Biggest Takeaways from Cleveland Browns' Week 15 Loss

Andrea Hangst@FBALL_AndreaFeatured Columnist IVDecember 22, 2015

Biggest Takeaways from Cleveland Browns' Week 15 Loss

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    Did Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel take a step forward or backward in his attempt to be a full-time NFL starter in the future?
    Did Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel take a step forward or backward in his attempt to be a full-time NFL starter in the future?Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

    The Cleveland Browns fell to 3-11 Sunday after losing to the Seattle Seahawks 30-13. What promised to be a tough test for a struggling team lived up to the billing, and now the Browns have just two weeks left to try to improve upon their disappointing season.

    So what did we learn about the Browns in Week 15? Here are the top takeaways from the loss to the Seahawks.

Defense Disappoints...Again

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    Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

    With 432 yards given up to the Seahawks Sunday, the Browns' most recent loss marks the fifth time the team has given up more than 400 yards of offense to an opponent this year. The Seahawks' 182 rushing yards were the 10th time an opponent rushed for more than 100 yards against them. And their 30 points were the ninth time this year the Browns have allowed at least that many—and their sixth time in their last seven contests.

    It was, again, a bad day for Cleveland's defense. 

    Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson completed 21 of his 30 pass attempts for 249 yards. He threw three touchdowns and had no turnovers. And the Seattle offense combined to average 5.1 yards per carry on its 36 attempts.

    The Browns defense has been a constant source of woe for the team this year, and Sunday's performance was no exception. Missed tackles, poor coverage and all-around bad play reared their heads yet again, further highlighting just how much a disaster this defense has been in 2015. 

Terrelle Pryor, Dwayne Bowe Both See Field

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Recently re-signed quarterback-turned-receiver Terrelle Pryor and oft-maligned expensive veteran Dwayne Bowe were both active for Sunday's game against the Seahawks. And both saw the field, with Pro Football Focus noting that Pryor played 15 snaps, while Bowe played 12. Pryor even was a starter who was on the field for the first passing play of the game.

    On the day, Pryor was targeted twice with zero receptions and had a run that went for negative yardage, while Bowe had two consecutive grabs (and three targets) for 22 yards late in the game. This is notable for two reasons: This was just the sixth time this year Bowe has been active, while Pryor managed to crack the starting lineup even with minimal experience as a receiver.

    Neither man was a major factor on Cleveland's offense. But it is a sign that the team is willing to mix things up a bit in the season's final weeks, if only to evaluate the status of the roster for 2016. 

Manziel Makes Improvement

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Given the opponent, the venue and the lack of experience, Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel managed to hold his own against the vaunted Seahawks defense. 

    Manziel engineered a strong Cleveland opening drive, going 6-of-8 as a passer for 60 yards and a touchdown to tight end Gary Barnidge. Though he never reached the end zone again in the game—completing 19 of his 32 pass attempts for 161 yards and the lone touchdown while being picked off once and getting sacked three timeshis decision-making, footwork and comfort in the pocket all looked improved.

    Like any young quarterback, Manziel did much better early in the game when working off the script than later, especially as the Seahawks' lead increased and he was forced to play catch-up for Cleveland's terrible defense. But Sunday could have been far worse for Manziel, as it has been for many quarterbacks who have played in Seattle in recent years. 

Return of Cameron Erving

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Just two weeks after being benched in favor of Austin Pasztor at left guard, rookie Cameron Erving made his way back onto the field for the Browns, this time at right guard. Starter John Greco left the game with a knee injury after just two plays, and Erving took his place for the remainder of the contest. Like we've seen so many times this year, it did not go well.

    According to Pro Football Focus, two of the sacks on Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel were on Erving, as were two other hurries. He also registered a negative grade in run blocking. And while head coach Mike Pettine on Monday is unwavering in his support of Erving, per Scout.com's Hayden Grove, it's hard to see him improving over the next two games.

    But whether he improves or not, it doesn't matter—the Browns need him. While Greco won't need surgery for what was later revealed as an MCL injury, his season is over. This means, like it or not, Erving will be the starting right guard for the remainder of the year.

Duke Johnson Leads Team

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Though the Browns defense was mostly anemic Sunday, rookie Duke Johnson continued to stand out. He was the team's rushing and receiving leader against the Seahawks, with four carries for 46 yards (including a long run of 39 yards) and five catches on five targets for 39 more yards.

    The performance brings him to 342 yards on 92 carries this year and 54 receptions on 64 targets for 485 yards and two scores. Though it's clear that the Browns are still trying to figure out the best way to maximize his dual-threat abilities, Johnson has made a strong case for being the Browns' best draft pick of 2015.

    Yards are hard to come by against the Seahawks, particularly in Seattle. That Johnson netted 85 yards on his nine touches belies just how special he can be in the future.