Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel flopped in his starting debut on Dec. 14 by throwing for just 80 yards in a 30-0 shutout loss at home to the Cincinnati Bengals. With the loss, the Browns fell to 7-7 on the season.
Johnny Manziel did not live up to expectations in his debut as Cleveland Browns starting quarterback.
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According to The Northeast Ohio Media Group's Mary Kay Cabot, The Browns' 30-0 shutout loss to the visiting Cincinnati Bengals -- their first in five years -- on Dec. 14 all but ended Cleveland's chances of winning the AFC North division. Instead of Manziel flashing his famous money sign, it was the Bengals defenders who got to do so.
More specifically, they sacked him thrice and intercepted him twice, per Cabot.
By losing to the Bengals, the Browns lost their third consecutive game and fourth of their last five. Cabot stresses the only way Cleveland can make the postseason is as a wild card team. She describes the team's chances as "extremely slim." Cincinnati improved to 9-4-1 while Cleveland fell to 7-7.
Browns head coach Mike Pettine didn't mince words when he spoke with Cabot about Manziel's performance. He said,"(He) looked like a rookie, played like a rookie. He made some obvious mistakes that typically a veteran quarterback won't make."
Manziel's final stat line: 10 of 18 for 80 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions for a 27.3 QB rating, per Cabot.
Manziel poured out his sentiments to Andrew Gribble of the Browns' official website:
"I'm not using the rookie excuse -- it's not me. Yeah, I'm a rookie, but that's out the window. I needed to play better.
"I felt like I would come out and play better and that didn't happen. I'm disappointed and these guys are too. For me, it's a fresh start and we can move on from here to try and build something to carry us into next year."
He also spoke chimed in on his first-quarter interception, which was courtesy of the Bengals' Dre Kirkpatrick, per Gribble:
"I saw what I wanted to see and didn't have enough confidence in myself to let it fly. I saw what I wanted and I ripped that all week through practice and when it came down to it, just a split-second hesitation and in the NFL, I learned hard today, they can undercut that and get to that ball.
"I saw the field fine today but when I came down to it, I just neeed to throw the ball and let it rip, and I didn't do a very good job of that."
The Manziel hype leading up to the game certainly annoyed the Bengals. Cincinnati defensive tackle Domata Peko told Cabot that "All we heard last week was 'Manziel, Manziel, Manziel.'"
For his part, Manziel told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler "he didn't even notice" the Bengals' antics. Fowler says the Bengals' taunting of the Browns quarterback is "pre-meditated." Bengals defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry said, "He's kind of brought that on himself. He's a great athlete, a good quarterback, but today was more about us than him."
Among the other Bengals who flashed Manziel's money sign were linebacker Rey Maualuga and reserve defensive tackle Brandon Thompson, per ESPN.
Fowler reported on Sunday that Browns fans flashed Manziel's money sign at the Bengals' team bus as soon as it pulled into FirstEnergy Stadium. All it did was fire up the Cincinnati players even more.
Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko told ESPN, "This ain't college. This is the NFL. You have grown men that are going to be chasing for you, not college kids."
Fowler notes the Browns had three-and-outs on their first two drives with Manziel under center. His other interception came at the expense of Bengals cornerback Pacman Jones.
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