Bills’ big second half beats Browns
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — The Cleveland Browns left Buffalo with a dent in their playoff hopes and a big question at quarterback.
Rookie Johnny Manziel provided a lift by scoring his first touchdown on a 10-yard run, but it wasn’t enough in a 26-10 loss to the Bills on Sunday.
“Sometimes you just need change for the sake of change,” Browns head coach Mike Pettine said. “We were down and needed a spark.”
Manziel did just that, coming in with 12:01 left after starter Brian Hoyer threw his second interception, which set up Dan Carpenter’s 34-yard field goal that put Buffalo ahead 20-3.
The Browns responded behind Manziel, who enjoyed his most significant playing time of the season and in his first appearance since a 23-21 loss to Baltimore in Week 3. The rookie first-round pick capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run that cut the Bills’ lead to 20-10.
The Bills then put the clamps on Manziel on Cleveland’s next possession. The Browns gave up the ball on downs, when Manziel completed a 5-yard pass to Miles Austin on fourth-and-6.
“It’s been a long time. So it felt very good to get back out there,” Manziel said. “It’s been my job all year to make sure I’m ready when my name is called.”
Now that question is who will get the start against Indianapolis on Sunday after the Browns (7-5) fell 1-1/2 games behind AFC North-leading Cincinnati. Pettine, who spent last season as the Bills’ defensive coordinator, said it’s too early to tell.
“I’m not going to put it all on Brian,” Pettine said of Hoyer, who has now thrown six interceptions in his past three starts. “We’ll scope it out to a staff decision, and we’ll make the evaluation.”
Hoyer insisted that this is still “my team,” but acknowledged the decision is out of his hands.
“I’m never going to hang my head and feel sorry for myself,” he said. “We have four games and whatever coach decides to do, I’ll be here to support this team.”
As for Manziel, he capped a tumultuous nine-day stretch. It began with him being confronted during an altercation with an aggressive fan in the lobby of his apartment last weekend. And now there’s a chance he could be in line to start.
“That’s up to coach Pettine,” Manziel said. “But if that is the case, and my name is called, I definitely will be ready.”
Hoyer went 18 of 30 for 192 yards. Manziel finished 5 of 8 for 63 yards, and two carries for 13 yards. After going 0 for 1 in a 26-24 win over New Orleans in Week 2, Manziel’s first NFL completion was a 12-yard strike to Austin on his first attempt Sunday.
The Bills (7-5) took control by scoring two touchdowns in a 10-seconds span midway through the third quarter.
Kyle Orton capped an eight-play, 84-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Chris Hogan with 8:04 left. On the Browns’ next play from scrimmage, defensive end Jerry Hughes stripped the ball out of rookie running back Terrance West’s hands and returned the fumble 18 yards for a score.
Carpenter then sealed the win by hitting all four field goals in the fourth quarter.
The Bills matched their best start to since 2000, when their 14-year playoff drought began.
The Browns, by comparison, squandered a chance to win eight of their first 12 for the first time since a 9-3 start in 1994.
“I blame it on me,” West said. “Turnovers killed us.”
The Bills were back home after a severe snowstorm forced them to relocate to Detroit, where they routed the New York Jets 38-3 on Monday night. With temperatures in the mid-50s on Sunday, there were only a few remnants of the 6-plus-feet of snow that fell on the Buffalo region.
NOTES: Browns DB Joe Haden had an interception and blocked Carpenter’s 53-yard field-goal attempt at the end of the second quarter. Safety Jim Leonhard intercepted Orton’s pass into the end zone early in the second quarter. … Josh Gordon had seven catches for 75 yards in his second game since serving a 10-game NFL suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
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