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Bengals defense was motivated but also exposed a Johnny Manziel flaw

The Cincinnati Bengals defense patiently watched as the world fumbled their affection toward Johnny Manziel. Paul Guenther put together a game plan that his players flawlessly executed. It was a historic performance.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Talk about night and day.

Prior to Cincinnati's game against the Browns, Cleveland was saturated with a near-euphoric state after head coach Mike Pettine announced Johnny Manziel's promotion.

In truth, it made sense.

Cleveland had lost three out of their last four games coming into Sunday's game. Former starter Brian Hoyer, who was talking of a contract extension the last time that Cincinnati played Cleveland, had thrown seven interceptions in the the last three games without a touchdown. Worried that they were falling out of the playoff race, the Browns had a dramatic move up their sleeve.

Cincinnati, on the other hand, was coming off a demoralizing loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers with the Bengals leading into the fourth quarter, only to collapse after a fumble and nearly 550 yards allowed.

From Ben Roethlisberger to Johnny Manziel.

In his first career start in the NFL against the Bengals on Sunday, Manziel completed 10 of 18 passes for 80 yards passing, zero touchdowns with two interceptions and a passer rating of 27.3. He added 13 yards rushing on five carries.

Cincinnati's five first downs allowed is a franchise best and the 107 yards allowed is the third-lowest in franchise history and lowest since 1976.

"The Cincinnati Bengals, I think, did something really bright in the game against Johnny Manziel," said Peter King on NBC's Football Night in America. "They looked back at his college career and saw that the worst game, he played in college, was against LSU last year. And the key in that game, don’t let Manziel go left. So here (showing the interception by Adam Jones in the endzone) they force him to the right. The biggest play of the game, he throws a terrible interception. Give credit to Paul Guenther, the Bengals defensive coordinator for finding that."

Browns head coach Mike Pettine believed that Manziel looked indecisive "a couple of times."

"I always like to say I need to see the tape," said Pettine. "(He) didn't play well – looked like a rookie, played like a rookie. Again, I know a lot of it was we didn't play well around him, but he made some obvious mistakes that typically a veteran quarterback won’t make."

Like launching the football into the endzone near the end of the first half to sacrifice their last red zone appearance of the game. The Browns wouldn't even reach midfield in the second half, coming as close as their own 46-yard line.

"I’m not using the rookie excuse -- it’s not me," Manziel said after the game via "Yeah, I'm a rookie, but that’s out the window. I needed to play better. I felt like I would come out and play better and that didn't happen. I’m disappointed and these guys are too. For me, it’s a fresh start and we can move on from here to try and build something to carry us into next year."

Dawgs by Nature writes:

Manziel still couldn't get anything going in the second half. He certainly looked like a rookie deer in the headlights, but offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan deserves a fair amount of criticism for basically completely changing the offense this week. Everything looked out of sync, and it would've seemed wise for the Browns to run the same offense they've been using all season, now with more mobility at the quarterback position.

Along with Guenther's tremendous game-planning, Cincinnati was irritated and motivated.

"All week everybody wanted to make the game about (QB Johnny Manziel)," said defensive end Wallace Gilberry. "We just took that out and focused on us and focused on what we do. We were able to come out and put on a pretty good show."

"All we hear is Manziel, Manziel, Manziel all week and we just wanted to go out there and keep people quiet," said nose tackle Domata Peko via "We did. The Dawg Pound was kind of quiet today."

In addition to the irritation of having a rookie quarterback dominate the narrative this week, the Bengals defense still remembers how Cleveland dominated them last month.

"We don't like to get embarrassed like that," said Peko. "We made a point this week in practice to attack down hill. They ran it 52 times. That’s a punch in the face. We came out and got redemption."