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Johnny Manziel creates highlight-reel TD pass when Browns need it most

Right around 4 p.m. Sunday, Browns fans inside FirstEnergy Stadium were bear-hugging strangers, dancing on their orange seats and screaming at the top of their lungs.

In a game full of big plays, none mattered more than Duke Johnson Jr.'s fourth quarter spin, shake and 50-yard touchdown strike to Travis Benjamin, emphatically ending a Titans comeback attempt.

The score put Cleveland up for good on Tennessee, 28-14; the score provided a concrete building block for Manziel's future as an NFL quarterback.

Amid all the chaos after the touchdown, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo calmly paged Mike Pettine's headset with one simple message to communicate.

"Coaching is overrated," DeFilippo said.

Even though Manziel was heavily involved in helping form the game plan against the Titans – Pettine said he asked for certain plays to be included – sometimes a team just needs their quarterback to sense a situation, trust his instincts and deliver.

"When it just comes down to it," Manziel said, "we just had to make a play."

That's exactly how Manziel helped secure Cleveland's first win of the 2015 season – and the first victory of his career. His 133.9 passer rating is the highest from a Browns quarterback since Derek Anderson way back in 2007.

"It's sweet," Manziel said. "To be sitting here today and just having the ultimate turnaround from the first two starts I had last year, personally, it feels awesome. I think I'm getting better."

The Browns were dialed in with their second-year quarterback after jumping out to an early 14-0 lead. Manziel only threw 15 passes but made eight completions count for 172 yards. Despite a conservative, yet ragged, second and third quarter with multiple three-and-outs, Manziel limited his mistakes. He didn't force throws. It was his first game as a pro without turning the football over and he only rushed for 2 yards, a sign of his growth within the pocket. 

Manziel has now appeared in five NFL games. In three of those games, he's engineered a touchdown drive on his opening possession. A first-quarter, 60-yard bomb to Benjamin arguably shook the Titans so much, that they were never able to fully recover.

But the pass that will have the city of Cleveland buzzing all week remains Manziel's fourth quarter touchdown throw.

"It was going to be a much more conservative pass on the other side of the field," Pettine said of the original play call. "When he rolled away, we really didn't have any receivers on that side of the field."

Tennessee blew the entire play up, though, headlined by a charging Brian Orakpo, who forced Manziel to retreat backward. As Manziel ran toward the left sideline, the all-important third down looked like a busted play.

Rolling to the left, Manziel bought himself some space, readjusted his feet and looked down the field. Cleveland's quarterback went for the kill shot.

Game. Set. Match.

"Travis took the middle of the field, and the safety kind of bit down to stop the run and I threw it over the top," Manziel said. "I threw it high enough so Travis could run under it. To seal the game like that was awesome."

Had Manziel not delivered the late touchdown, Tennessee likely would have gotten the ball back with a chance to force overtime. In a pressure situation, the Browns' 2014 first-round pick rose to the occasion, and trusted his deep ball accuracy at just the right time.

"We want him to play within structure and make a read," Pettine said, "but when a play breaks down that is what he brings. The ability to escape. He did an outstanding job.

"It was vintage Manziel."

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