The Cleveland Browns are on the come up in the National Football League and it is in large part due to the play of the formerly maligned quarterback Brian Hoyer. During the Thursday Night Football matchup between the Browns and interstate rival Cincinnati Bengals Hoyer threw 15-23 for 198 yards. While we don’t expect anyone to be placing ballots for him as League MVP anytime soon, his mistake free brand of football made it possible for the Browns defense to ratchet up the pressure on Bengals’ $100 million quarterback Andy Dalton, whose 10-33 passing attempts for 86 was abysmal. His 4.3 passer rating was also the worst of his career.
The Friday morning media is likely roasting Dalton over an opening fire for that lousy performance, the Bengals’ offensive line should take a great deal of the blame as well. DE Desmond Bryant would sack Dalton twice on back-to-back plays and the rest of their defensive front would harass and cause Dalton to hurry all night long. Browns head coach Mike Pettine is looking like a young guru with the manner that he has his team playing well in all aspects of the game.
CB Joe Haden turned in a stellar performance covering Bengals receiver A.J. Green and holding him to 3 catches for 23 yards. Meanwhile, his running mate in the secondary CB Buster Skrine would put in work as well with two interceptions. Props are being given to Hoyer for his efficiency under center, but none of that would have been possible if the Browns weren’t punching the Bengals in the mouth up front to the tune of 170 yards. RB Terrance West would lead the team with 94 yards on the ground but all three Cleveland running backs (Isaiah Crowell, Ben Tate and West) would each score a touchdown.
The Browns put in yeoman work on both sides of the ball, the Bengals were stymied early on with Dalton throwing an interception on his first drive. Things went downhill from there. The 24-3 victory gave the Cleveland Browns their best record (6-3) through 9 games since 1994. On the other side of the field, head coach Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals are scratching their heads and looking for answers. After starting 2-0 and being considered as one of the top five teams in the league, the Bengals have suffered through frustrating stretches of inconsistency with a blowout loss to the New England Patriots, a tie against the mediocre Carolina Panthers, another blowout at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts followed by wins over division rivals and former franchise namesake the Baltimore Ravens and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
After this shellacking it appears as if Cincy is who we thought they were, possibly the worst team in the AFC North. Their next game is versus the New Orleans Saints in the comfy confines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and, by early accounts, looks like it’s going to be another blowout if this game is indicative of the performance we can expect them to muster.
With all the positive energy permeating the Cleveland Browns franchise there has been relatively little Johnny Manziel talk relative to the way he seemed to be at the tips of every sportswriter’s tongue two months ago. Hoyer is just playing too well to be supplanted with 10 touchdowns to 4 interceptions. His QBR of 55.8 won’t knock anybody’s cleats off but his passer rating of 90.4 isn’t anything to sneeze at. If the Michigan State alum continues to play clean, efficient football the idea of eventually handing the reigns over to Johnny Football becomes less and less probable. Manziel could benefit from sitting behind a veteran NFL quarterback for a year or two, team needs and Manziel’s ego may eventually drive the Browns to see what they can get on the open market.
Though Johnny has played very little in his rookie season, there are still those general managers around the league who would be willing to give the Cleveland backup quarterback a chance. People like Dallas Cowboy’s President/GM Jerry Jones, who is on record as saying he wishes he had drafted the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback during the NFL Draft. Additionally, Dallas QB Tony Romo’s ailing back is a growing concern after he suffered two fractures in his back a week ago. QB Johnny Manziel is the great unknown but one thing is for certain, he would fill seats initially. People love a spectacle and Jones is the greatest ring leader the game has.
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns look to continue their winning ways as they take on the Houston Texans on November 16.