Johnny Manziel shut down, shut out by Bengals in first NFL start
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CLEVELAND — Woe, Johnny, woe.
Johnny Manziel spent his first NFL start being chased and taunted by Cincinnati defenders as the Bengals rudely welcomed the hyped rookie quarterback to the league with a 30-0 demolition of the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Manziel failed to live up to the overwhelming hype surrounding his debut as the AFC North-leading Bengals (9-4-1) built a 20-point halftime lead and rolled to their fourth straight road win.
Bengals rookie Jeremy Hill rushed for 148 yards and two touchdowns, backing up his postgame trash talk of the Browns following a loss to them last month.
Manziel, promoted over the slumping Brian Hoyer to spark the Browns (7-7), finished 10 of 18 for 80 yards and two interceptions. He was sacked three times, under pressure all afternoon and had Bengals players imitating his signature “money-rubbing” gesture more than once.
The Bengals overwhelmed the Browns on the field and in the boxscore, recording their first shutout since Dec. 21, 2008 — in Cleveland.
Cincinnati had 347 yards to Cleveland’s 107. The Bengals picked up 24 first downs to five for the Browns, who went just 1 of 10 on third down.
Mike Nugent kicked two 44-yard field goals and added a 34-yarder for the Bengals, who turned a day of promise and potential for the Browns into Cleveland’s worst nightmare.
Manziel didn’t look ready for the big stage, panicking in the pocket and failing to deliver any of the magic that made him a college football star.
Johnny Football has some work to do.
The Bengals put together a complete game to strengthen their grip on the division. They set the tone with a time-consuming, 81-yard touchdown drive to start the game and atoned for a 24-3 loss last month when they were dominated at home by the Browns and Hoyer.
Cincinnati led 20-0 at halftime, and spent the next two quarters making sure Manziel never got comfortable.
The shutout capped a week in which Manziel was called a “midget” by Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, a comment that shows professionals aren’t ready to let him come in and “wreck the league” like he boasted he would do before the Browns selected him with the No. 22 overall pick.
The Browns were blanked for the first time since a 16-0 loss to Baltimore in 2009.
Manziel’s first half couldn’t have gone much worse.
With Cincinnati’s defense bent on stopping Manziel, the Browns didn’t move the ball, committed costly penalties and the 22-year-old quarterback made several rookie mistakes.
He was intercepted twice and was lucky that a third pick was nullified by a penalty. The Browns managed just 58 total yards in the first half and their best scoring chance ended when Manziel scrambled and forced a pass to the end zone that was intercepted by Adam “Pacman” Jones.
Cleveland had just four first downs, two of them coming on penalties against the Bengals defense. Cincinnati linebacker Rey Maualuga was whistled for taunting after he batted down one of the quarterback’s passes and followed it up by getting in Manziel’s face.
Hill gave the Browns motivation with his postgame comments after last month’s loss, saying “they’re probably worse than I thought” despite Cleveland’s dominant performance. Hill carried the ball on the game’s first plays and gave the Bengals a 7-0 lead with his 2-yard TD run.
After Nugent kicked a 44-yarder to make it 10-0, Hill scored again, breaking several tackles on a 16-yard run to make it 17-0 early in the second quarter. Hill tried to celebrate by leaping into the stands, but was turned back by a Browns fan wearing a Joe Haden jersey. It was one of Cleveland’s best stops of the first 30 minutes.
The Browns lost star cornerback Joe Haden with a shoulder injury and rookie corner Justin Gilbert went out with a concussion.