offensive standpoint. I don’t think we had any pre-snap penalties. He did a good job of getting us in and out of the huddle. He gave us a chance to win on offense. That is what you need to ask out of your quarterback in a tough road environment.”
Positive Note: Pettine said there were positives to be taken from the game.
The positive is I like our teams attitude, I like their fight," he said. "I think the players are still very much focused and intent on finding a way to end the season the right way. I see that in how they practice, I see that in how they prepare and I see that during games. I see the emotion, the passion that you want to see in your team and we’re going to continue to be that way for the next two games."
Pettine was asked if it is as simple as to just having better players.
“I’m not going to go there," he said. "It's consistency. Every game we can make a – and yesterdays no different – I can make a cut up tape of us executing plays at a high level and then we have some plays that unfortunately, end up on the blooper reel."
Greco Out: OL John Greco will miss the remainder of the season with an MCL injury.
“From what I have been told, it will not require surgery, but with two games left, he will be done for the season,” Pettine said.
Greco was injured on the Browns first offensive drive and did not return. He was replaced by rookie Cameron Erving. Pettine said that Erving will likely be Greco’s replacement, but said they might put him at left guard and move OL Austin Pasztor at right guard.
“I think more than likely that’s the lineup we’ll go with that finished the game,” Pettine said. “We’ll see if we’re better with Cam at left or Austin. Cam did some good things. He was called for a hold, but that was a little questionable. For coming in cold, the effort and energy is there, it’s more of a physical thing.”
Pryor Play: WR Terrelle Pryor was on the field early but didn’t appear to be on the field much later in the game. Pettine was asked if it was because of the ball that appeared to be dropped by Pryor. “I wouldn’t say that,” Pettine said. “It was more of how Flip (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) was calling the game. There was nothing as far as ‘let’s decrease his reps’.”
Pettine defended the quick slant pass that appeared to be a drop by Pryor.
“It looked like it got tipped.”