On the strength of a 21-yard touchdown pass from third-string quarterback Kellen Moore to receiver Corey Fuller with a little over a minute left, the Detroit Lions beat the Cleveland Browns, 13-12, Saturday night in Ford Field.
The actual game took a back seat to the debut of Johnny Manziel. As SportsPickle joked, rarely do you ever see such a paradoxical sporting event where everything and yet nothing is simultaneously on the line:
Despite being one of the most anticipated rookies from the class of 2014, Manziel's introduction would have to wait a few series, as Brian Hoyer was given the start. The Lions and Browns exchanged field goals early, with Cleveland going up 6-3 on a kick from Billy Cundiff at the 11:10 mark of the second quarter.
That set the stage for the former Heisman Trophy winner. After the Browns defense forced Detroit to punt, Manziel went under center for the first time in an NFL game:
His first drive as an NFL player was rather mundane, with the Browns going three-and-out:
Cleveland called upon Cundiff once again later in the game, with the 34-year-old splitting the uprights from 41 yards out to give the Browns a 9-6 lead in the third quarter.
On the Browns' next offensive series, Manziel turned into Johnny Football. On a couple of occasions, the play broke down—partly because of his poor awareness—forcing the rookie to create with his feet. He displayed the kind of scrambling that could make him one of the most exciting quarterbacks in the league.
CBSSports.com's Will Brinson thought one play in particular—when Manziel scrambled for a long gain and picked up a first down—summed up the entire Manziel package:
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller couldn't help but to be enthused, but he smartly kept his emotions in check to a certain extent. Playing well against a team's second-string defense isn't the same as playing well against a first-team defense in the regular season:
Manziel exited the game in the fourth quarter with the Browns clinging to their three-point lead. Cleveland head coach Mike Pettine said that he didn't have any major critiques for the rookie that would be unique to any other quarterback, per Fox Sports Ohio's Zac Jackson:
Jackson had a few fans' hearts skip a beat when he tweeted out Johnny Football was getting looked at on the sideline by medical personnel. It didn't appear to be anything serious, though:
Jackson and Daryl Ruiter of 92.3 The Fan provide Manziel's comments after the game:
Pettine said after the game that the medical evaluation didn't raise any red flags, per Ruiter:
ESPN's Stats and Info posted Manziel and Hoyer's stats side by side, and the results were about what you expected going into the game. The former was the better runner, while the latter was the better thrower:
Both ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Miller commented that Cleveland's wide receivers were giving their QBs little help in the passing game:
The MMQB editor Peter King reported before the game that Hoyer remains the incumbent starter but that the rookie's gaining on him:
That probably remains the case after the game. Pettine isn't going to make major judgments after only one preseason loss. On the subject of which QB will start the Browns' next game, he said, "that decision hasn't been made yet," per Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer:
Of course, Manziel wasn't the only first-round draft pick on show Saturday night, with Eric Ebron making his Lions debut.
Many have praised the tight end for his athleticism and versatility. The Detroit coaching staff isn't wasting any time figuring out different ways to use him offensively, per Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke:
Josh Liskiewitz of GM Jr. Scouting was also impressed with Ebron's form when used as a blocker:
In general, Detroit was otherwise underwhelming. Matthew Stafford was removed after only one series. He attempted four passes for the entire game, with his stat line courtesy of NFL on ESPN:
Burke thinks that the Lions' performance after he departed left a lot to be desired:
Moore did look very good, going 11-of-13 for 121 yards and a touchdown. While Stafford's job isn't in doubt, Moore could be a solid plan B in the event the starter gets hurt. It will be interesting to see if he plays as well in the Lions' next encounter.
Detroit's next preseason game is on Aug. 15 against the Oakland Raiders. Fans will certainly want to see a much more spirited showing than they witnessed on Saturday.
The Browns get the Washington Redskins on the Aug. 18 edition of Monday Night Football. Perhaps Cleveland's quarterback situation will become a little more clear after the game, but more than likely, Pettine will wait for at least another week.