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Johnny Manziel's confidence grows after executing the plan vs. 49ers

The first thing on Duke Johnson Jr.'s mind after leading the Browns to their first win in months was his biggest mistake.

Poised to extend the Browns' seven-point lead at the end of the first half, Manziel scrambled out of the pocket toward Cleveland's sideline. He whirled around, heaved a pass across the field, took a hit and quickly got up because the ball was in the hands of San Francisco safety Jaquiski Tartt.

Moments later, Manziel was seen on the sidelines banging his head against a Microsoft Surface tablet.

"I was more upset knowing that we are going to be watching that on film tomorrow and watching Gary (Barnidge) run right down the middle of the field, right down the middle third wide open," Manziel said. "I probably overreacted a little bit."

This was able to be remembered as a lighthearted moment after Sunday's game because almost everything else Manziel did was exactly what Cleveland's offense needed.

Buoyed by the Browns' best rushing performance in five years, Manziel completed 21-of-31 passes for 270 yards, a touchdown and the interception. He was 8-of-11 for 108 yards and the touchdown after his interception during a Browns-dominated second half.

"He did a lot more good than he did bad," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "Like all of our players, there is a lot to learn from. To go out and execute a gameplan and win a football game – people asked me what did I expect from him – we expected him to do his job and for most of the game he did."

At times, the best thing Manziel could do was hand the ball off to Isaiah Crowell or Duke Johnson, get out of the way and let his teammates take care of the rest. The Browns rushed for a season-high 230 yards, and the majority of them were collected on two of the three touchdown drives. Cleveland rushed for 74 on its first-quarter scoring drive and 88 on its 91-yard drive in the fourth.

On the two other scoring possessions, it was Manziel who guided the way with a number of timely throws and decisions made within the confines of the offense. He mixed in a few plays where he moved outside of the pocket and connected with receivers 5-10 seconds after the snap, but the majority reflected the kind of throws that elicited so much optimism after his last start.

"Every time I have been behind center and gotten a chance to make another start I feel more confident," Manziel said. "I feel that I am able to go through my reads. I am able to slow down all the protections stuff and make sure we have a guy on a guy and able to sit back there and know you are protected."

Pettine was most impressed with Manziel's poise and mentality from start to finish. Even on a drive that ended with zero points, Pettine came away impressed with how Manziel handled the offense when the Browns led 24-3 with 5:54 to play. The Browns converted just one first down and were able to run 2:30 off the clock even as San Francisco used all three of its timeouts.

Manziel's teammates agreed. Between the lines and inside the huddle, it was a calm, composed Manziel who led the way to his second victory in four starts.

"That guy's a baller," Browns wide receiver Travis Benjamin said. "It doesn't matter if he sat out for two weeks and came back or sit out three weeks and came back. Each and every time he comes out there, he's willing to set the tone and make plays that matter."

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