Johnny Manziel threw a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, but the Cleveland Browns could not hold on as EJ Manuel led the Buffalo Bills to a fourth-down touchdown and a two-point conversion with 1:31 left in an 11-10 Bills win.
Manziel's night was a mixed bag, much like his first preseason game. His 21-yard touchdown throw to Shane Wynn ended a 96-yard drive, but when he took over at the Cleveland 17 with 1:26 left, he had two timeouts and needed a field goal to win. He got nothing going.
Manziel completed 1 of 6 pass attempts as the drive ended on an incompletion to Vince Mayle on fourth down. Manziel completed 6 of 7 on the touchdown drive, but also gained just 24 yards in the fourth quarter.
QB depth chart: Josh McCown's first half of two interceptions, three sacks and one field goal was not what the Browns wanted. Mike Pettine said over and over going into the game that McCown had a firm hold of the No. 1 job, but he didn't play like a No. 1. He was facing an excellent defensive front that had the upper hand against the Browns' line, but McCown's first two drives ended in interceptions. It would be a surprise if Pettine does not stand by McCown, but the first-half struggles combined with Manziel's touchdown might get some chatter going. After the game Pettine again repeated that McCown “is firmly the one” and added “I'm not going to stand up here and try to stir up a quarterback controversy.”
Maybe that dude could start: The Browns loved Xavier Cooper's quickness and explosiveness when they moved up in the draft to select the defensive lineman. Cooper showed why in the first two preseason games, registering a sack in the first game against Washington and two in the second against Buffalo. If Cooper can play the run as well as he can the pass he could earn more playing time as the season goes on.
Who got hurt? The Browns started the game with a list of 18 players who would not play, including CB Joe Haden, FS Tashaun Gipson, RB Duke Johnson and WRs Terrelle Pryor and Dwayne Bowe. S Jordan Poyer, who was playing for Gipson, left the game in the first quarter with a concussion. At one point on Buffalo's first series, Poyer was wandering among the Bills' huddle. He finished that series and was taken in for concussion tests soon after.
A surprise -- who looks amazing: Wynn has been this year's Taylor Gabriel. An unheralded receiver, Wynn stands just 5-foot-6 and weighs 167 pounds, but he's done nothing but make catches and plays since training camp started. Against Buffalo, Wynn got past safety Duke Williams on the sideline and caught Manziel's pass in the right side of the end zone. Wynn lined up in the slot and seemed to do an out-and-up, which put him in a matchup against a safety that he won. Later in the fourth quarter, Wynn brought a punt back 58 yards. The return was negated by a penalty, but it will catch the attention of the coaches.
Rookie watch: Cooper had the best game of the drafted rookies with his two sacks. … First-round pick Danny Shelton played with the first-team defensive line, Cam Erving with the second offensive line at right guard. … Tight end E.J. Bibbs had a nice 16-yard reception, but it was wiped out by an illegal block by rookie receiver Vince Mayle.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Browns looked: Outmanned. The defense held the Bills to three points, but the Bills opened the game with a 9:36 drive that saw Tyrod Taylor three times complete passes to convert third downs. The Browns limited the score, but Buffalo ran for 62 yards in the half, with Taylor gaining 41 of them -- 21 on a read-option keeper. The Browns' offense, meanwhile, struggled. The Browns had a 57-yard field goal drive to end the half, but overall the Bills' defensive line — minus Kyle Williams — dominated the Browns up front.
One reason to freak out: The first-team offense struggled. Terrance West got the start and averaged 3.1 yards on nine carries. McCown had the turnovers and was sacked three times. The offensive line was manhandled by a Bills defensive front that was missing Williams. Buffalo didn't seem to blitz a lot, but the Bills did get pressure from their front four. Until the Browns can drive teams away from stacking the box, and until they make plays in the passing game, defenses won't respect them. Buffalo is a good defense, but the Browns will see plenty of good defenses this season.
Not a sterling night: This game was not an advertisement for quality in the NFL. Neither team could get in the end zone when the starters were on the field, and there were few big plays until late in the fourth quarter. It was not pretty, though the large number of injured players on both teams had to affect the quality of play.