Skip to main content


Johnny Manziel takes 'big step forward' in loss to Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH -- The play was the kind that made Johnny Manziel famous at Texas A&M.

With the Browns driving deep into Pittsburgh territory in Sunday's third quarter, Manziel danced around the pocket, evaded multiple tackles, bought some more time and ultimately decided to tuck and run with it for an 11-yard gain to the Steelers' 1-yard line. He had a bunch of those types of runs the last time he started a game against Landry Jones, running for 229 -- yes, 229 -- in Texas A&M's 2013 Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma.

What made Manziel's run important Sunday was it was the exception, not the rule.

Faced with relentless pressure in a game in which he was sacked six times, Manziel hung tough inside the pocket and made the majority of his throws within it.

The result for the Browns on Sunday was the same as Manziel's last start, a lopsided defeat with one offensive touchdown, but the second-year quarterback's performance was one of the silver linings in Cleveland's 30-9 loss to the Steelers.

"It was running the offense. It was trusting the read," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "When you say, 'trust the read,' it's implied that if the read is there, hit your plant and throw it. I thought he did a good job of understanding what they were in, knowing where the ball had to go and knowing if he had to move in the pocket to get the lane to throw it.

"I think he took a big step forward in that sense."

Manziel overcame a fumble on his first snap of the game and completed 33-of-45 passes for a career-high 372 yards in the loss. He got rolling with a 61-yard pass to Travis Benjamin from outside of the pocket and followed with a number of poised throws within it to a variety of Browns receivers.

Benjamin, Brian Hartline, Gary Barnidge and Andrew Hawkins all caught at least six passes for 65 yards.

"I was seeing things a lot better than I did last week. I don't know if it was a concerted effort," Manziel said. "I'm going to come out and play my game. My game is to come out and try to win the game and go through my progressions just like any other quarterback. When things break down, I think I had a chance to make some plays here and there.

"It's a process to try and learn when to stay in the pocket and when to make throws and when to get out and run a little bit. I think for the majority of the day I had a good balance of that."

The area to grow, for both Manziel and the Browns offense, is what continues to happen inside the opponent's 20-yard line.

After his 61-yard pass to Benjamin, the Browns had a run go for a loss of one yard, an incomplete pass and a 6-yard pass to Benjamin short of the goal line before settling for a short field goal. The Browns had first downs at Pittsburgh's 1-yard line and 5-yard line on respective drives in the second half and came away with zero points.

"It's senseless," Manziel said. "It's what we've continued to do is shoot ourselves in the foot … Good teams can't do that. We have to punch that ball in there and continue to build."

Manziel had more yards Sunday than he did in his previous two starts combined. His 372 yards were the fourth-most in Browns history for a quarterback on the road.

That just wasn't an area any of his teammates discussed when assessing his latest step forward.

"I'm proud of him. He played hard. I think his maturity level and his leadership qualities are starting to evolve and develop into what we know he can be," right guard John Greco said. "I think he knows that so the more playing time he's getting, the more experience, it's fun playing with him."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content