CLEVELAND (AP) – Muted for weeks and in danger of being silenced for good, those “John-ny! John-ny!” chants again reverberated through FirstEnergy Stadium on Sunday.
Johnny Manziel returned a changed quarterback.
Playing for the first time since being benched two games for bad behavior, Manziel passed for 270 yards and a touchdown, helping the Cleveland Browns snap a seven-game losing streak with a 24-10 win on Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers.
Manziel was poised and precise in the best performance of his young NFL career. He completed 21 of 31 passes, made just one bad mistake and had a minor meltdown on the sideline while leading the Browns (3-10) to their first win in more than two months.
The second-year QB signed a $100 bill for a fan before the game and then had a signature win, albeit one against a 49ers team that failed to block, tackle or do much else very well.
Browns coach Mike Pettine, who disciplined Manziel by stripping him of his starting job and demoting him to third-string last month, said the 23-year-old showed more growth.
“He did some good things,” Pettine said. “He did a lot more good than he did bad. Like all of our players, there is a lot to learn from. To go out and execute a game plan and win a football game – people asked me what did I expect from him – we expected him to do his job and for most of the game he did.”
After throwing an interception late in the first half, Manziel, who is 2-2 as a starter this season, stormed to the sideline and vented by bashing a tablet on his head. He bounced back in the third quarter by throwing a touchdown pass to tight end Gary Barnidge, capping a 78-yard scoring drive.
Manziel regretted not only his decision but the outburst, which came after he tried to throw across his body and over the middle and was picked off by 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt. He knows better than to try a play like that at this level
“This isn’t freaking (Texas) A&M,” he said, adding the tablet survived the head-butting. “I still have a lot to prove. I’m feel I’m just getting started.”
Isaiah Crowell rushed for a career-high 145 yards and had two short TD runs for Cleveland, which won its first game in December since 2012.
The victory took a little heat off Pettine, whose future with the Browns may hinge on how his team plays over the final four games.
“When you had the streak that we had of losses, that overreaction, people driving by the building to see if it is on fire,” Pettine said. “Winning doesn’t heal everything, but it helps.”
The Browns sacked 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert nine times – the most by any team in the league this season – and held San Francisco to just 127 yards on offense before a late 94-yard drive.
“Maybe we did take them a little light,” said Niners linebacker Ahmad Brooks.
Here are some other takeaways from the Browns’ win on an abnormally warm December day in Northeast Ohio:
TOUGH BLOW: Cleveland’s receiving unit took another blow as Brian Hartline broke his collarbone in the second half and will miss the rest of this season. Hartline had eight catches for 107 yards before getting hurt.
“This is a guy who is a leader in the locker room, a leader in the meeting rooms,” Pettine said. “He is a leader on the practice field, and then game day, he is a guy that wants a ball.”
DAWSON’S RETURN: 49ers kicker Phil Dawson, who spent 14 seasons with Cleveland, was overwhelmed by the reception he received. Some Browns fans cheered when Dawson kicked a 44-yard field goal.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget this one,” said the former University of Texas star. “When I’m an old man and my memory’s starting to fade I hope the good Lord lets me remember today because it’s about as good as it gets.”
THE CROW FLIES: Crowell had runs of 54 and 50 yards as the Browns, who came in with the NFL’s worst rushing attack, rolled up 230 yards their most since 2010.
“Crow ran hard, broke some tackles and finished runs,” Pettine said. “It was good to see.”
4-AND-9ERS: One week after an impressive road win, the Niners were flat and got flattened. San Francisco is 1-6 in away games this season.
“It just felt like we didn’t bother to show up and play,” said left offensive tackle Joe Staley.
BLOCK PARTY: Browns kicker Travis Coons had a field-goal attempt blocked for the third straight game.