CLEVELAND (AP) – Johnny Manziel threw a touchdown pass and maybe closed the gap on Browns presumed starting quarterback Josh McCown in Cleveland’s 11-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night.
Buffalo’s EJ Manuel, attempting to beat out Matt Cassel and Tyrod Taylor for the starting job, threw a 14-yard TD pass to Andre Davis with 1:31 left. He then connected with rookie Bronson Hill for the 2-point conversion to complete a late rally by the Bills (1-1).
Manziel had one last chance, but he couldn’t pull off any magic as the Browns (0-2) dropped their second straight exhibition at home.
Manziel connected with rookie Shane Wynn on a 21-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter. Playing against Buffalo’s backups, Manziel finished 10 of 18 for 118 yards and made one of those Johnny Football plays that made him an electrifying college star.
Both teams were at less than full strength because of injuries. The Browns sat 20 players with injuries and the Bills rested 16, including running back LeSean McCoy.
McCown threw interceptions on his first two drives and did nothing to lock up the starting gig. He has not been named Cleveland’s Week 1 starter by coach Mike Pettine, and Manziel’s performance could further delay any decision.
Manziel has made major progress following a disastrous rookie season, which was followed by a 10-week stay in rehab for an unspecified condition. Pettine and Manziel’s teammates have praised him for a better work ethic, and the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner has shown improvement on the field.
With the score tied 3-3, the Browns were backed up at their own 4 before Manziel, who played the entire second half, drove them to their go-ahead score. He completed 6 of 7 passes on the drive, highlighted by a 37-yard completion to rookie Darius Jennings. On the play, Manziel scrambled to his left and delivered his long throw to a diving Jennings.
McCown didn’t get much help from his offensive line as Buffalo’s vaunted front – missing Pro Bowler Kyle Williams – put pressure on the veteran quarterback, sacking him three times in the first half. McCown bounced back from the picks and led the Browns to a late field goal on his final series.
Like the Browns, the Bills have an unclear picture at quarterback.
Cassel got the night off as Bills coach Rex Ryan wanted a longer look at his two less-experienced QBs.
Taylor started and went 7 of 10 for 65 yards. He added 41 yards rushing before giving way to Manuel, who finished 9 of 14 for 111 yards.
With Buffalo down 10-3, Manuel drove the Bills 86 yards, completing his TD pass on fourth down to Davis, who made a leaping grab in the front corner of the end zone.
Due to injuries, the Browns were missing Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden (hamstring) and six other defensive backs. Former Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor, attempting to make Cleveland’s roster as a wide receiver, sat out with a nagging hamstring.
Buffalo was without several starters, including running McCoy (hamstring), wide receiver Sammy Watkins (hamstring) and Williams (quadriceps).
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