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Game Review: Johnny Manziel's Debut Doesn't Go as Planned in 30-0 Loss to Bengals

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Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The Browns' 30-0 loss to the Bengals in the home finale is a game that I'd soon like to forget. I think we can all agree that the run defense was a disaster against Cincinnati, and I honestly had no motivation to break those plays down. Therefore, every play (except for one) in this week's game review will focus on the offense, particularly the play calls and decision-making by QB Johnny Manziel in his first start. We did see some flashes of how Manziel can disrupt a defense, but the next step is to execute when those opportunities are there.

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WEEK 15 - CINCINNATI BENGALS VS. CLEVELAND BROWNS
(COMPLETE GAME REVIEW)

  1. Goat of the Game: OC Kyle Shanahan - The Browns' offense couldn't afford to make drastic changes in the midst of playoff contention, but that's what the team's offensive coordinator tried to do and it backfired. The "big change" was already there -- the quarterback position. If you're going to try to surprise the Bengals with a new formation, do it when your offense has already established a rhythm and the defense is on their heels. The Browns' run defense deserved to be goats too, but there are too many players to list.

  2. Awarding the Game Ball: WR Josh Gordon - He was the team's leading receiver with 3 catches for 48 yards. That certainly isn't anything spectacular, but with only 4 targets on the day, he had almost half of Cleveland's offense.

  3. Defenders Close Quickly on QB Draw: Cincinnati began the game with a 14-play, 81-yard drive that lasted 7:07. With how much the crowd was excited for this game, that's about the worst set-up you can have for your rookie quarterback in his debut. The Browns' offense began their first series with two straight run plays to set up a 3rd-and-2 from the 25 yard line.
    Week 15 Offense (1) - QB Draw
    Cleveland lined up four receivers to the right and WR Josh Gordon one-on-one at the bottom of the screen. The play call is going to be a pump fake to Gordon, hoping to draw the linebacker over, while C Ryan Seymour sprints up the middle to block the other linebacker as QB Johnny Manziel takes off on the draw.

    It's not the worst idea, but I can't help but wish that Manziel would have the ability to call an audible here. The Bengals have no safety help, so if Gordon went down the field, the cornerback would be in an island with him one-on-one.
    Week 15 Offense (1) - QB Draw
    Manziel did the pump fake, which drew the linebacker over. However, Manziel isn't quick to get up the field. Seymour gets his blocked, but this is the NFL -- defenders close a lot faster than they do in college.
    Week 15 Offense (1) - QB Draw
    Manziel is hit after a gain of one yard, resulting in a 4th-and-1 and a punt that gives Cincinnati's offense the ball right back.

  4. Quick Out to Cameron: The Bengals got into field goal range on their next drive, with K Mike Nugent drilling a 44-yard field goal to go up 10-0. We're almost at the end of the first quarter now and QB Johnny Manziel has yet to attempt a pass.
    Week 15 Offense (2) - Quick Out to Cameron
    TE Jordan Cameron is going to be the receiver who Manziel locks on to right away. The safety is about ten yards off at the snap, which will allow a connection for a four-yard gain.
    Week 15 Offense (2) - Quick Out to Cameron
    With the Bengals crowding the middle of the field with zone coverage, this isn't a bad decision by Manziel to pick up the four yards. If he was a bit more greedy, FB Ray Agnew was leaking out deep at the bottom of the screen (but again, why do we still have Agnew running routes?).

  5. Not Buying the Read-Option: My optimism about starting QB Johnny Manziel was that I hoped it would reduce the amount of negative plays that QB Brian Hoyer had been starting to have. The opposite was true with Manziel, but that goes back to the offense having such drastic changes.
    Week 15 Offense (3) - Read-Option Fail
    Cleveland faced a 2nd-and-6 on their next play and this is the read-option. Manziel is either going to keep it and sprint left with his fullback taking out No. 59, or hand it off to RB Isaiah Crowell. The decision is supposed to be made based on what No. 95 does. If No. 95 is going hard after Crowell, Manziel keeps it. If No. 95 goes wide, Crowell gets it. I'll admit to not studying the read option enough -- when I see the freeze frame above, I'd have no idea how to read No. 95. That's also a reason why I hate the play call.
    Week 15 Offense (3) - Read-Option Fail
    Manziel keeps it and immediately gets swallowed, so I guess it was the wrong decision. Do you think it was an obvious handoff to Crowell situation, though? The sack is for a loss of seven yards.

  6. The Potential of Johnny Manziel: Now facing a 3rd-and-13, we were treated to the potential of QB Johnny Manziel.
    Week 15 Offense (4) - Good & Bad Manziel
    WR Josh Gordon is at the top of the screen running deep down the sideline. WR Andrew Hawkins is running the deep crosser from the slot.
    Week 15 Offense (4) - Good & Bad Manziel
    Manziel sees the opening and steps up in the pocket.
    Week 15 Offense (4) - Good & Bad Manziel
    The Bengals initially have this play covered well, and even if Manziel takes off, he likely isn't going to get the first down. With that said, Manziel creeping up forces Cincinnati's defense to break down -- three defenders all creep up to pursue him, leaving Cleveland with two receivers guarded by one safety.
    Week 15 Offense (4) - Good & Bad Manziel
    Manziel has to learn that just because you see an open receiver doesn't mean you can just float a pass out to him. Manziel is going a sidearm jump pass here despite having ample room to plant and deliver a good, sideline throw.
    Week 15 Offense (4) - Good & Bad Manziel
    Here is the perspective of how much Hawkins was open. If the throw is led toward the sideline, all Hawkins would need is one open-field move, followed by a block from Gordon, and he'd be gone for the touchdown.
    Week 15 Offense (4) - Good & Bad Manziel
    Instead, Hawkins has to stop and catch the ball toward his inside. A lot of people chastised Hawkins for dropping this pass, but the safety delivered a shot right to the middle of his back as the ball got to him. This one is on Manziel for not delivering a better, and possibly game-changing, pass.

  7. Good Intentions Lead to Penalty: After a good punt return by the Bengals, they only needed to go 36 yards for a touchdown, which they did near the beginning of the second quarter to take a 17-0 lead.
    Week 15 Offense (5) - Good Intentions
    The first play on Cleveland's next drive is a designed tight end screen pass. You can't float screen passes in this situation, but the defender is taking an inside pass rushing angle to Manziel after going around TE Jordan Cameron.
    Week 15 Offense (5) - Good Intentions
    Manziel pump fakes to get the defender in the air before delivering a nice, side-arm pass to Cameron.
    Week 15 Offense (5) - Good Intentions
    The catch-and-run goes for 10 yards and a first down, but it's called back for C Ryan Seymour being an "ineligible receiver downfield." In reality, three offensive linemen were downfield -- the first cyan line if the line of scrimmage, and the second one shows a distance of 2-3 yards downfield as Cameron makes the catch. While Manziel's fake was nice, the delay threw off the timing of the blocks. The officials probably would've let it go had Seymour not actually been engaged in a block yet.

  8. Right Read, but Sailed High to Gordon: Two plays later, Cleveland faced a 2nd-and-11 from the 12 yard line.
    Week 15 Offense (6) - Right Read, High to Gordon
    QB Johnny Manziel stays in the pocket and has WR Josh Gordon breaking in for the play he thrived at so much in 2013. To the credit of former Browns QB Brandon Weeden, he always put this throw right on the money for Gordon.
    Week 15 Offense (6) - Right Read, High to Gordon
    Here is a demonstration of his Manziel's protection in the pocket was more than adquate.
    Week 15 Offense (6) - Right Read, High to Gordon
    The pass is high and behind Gordon, who goes up but can't make the one-hand stab. It's so frustrating that this was Gordon's best play in 2013, yet in 2014, our quarterbacks can't hit him in stride on it. Unrelated to Gordon, the Bengals were flagged for hands to the face on the play, giving Cleveland a fresh set of downs.

  9. Waiting Too Long Leads to INT: Facing a 2nd-and-8 from the 20 yard line, QB Johnny Manziel threw the first interception of his NFL career.
    Week 15 Offense (7) - Waiting Too Long for Hawkins
    This is going to be a play fake to the running back, which draws the four defenders in the middle up a bit. WR Josh Gordon occupies two defenders running from left to right, and WR Andrew Hawkins will be running a crosser from the other side. With the cushion that CB Dre Kirkpatrick is giving Hawkins, he will be open at the green spot on this play.
    Week 15 Offense (7) - Waiting Too Long for Hawkins
    You can see how much Kirkpatrick is trailing Hawkins by, and Manziel isn't facing a pass rush. He needs to unload his cannon to hit Hawkins in stride for what could be a nice catch-and-run.
    Week 15 Offense (7) - Waiting Too Long for Hawkins
    Instead, Manziel waits an extra click or two and lofts the ball short to the outside. Hawkins has to stop and camp out for it, while Kirkpatrick's trailing momentum is still full stride, allowing him to undercut the pass for an interception.

  10. Just a Tad High for Dray: The Bengals added another field goal to take a 20-0 lead with still over ten minutes to play in the second quarter. If Cleveland could just sustain one drive, they could have perhaps had some life to get back in the game.
    Week 15 Offense (8) - Just a Tad High for Dray
    Right away, the Browns are up against a 3rd-and-5 from the 25 yard line. The player to pay attention to is TE Jim Dray, who is tight to the left of QB Johnny Manziel. The defender in green will sprint out to cover him initially, but then starts to spy Manziel when he suspects he'll run for the first down.
    Week 15 Offense (8) - Just a Tad High for Dray
    Before thinking about Dray, Manziel probably should have tried zipping a pass over the middle since two defenders went to cover TE Jordan Cameron near the 30 yard line. Instead, Manziel rolls out to his left.
    Week 15 Offense (8) - Just a Tad High for Dray
    Manziel buys time and finds Dray behind the defender.
    Week 15 Offense (8) - Just a Tad High for Dray
    Dray either mistimes his jump a tad, or the throw is lofted a hair too high. Either way, it results in another three-and-out for the Browns. It'd be nice if we could see this type of opportunity for Manziel on a play that wasn't a third down, so if we didn't convert it, we'd still have another opportunity to convert.

  11. Our Lone Defensive Highlight: The Bengals' best decision of the game was to eventually stop letting QB Andy Dalton try to Dalton the game away.
    Week 15 Defense (1) - INT for Robertson
    Off of a playaction fake, FB Ryan Hewitt sprints right up the seam. The safety is helping at the top of the screen.
    Week 15 Defense (1) - INT for Robertson
    Both linebackers were frozen a bit on the playaction fake, so Hewitt is virtually uncovered. It's the right read by Dalton, who just neads to lead Hewitt with a pass for a potential touchdown. ILB Craig Robertson can only make a play on a low throw.
    Week 15 Defense (1) - INT for Robertson
    This is an outstanding interception by Robertson, who goes up as high as he can and picks off the pass. A better pass could've gone the distance.
    Week 15 Defense (1) - INT for Robertson
    Robertson had a long return into field goal range, but it was negated because DL Billy Winn was flagged for a low block.

  12. Telegraphing the Pass: On Cleveland's next drive, they faced a 2nd-and-11 from the Browns' 41 yard line.
    Week 15 Offense (9) - Telegraphing the Pass
    QB Johnny Manziel is going to fake the handoff into the gut of RB Terrance West and then try to fire a pass up the seam to TE Jim Dray.
    Week 15 Offense (9) - Telegraphing the Pass
    As Manziel is faking the ball to West, he is starting at Dray and the area of ILB Rey Maualuga. If this was a better sell by Manziel, Maualuga might commit to the run a bit more.
    Week 15 Offense (9) - Telegraphing the Pass
    Instead, Maualuga freezes in the passing lane...
    Week 15 Offense (9) - Telegraphing the Pass
    ...and bats the ball away. Maualuga then taunts Manziel, so the 15 yard penalty buys Cleveland a first down.

  13. High Again on Crosser to Benjamin: The Browns faced a 1st-and-15 on their next offensive play.
    Week 15 Offense (10) - High on Crosser
    QB Johnny Manziel fires a quick pass over the middle to WR Travis Benjamin. Looking at the overall view of the field, it was a good decision -- one that could've picked up about 7-8 yards. The throw is high, though, and bounces up in the air for an interception. The play is called back due to Cincinnati being in the neutral zone. What an ugly drive.

  14. A Positive Play at Last: Cleveland finally had a legitimately positive play outside of two minutes to play in the first half.
    Week 15 Offense (11) - A Positive Play at Last
    Facing a 1st-and-10 from the 45 yard line, QB Johnny Manziel runs a playaction fake and rolls out to the left. WR Josh Gordon is running the shallow crosser to that side of the field.
    Week 15 Offense (11) - A Positive Play at Last
    A defensive end crashes right in on Manziel, so he looks to get rid of the ball quickly. The linebacker spies Manziel in case he escapes the pressure, which allows Gordon to be free. TE Jim Dray is breaking wide open at the bottom of the screen -- if Manziel didn't face the pressure from the defensive end, I wonder if this was a designed "throw back across the field" play.
    Week 15 Offense (11) - A Positive Play at Last
    Manziel throws the ball as he is falling backward...
    Week 15 Offense (11) - A Positive Play at Last
    ...but it hits Gordon for a 19 yard gain and a first down.

  15. Red Zone Disaster: A few plays later, the Browns faced a 3rd-and-4 from the 19 yard line inside of two minutes to play in the half. Because Cleveland got the ball first after the half, I think Mike Pettine would have kicked a field goal if the Browns didn't convert -- being down 20-3 sucks, but points help you put a stake in the momentum.
    Week 15 Offense (12) - Red Zone Disaster
    The receiver to pay attention to at first is WR Josh Gordon, who is at the bottom of the screen running a quick slant.
    Week 15 Offense (12) - Red Zone Disaster
    Bang. If Manziel had been anticipating this and pulled the quick trigger, it's probably a first down to Gordon. Instead, Manziel hangs on to the ball and tries scanning the field.
    Week 15 Offense (12) - Red Zone Disaster
    Manziel still holds on to the ball and rolls to his right, escaping one defender. Gordon is still shallow, beyond the sticks, with position on his defender.
    Week 15 Offense (12) - Red Zone Disaster
    Manziel sees WR Taylor Gabriel waving his arm and throws up a prayer to the middle. To his right, you can see Gordon boxing out his defender -- it would have been a much better decision. Instead, CB Adam Jones undercuts the ball in the end zone for the touchback and Cleveland gets nothing.

  16. Not Letting it Rip Like Buffalo: Against the Bills, QB Johnny Manziel let the ball rip with confidence. The hesitation against the Bengals' defense was a recurring theme.
    Week 15 Offense (13) - Not Letting it Rip
    This is a 3rd-and-6 on the Browns' first drive coming out of the second half. Pay attention to WR Andrew Hawkins, who runs a bit of a flag-post route at the top of the screen.
    Week 15 Offense (13) - Not Letting it Rip
    The safety is a bit flat-footed, not knowing what to expect from Hawkins. When Hawkins breaks to the inside, the throw should be right there as the defenders creep up on the underneath route by WR Josh Gordon.
    Week 15 Offense (13) - Not Letting it Rip
    This is what Manziel was doing when Hawkins made his break. The only receiver in the direction he is looking is Hawkins, yet he doesn't shown any sign of being close to throwing the ball. Instead, he just randomly bails to his right...
    Week 15 Offense (13) - Not Letting it Rip
    ...and right in to DL Geno Atkins for a sack.

  17. Running in to the Zone: The Browns got the ball back after Cincinnati went three-and-out. On the first play of the drive, we finally saw a playaction rollout that was more like what the Browns had been running over the course of the season.
    Week 15 Offense (14) - Running in to the Zone
    WR Josh Gordon is the deeper receiver while WR Taylor Gabriel is coming across shallow. This is where our receivers need to make smart adjustments. The zone defenders are sitting over by the sideline, waiting for Gabriel. Meanwhile, nobody is in the middle of the field where Gabriel is currently at. Gabriel should stop, wave his arms while drifting upfield a tad, and hope Manziel sees him.
    Week 15 Offense (14) - Running in to the Zone
    Instead, Gabriel runs toward the zone and Manziel throws the ball away.

  18. Longest Play of the Game: The Bengals put together another drive that lasted about seven minutes, which ended in a field goal to give Cincinnati a 23-0 lead.
    Week 15 Offense (15) - Biggest Play of Game
    Facing a 3rd-and-12 near the end of the third quarter, the Browns had their longest play of the game. WR Josh Gordon and another receiver split at the top of the screen, with Gordon on the outside.
    Week 15 Offense (15) - Biggest Play of Game
    The Bengals lose Gordon in the zone coverage. Manziel hits him and then Gordon does the rest on the catch-and-run for 32 yards.

  19. Not Anticipating With Limited Options: On the final play of the third quarter, the Browns faced a 2nd-and-10 from midfield.
    Week 15 Offense (16) - Two Options, Not Anticipating
    This is a playaction fake with only two receivers going out as receivers. Therefore, QB Johnny Manziel shouldn't have too many reads to look at.
    Week 15 Offense (16) - Two Options, Not Anticipating
    Assuming the route was not designed for WR Josh Gordon to cut to the outside, WR Taylor Gabriel is the open man past the sticks at the bottom of the screen. Why doesn't Manziel throw it?
    Week 15 Offense (16) - Two Options, Not Anticipating
    Because he's looking at the other receiver. He then bails on the play again and right into the pressure around the edge, taking a sack for a loss of seven yards. I didn't cover the fourth quarter because Cleveland only had the ball for 5 plays, none of which were very eventful.

  20. Special Teams Tackles: There were 5 special teams tackles, with 2 from ILB Tank Carder and 1 each from WR Andrew Hawkins, OLB Barkevious Mingo, and S Johnson Bademosi. There were 2 assists, with 1 each from RB Shaun Draughn and ILB Tank Carder.

  21. Snap Counts on Offense & Defense: If you missed them, here are the links to our snap count trackers for offense (link) and defense (link). On offense, the number of snaps were the fewest I've ever written about. On defense, CB Pierre Desir saw his first action of the year.

  22. Brownies: The Browns were 1-of-10 (10%) on 3rd down. ... The bengals were 7-of-14 (50%) on 3rd down. ... Cincinnati out-gained Cleveland 347 yards to 107 yards. ... The Bengals had 244 rushing yards to 53 rushing yards for the Browns. ... Cleveland had nine penalties on their home field. ... The Bengals won the time of possession battle 38:52 to 21:08. ... Cleveland ran the fewest offensive plays since their first game in 1999. ... Since he did not handle kickoffs and Cleveland never scored, K Garrett Hartley was listed under the "did not play" category -- he collected a free paycheck on Sunday in his debut.

Up next, the Browns take on the Carolina Panthers on the road. Keep it tuned to Dawgs By Nature for our coverage leading up to the game!