ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Brian Hoyer carried a mixture of frustration with the present and confidence about the future as he reflected on his performance Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.
There were positives for the Cleveland Browns quarterback to acknowledge, especially in a first half that saw him rack up 161 passing yards, but there were too many negatives against an unforgiving Bills' defense. His second interception of the day and fifth in the past two weeks was his last throw in the Browns' 26-10 loss. For the first time this season, Hoyer watched from the sidelines as rookie Johnny Manziel ran the offense for the final two series.
"Obviously you never want to see someone else doing your job," Hoyer said. "But it's the coach's decision."
Asked if he was the right guy to lead Cleveland to its first playoff appearance since 2002, Hoyer didn't hesitate.
"Yeah," he said, "without a doubt."
Manziel flashed some of the reasons why Cleveland used the 22nd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft on him, but coach Mike Pettine made it clear there was no permanence behind the decision to play the former Texas A&M star in Sunday's fourth quarter. The evaluation for who will start next week against the Indianapolis Colts began shortly after the game and likely will continue until Wednesday.
"We're all about competition," Pettine said. "So, I've said it all along, we get together as a staff each week and at the beginning of the week and we say, 'Who gives us the best chance to win?' So far, Brian has been the answer to that question."
Hoyer put the Browns in prime scoring position on two lengthy first-half drives, but the end result was just three points. With Buffalo allowing little on the ground, Hoyer's arm produced the majority of Cleveland's yards, as he got Josh Gordon involved early on a number of short, quick throws and, when Gordon was double-teamed, found players such as tight end Jim Dray and veteran wide receiver Miles Austin to keep the chains moving.
Faced with a third-and-goal from Buffalo's 4 midway through the first quarter, Hoyer overthrew Austin in the back of the end zone and the Browns settled for a field goal.
After a 16-yard pass to Dray moved the Browns into field-goal range early in the second quarter, Hoyer saw running back Isaiah Crowell lose a yard on first down, completed a 5-yarder to Dray on second down and threw short to Gordon on third down. Kicker Billy Cundiff missed the 37-yard field goal.
"We knew it was going to be tough, coming in especially with their front four and it's too bad when you've got things going with two plays in the red zone and no scored touchdowns but we settled for a field goal on one of them," Hoyer said. "But we need to capitalize when we have our opportunities."
Faced with his first two-minute drill since he led the Browns to a comeback victory last week at Atlanta, Hoyer looked long to Gordon near the end of the first half but the throw went right to Bills safety Da'Norris Searcy. Hoyer didn't use timing and chemistry with Gordon, who was playing in his second game of the season, as an excuse.
"I'm sure it has something to do with it, there's no doubt, but we also had that play in practice," Hoyer said. "It didn't go the way I thought it was going to go with Josh."
After Joe Haden's interception set up the offense at Buffalo's 30-yard line early in the third quarter, the Browns went 8 yards backward and out of field-goal range when Kyle Williams sacked Hoyer on third down.
Hoyer saw Terrance West's fumble returned for a touchdown on the first play of the Browns' next drive, and the Browns followed with three-and-outs on their next two possessions. Hoyer's second pass of the fourth quarter, a deep ball intended for Taylor Gabriel, was picked by Searcy.
Pettine said he wouldn't "put it all on Brian" before analyzing the film.
"It goes back to what I've said since Day 1: When the team wins, the quarterback gets too much credit and when you lose, he gets too much blame," Pettine said. "To me, it was just something I wanted to change. It's like taking your goalie out in hockey when he's given up a bunch. Sometimes you just need change for the sake of change and it'll still come down to a staff decision when we make the evaluation."
Pettine said it wouldn't be tough to go back to Hoyer as the starter after playing Manziel for two series. He's been the answer for every game this season and he very well could be once again against the Colts.
"We'll hit the reset button," Pettine said. "We're not going to overreact when we win and we're certainly not going to overreact when we lose. We'll get out of here and get back to a less emotional environment in the offices and study it and ask that question and come up with an answer."