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Browns know poor performance not all on the quarterback


The Cleveland Browns scored just 10 points and lacked consistency on offense in Buffalo.

Two interceptions from Brian Hoyer and a fumble from Terrance West are garnering all the headlines, but the bumpy production was a result of all 11 players.

"We didn't execute from a lot of standpoints," said wide receiver Andrew Hawkins.

The offensive line didn't rise to the occasion when tasked against Buffalo's top-notch front-four. Running backs weren't able to peel off chunk runs to ease some of the pressure off Hoyer. Receivers weren't getting the type of separation they did a week earlier in Atlanta.

The cumulative effect snowballed in Ralph Wilson Stadium.  

"Negative runs have been killing us," right guard John Greco said Monday from the locker room. "One guy here or there making a mistake – it's been killing plays."

Monday in the NFL world is a day of reflection, and it was an exasperating afternoon in Berea. The Browns took a 3-0 lead into the locker room at halftime against the Bills and, for the most part, controlled the first 30 minutes of the game. Cleveland outgained Buffalo 191 yards to 91.

The tailspin on offense began early in the third quarter. A Joe Haden interception set up the Browns' offense on Buffalo's 30-yard line. Three plays later, Hoyer was sacked by Kyle Williams, knocking Cleveland out of field goal range and forcing a Spencer Lanning punt.

The Browns' next four possessions with Hoyer under center: fumble, punt, punt and interception. All of the sudden it was the early fourth quarter and the Bills had scored 20 unanswered points. Coach Mike Pettine decided Johnny Manziel deserved a shot to inject the offense with some life. The rookie did so, scoring an immediate touchdown.

Greco and some teammates had an interpretation of the quarterback swap – players on offense are being put on notice. The players who give Cleveland the best chance to win are going to play.

"[It was] kind of a wakeup call for everybody," Greco said.

The resounding reaction in the locker room after the loss to Buffalo was reiterated from the players on Monday: We will support whoever the coaches choose as quarterback.

Wide receiver Travis Benjamin sees the upside to playing both players. He called Manziel a baller and Hoyer a competitor. 

"There's no change at all," said Benjamin. "They both bring two different things with [Manziel's] scrambling and Hoyer's poise in the pocket. We just have to be prepared to practice Wednesday."

This junction of the 2014 campaign could make or break the Browns' season. Greco said no matter whom the coaching staff chooses, the character and leaders in the locker room will be put to the test. How will the Browns minimize the outside noise? The Browns haven't lost back-to-back games all season and certainly can't start now while still alive in the AFC playoff race.

One thing Cleveland does know is that it has all the pieces on offense to rediscover its identity. Isaiah Crowell, West, Josh Gordon and Hawkins are uniquely talented players other teams are envious the Browns possess. 

"When everyone is doing their job and we're on point, we've shown that we are pretty explosive," Greco said.

Now it's up to the entire offense, not just Hoyer or Manziel, to replicate results on Sunday against Indianapolis. It will take all 11 men to beat the Colts.

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