Friday, 6 November 2015

Cincinnati Bengals 31, Cleveland Browns 10: Tom Reed's instant analysis

CINCINNATI, Ohio – Quick thoughts from the Browns' 31-10 loss to the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
Manziel's performance
Quarterback Johnny Manziel had a terrific first half and an unproductive final two quarters. But against an undefeated opponent on a short week, Manziel provided a credible performance under difficult circumstances.
With the Browns falling to 2-7 and losers of four straight it's time to turn over the offense to Manziel. Playing for an injured Josh McCown, the second-year quarterback finished 15-of-33 for 168 yards, a touchdown and a 71.3 rating.
Manziel did most of his damage in the first half, including a 12-yard TD pass to Duke Johnson in the second quarter to pull the Browns within 14-10. He appeared poised, hung in the pocket and made some smart throws. He also spread the ball around to seven receivers.
The second half was a different story. He completed just 4-of-14 passes for 40 yards after intermission. The Browns managed just two first-downs in the second half, the first coming with just three minutes remaining in the game. Another tough night for 'D'
It was another long game for a Browns' defense that couldn't keep pace with the well-balanced Bengals' offense.
The Browns were without corner Joe Haden and safety Donte Whitner and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton punished the unit, especially inside the red zone with passes to tight end Tyler Eifert, who caught three TD passes.
Dumb penalties by Randy Starks and a few curious calls – asking edge rusher Armonty Bryant to drop into coverage and pursue wide receiver Marvin Jones – also hurt the Browns' cause.
The Bengals finished with 371 yards as they dominated time of possession in the second half.    
Stark(s) reality
Free-agent acquisition Randy Starks has made little impact in his first season with the Browns. He was visible Thursday night for all the wrong reasons. He took two critical penalties on the Bengals' second-quarter touchdown that made it 14-3.
On the drive's first play, the defensive end hammered Gio Bernard after a 1-yard gain, but stood over the running back and taunted him, costing the Browns a 15-yard penalty. Late in the series, the Browns appeared to get off the field as Andy Dalton threw an incomplete pass on a fourth-and-2 from the 6. Flags flew. Starks was guilty of offside, a penalty that gave the Bengals a fresh set of downs. Two inexcusable infractions for a 12th year veteran.
He's back
Manziel wasn't the only Browns' first-round pick to return to action. Cornerback Justin Gilbert, who had been reduced to a kick returner, saw some action at corner with Joe Haden out of the lineup.
He wasn't very noticeable and that's a good thing. Gilbert had decent coverage on Marvin Jones on a deep Andy Dalton pass into the end zone. Yes, they are baby steps, but at least they're in the right direction.

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