CINCINNATI -- For a half Thursday, Johnny Manziel got the kind of redemption he'd been seeking against the Bengals ever since his first career start against them late last season didn't go as planned.
The second half, though, brought back some of the bad memories and further reinforced the importance of consistency against the unforgiving defenses in the AFC North.
Manziel completed 11-of-18 passes for 128 yards and a vintage scramble-and-throw touchdown pass to Duke Johnson in the first half. That score capped the longest scoring drive of the season for the Cleveland offense and propelled the Browns into the locker room with a little momentum at halftime in a game that was certainly for the taking.
The second half couldn't have been more different, as the Browns offense stalled out and didn't collect a first down until the deficit was 31-10 with 3:18 left to play in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, Manziel finished 15-of-33 for 168 yards in his second start of the season.
"I think there were some good things done in the first half, but there's two halves for a reason," Manziel said. "I did some good things tonight, and some things I wish I could have back."
With 10 days off between Thursday's loss and the Browns' Nov. 15 trip to Pittsburgh, Browns coach Mike Pettine didn't commit to a starting quarterback for the team's next game. Veteran Josh McCown, who has started seven games this season, is recovering from a sore throwing shoulder and injured ribs and was inactive against the Bengals.
"When we get in and get back from this time off, we will assess what pool of players are available and go ahead and make those decisions from there," Pettine said. "This will be a good time to step away and reassess where we are moving forward."
The Browns offense moved in the right direction on two encouraging series from Manziel in Thursday's first half.
He commanded a methodical, time-consuming drive in the first quarter that saw Isaiah Crowell break off his biggest run of the game (13 yards) and five different receivers catch passes. On second-and-goal, Manziel rolled to his left and threw a laser of a pass that was dropped by Taylor Gabriel in the back of the end zone. Cleveland settled for a field goal.
Pinned to their own 9-yard line and trailing 14-3, the Browns and Manziel delivered one of their best possessions of the season.
Manziel used two big passes to pick up chunk yardage. He rolled to his left and dropped a 26-yard pass to Johnson in the perfect spot to get the Browns out of the shadow of their own goal post. Two plays later, the Browns moved 25 more yards when Manziel connected with tight end Gary Barnidge.
Faced with a third-and-5 from the 12, Manziel rolled to his right and fired a pass to Johnson in the end zone for his first touchdown pass since he clinched the Browns' home-opening victory over Tennessee with a long touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin.
"Johnny being Johnny," Johnson said. "He got out of the pocket and was able to see me. Delivered a great ball and I made the touchdown."
It was the final highlight, as Manziel and the Browns simply couldn't get anything going in the second half. The closest Cleveland came to a first down while the game was still in balance was a third-and-4 following a 6-yard slant to Benjamin.
Manziel said the Browns "didn't do the little things" in a second half that saw him take multiple sacks and Cleveland outscored, 17-0.
"I thought he did some good things, but I just thought in the second half, especially after we fell behind, he was just trying to make too many big plays instead of just taking completions," Pettine said. "It's also … how well did we play around him. I don't know if in the second half we played well enough around him for him to play well."