CLEVELAND (AP) There was no gloating, no gestures, nothing to draw extra attention. After getting his first career win as an NFL starter, Johnny Manziel put on his gray tailored suit and popped in the headphones that maybe help block out some of the constant noise around him.
On his way home Sunday, as the sun plunged into the horizon on Lake Erie, Manziel stopped and signed a few autographs for fans who cheered him even inside the tunnels of FirstEngery Stadium.
Like a pro.
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Like the quarterback the Browns hope he can be.
Manziel threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin on his first attempt and a 50-yarder, showing some of that old Johnny Football magic, to the wide receiver on his last with 2:52 left Sunday, leading the Browns to a 28-14 win over the Tennessee Titans. Benjamin also returned a punt 78 yards for a TD, helping the Browns build a 21-0 lead.
Following a forgettable rookie season, 70-day stay in a treatment center and questions about whether he could play in the NFL, Manziel came through with a performance that will only intensify the debate over whether the Browns (1-1) should keep him in the starting lineup.
”I’ve come a long way from that point on Jan. 17,” Manziel said, referring to the time before he checked into a facility in Pennsylvania specializing in drug and alcohol addiction. ”To be sitting here today and just have an ultimate turnaround from what it was in the first two starts I had last year, personally it feels awesome.”
Manziel only started against fellow Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota because 36-year-old Josh McCown hasn’t been cleared to return from a concussion sustained on the opening drive of the season opener. It’s not known when McCown will be back, so coach Mike Pettine doesn’t have to decide yet who will start next week against Oakland.
Manziel made his case on the field.
”I’m going to do whatever I’m told to do and whatever I’m asked to do,” said Manziel, who finished 8 of 15 for 172 yards and fumbled twice. ”Obviously, I want to be out there playing, but if that’s not the case I’ll take it in stride and prepare like I’d be the guy.”
Manziel remains a work in progress, but he’s already given the Browns more in two weeks than all of 2014.
Maybe more than anything, his failures have humbled Manziel, who was quick to point out that his big day was just that – a big day.
”It’s one game,” he said. ”There’s no reason to get too high about it or too low.”
Some things to know from the Browns’ win:
MIXED MARIOTA: No, his second game was nothing close to his first, when Mariota threw four TD passes at Tampa Bay and posted a perfect passer’s rating. Mariota threw two touchdown passes in the second half, but he held onto the ball too long and was sacked seven times by a Cleveland defense determined not to let him beat them.
Mariota played most of the second half on a sprained ankle, which limited Tennessee’s game plan.
BENJAMIN’S BREAKOUT: Benjamin finished with 269 all-purpose yards and became the first Cleveland player with two receiving TDs and a punt return for a score in the same game. Not bad for a player who entered training camp with no guarantee of making the roster and who has overcome a serious knee injury.
Benjamin has four TDs in two games – all over 50 yards. His 154 return yards were just 25 shy of his team record set in 2013.
TITANS INJURIES: Already missing three starters with injuries, the Titans played three quarters without guard Chance Warmack, who left the stadium on crutches and in a brace with a sprained right medial collateral ligament.
PRESSURE POINTS: Cleveland’s depth on its defensive front helped the Browns keep pressure on Mariota, who was under duress on virtually every throw. Armonty Bryant had 2 1/2 sacks as the Browns racked up their most in a game since Nov. 18, 2012.
BROWNS BACKS: Cleveland running backs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson combined for 115 yards after getting only 42 in the Week 1 loss to the Jets. Crowell picked up 25 yards on the Browns’ last scoring drive before Manziel connected with Benjamin for the game-clinching score.
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