Stadium dazzles fans but not Browns’ play

Published 1:20 am Monday, August 25, 2014

CLEVELAND (AP) — The giant scoreboards dazzled, the new sound system rocked. All the upgrades inside FirstEnergy Stadium were a huge hit.

Not much on the field has improved.

Browns quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel both struggled and Cleveland’s defense couldn’t stop St. Louis during a 33-14 loss to the Rams on Saturday night.

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This was the first chance for Cleveland fans to see the first phase of the $120 million modernization of Cleveland’s lakefront home.

The stadium looks great. The Browns (0-3) still need some major work.

Hoyer, making his first start since coach Mike Pettine picked him over rookie Johnny Manziel to open the season at Pittsburgh, finished 10 of 16 for 84 yards and one touchdown, a 5-yarder to Andrew Hawkins. He was sacked twice, threw an interception and fumbled.

“We just have to keep building,” Hoyer said. “I don’t want people to hit the panic button. I think we did some really good things.”

There weren’t many. The Rams rolled up 472 yards of offense, sacked Cleveland’s QB four times and basically did what they wanted despite losing starting quarterback Sam Bradford in the first quarter with a knee injury and having four other starters go down with injuries.

Manziel did provide some excitement, running for a 7-yard touchdown and celebrating the score with his trademark “money” gesture.

“The crowd was great tonight,” he said. “I felt they were extremely electric. That’s for those guys. That’s not for me, that’s for them.”

Manziel finished 10 of 15 for 85 yards and was sacked twice by Rams rookie Michael Sam, who punctuated the first takedown by mimicking Manziel’s gesture.

“If you’re going to sack Johnny, you’ve got to do that once,” Sam said.

Manziel and Sam faced each other in college and the NFL’s most celebrated rookies spent a few minutes chatting before the game.

“The guy goes through a lot of stuff,” Manziel said. “He gets heckled by everybody I’m sure. He came up to me and said hello. It was just a brief interaction. I thought he played pretty well tonight.”

Pettine was disappointed with his team’s overall performance, and as usual the first-year coach had to answer a chunk of questions about his quarterbacks.

On Hoyer, he said, “I don’t think he played well enough, but I think that’s across the board. I don’t just want to pin it on him. It’s hard for your quarterback to look good when the guys around him aren’t playing to our standards either. It was a frustrating night for everybody.”

Pettine felt Manziel did give the Browns a spark.

“That just comes with playing,” Pettine said. “He needs to play, and as I’ve said, there’s no substitute for live game reps at NFL speed. I think that was good work for him.”

Earlier in the week, Pettine said there were no immediate plans to install a package specifically for the more mobile Manziel.

However, Pettine softened his stance in a radio interview on Friday, saying the team “could potentially look at a two-quarterback system down the road.”

After the thumping at home, Pettine said he won’t make any rash changes or use two quarterbacks against the Steelers.

“We’re going to watch the tape and see where we are,” he said. “I did say that that’s on the table, but I think we need continuity as a starting offense before we start to worry about going to a change-up.”

It was Hoyer’s first home game since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last season against Buffalo. He worked hard to get back and said the sight of Bradford going down was tough.

However, Hoyer didn’t come back to fail and he’s determined not to let the performance slow him.

“Obviously we would’ve liked to play better, but I think for me it was a big step to get back out onto the field where the incident happened and just go out there and play,” he said.

Browns Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden sat out with a sore foot. A team spokesman said Haden’s injury was not serious and he was rested as a precaution.

Pettine said wide receiver Josh Gordon didn’t play because he’s “dealing with something medically.” Gordon is still waiting for a ruling on his NFL appeal.


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