ReFo: Browns @ Bills, Week 13
In a game that a seperated by just a field goal until mid-way through the third quarter, the Buffalo Bills managed to find enough big plays defensively to run out comfortable winners and keep themselves in the hunt for a playoff spot.
For the Browns we got to see rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel’s first real action at quarterback and, to his credit, he didn’t look lost leading the Browns to their only touchdown of the game.
It was a game that was decided when the Bills’ defense was on the field, and that’s where most of our key performers showed up, so let’s dig into who stood out from Sunday’s game.
Cleveland Browns – Performances of Note
Johnny Manziel, QB: +0.8
Breakdown: Taking the reigns for the Browns’ offense in the fourth quarter, Manziel certainly gave his backers some reason for hope, as he looked solid in delivering the Browns their only touchdown on the game. Completing five of his seven “aimed” throws, he showed himself capable of finding the open receivers and making plays with his feet.
Signature Play: Q4, 8:54 remaining. Showing off the flashy playmaking that saw him drafted in the first round in May, Manziel took off on an 8-yard scramble up the middle to score his first NFL touchdown.
Joe Thomas, OT: -2.7
Breakdown: There were worse performers on the Cleveland offensive line on Sunday, but it’s always surprising when a player who is a consistently good as Thomas has his struggles. Jerry Hughes got the best of him throughout the game, with Thomas grading negatively as a run blocker and in pass protection, while also committing four penalties.
Signature Stat: The four flags thrown against Thomas mark the most from any single game of his career.
Brian Hoyer, QB: -6.1
Breakdown: Some teams rush to get rookie quarterbacks onto the field and do so at the first sign of sturggle from the incumbent starter. That wasn’t the case here, with Hoyer struggling heavily throughout. He’s now graded at -18.7 over the past three games, leaving it fair to wonder if it is indeed time for Johnny Manziel to take the field as the starter.
Signature Play: Q2, 1:14 remaining. Directly after this play he threw an interception, but it could just have easily come on this play instead — missing linebacker Nigel Bradham in coverage, was saved by the Buffalo defender’s inability to hang onto the ball.
Buffalo Bills – Performances of Note
Nigel Bradham, LB: +6.1
Breakdown: While he’d have been even happier is he had picked that pass off, Bradham had another excellent outing on Sunday. Tremendous against the run and solid in coverage, there was little not to like about his efforts
Signature Play: Q4, 3:26 remaining. Snagging one of the seven defensive stops he had in the game, Bradham stopped running back Terrance West for a 3-yard gain with no yards after the catch here.
Starting Defensive Line: +7.1 combined
Breakdown: Another strong outing saw Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes all finish with positive grades up front. They were simply too much for the Browns’ offensive line to handle throughout the game, both against the run and as pass rushers.
Signature Stat: With some tough play up front, they held the Browns to 2.2 yards per carry when you take out the 18-yard run on the game’s final play.
Robert Woods, WR: +0.8
Breakdown: Sammy Watkins gets the headlines for his big plays as a rookie so far, but not enough is often said about second-year receiver Robert Woods. Adding a big play in most games for the Bills this season, he did it again on Sunday.
Signature Play: Q3, 8:36 remaining. Setting the Bills up inside the Cleveland 5-yard line by hauling in the deep pass, he did so despite pass interference from Buster Skrine on the play.
PFF Game Ball
Nigel Bradham was the best player on a defense that made life impossible for the Cleveland offense. He may not have held onto the would-be interception, but the PFF Game Ball stays in his grasp.
Follow Gordon on Twitter: @PFF_Gordon