Bengals vs. Browns 2014 final score: 3 things we learned from Cincinnati’s 30-0 win
Johnny Manziel threw picks two picks in his first NFL start as Cincinnati used a suffocating defense and a bruising run game to stay in command of the AFC North.
This was not how Johnny Manziel wanted his first start to go. Badgered by a menacing Cincinnati Bengals defensive front, the rookie quarterback threw a pair of picks and couldn’t find any kind of rhythm as his Cleveland Browns were shut out, 30-0.
Manziel, who was named the starter over Brian Hoyer earlier in the week, completed just 10 of his 18 passes for 80 yards and rushed five times for 13 yards. Cleveland’s offense sputtered all day, gaining just 107 yards and five first downs.
On a day that Andy Dalton threw for just 117 yards, Cincy rode newly-tabbed starting running back Jeremy Hill to points on their first three possessions, building a 17-0 lead by the 13-minute mark of the second quarter. With a big lead established, they leaned heavily on the run for the rest of the day, grinding out 244 yards on the ground.
The win improves the Bengals to 9-4-1 and keeps them in firm control of the AFC North. The Browns, now 7-7 after their third consecutive loss, are on the verge of postseason elimination.
1) Johnny needs some polishing.
Manziel struggled with his accuracy, routinely floating his passes and throwing behind receivers. On his first interception, he threw late across his body, leaving the ball short and allowing Dre Kirkpatrick to step in front of the pass.
Manziel’s second pick was his worst throw of the game and came at a critical juncture. A big turnover and a stream of Bengals penalties had the Browns in enemy territory late in the second quarter with a chance to pull back into the game. But on third down, a panicked Manziel lofted a bad pass into double coverage and had it picked off by Adam Jones in the end zone.
Manziel flashed his athleticism and did a good job of keeping his eyes downfield while scrambling, but his transition into the NFL is going to be a gradual process.
2) It wasn’t all Johnny’s fault.
Manziel haters across the country are celebrating, but don’t let them convince you that Cleveland’s horrendous offensive day was all his fault. The Browns offensive line was horrible, allowing near-constant penetration and getting Manziel sacked three times. They didn’t do much in the way of run blocking either. The Browns managed just 53 rushing yards and failed to take the pressure of their rookie quarterback.
For all of his hype and for all of his athletic talent, Manziel is still a rookie quarterback in the infancy of his NFL learning curve. No, he did not play well on Sunday, but he also got little to no help from his teammates. Those who were hoping a change under center would instantly solve Cleveland’s problems should think again.
3) Starting Jeremy Hill was a good call.
Marvin Lewis announced earlier this week that they were scrapping the two-back timeshare between Hill and Giovani Bernard and would instead let Hill be the featured rusher. The rookie made his coach look like a smart man, running rampant on the Browns for 148 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.
When the Bengals lost to the Browns back in Week 10, they had just 86 rushing yards. Hill was past that mark by the second quarter, running for 93 yards and a pair of scores on Cincinnati’s first three possessions. Behind a dominant offensive line that pushed the Browns around at will, Hill showed patience, burst and a ferocious stiff arm while going over the 100-yard mark for the third time this season.
In fact, the only time Hill was stopped all day was when he tried to leap into the Dog Pound after a touchdown:
For the record, Bernard was efficient on his 15 carries (5.3-yard average) and threw in three catches for 24 yards. But the Bengals have clearly committed to Hill as their featured back, and it so far it looks like the right move.