The Buffalo Bills rolled out their starting offense on Thursday night, only to stumble hard against a gaggle of Lions backups.
The Browns employed a similar strategy against the Bears, but with better results. Quarterback Brian Hoyer and the first team pieced together their finest drive of August, chewing up six-plus minutes off the clock with a 13-play, 85-yard march capped by a 1-yard touchdown burst by runner Ben Tate.
Hoyer was a clean 6-of-8 passing for 69 yards, employing an assortment of play-action throws and bootlegs against Chicago's third-teamers. His worst pass saw him miss a wide open Jordan Cameron in the end zone, but Hoyer reacted well to the blitz while spreading the ball to five different targets.
Converting all three of his third-down attempts, Hoyer's production was the first sign of hope all month from Kyle Shanahan's air attack.
Johnny Manziel then hit the scene as a comprehensive mixed bag.
Manziel's arm has been superior to Hoyer's all August, but he tossed a long, ugly wobbler to open his third drive of the night. Johnny also badly overthrew wideout Charles Johnson before scrambling around on a third-down attempt to find Nate Burleson for a pretty 27-yard dart to the Cleveland 1-yard line. Manziel's second scoring pass of the preseason -- a 1-yard bullet to tight end Jim Dray -- came next.
The biggest concern for Manziel was his skittish accuracy and floating deep ball: He too often resembled a fellow tossing a wicker basket into the wind. His receivers also dropped too many balls, but Manziel remains a work in progress.
"I don't think I threw the ball particularly well today," Manziel said after the game. "I felt it came out of my hand a little funny with those first few throws, and as the drives went on, I felt like I threw it better.
"I mean, you have days like that ... I wish I had some throws back. I feel I went to the right place a couple times, I just needed to man up and make the throw and give him a better ball. So I was definitely a little upset on the field."
When he settles down, the magic pours out. Manziel used his feet to eat up 55 yards on five runs, but his ability to extend the play remains nestled inside too much inconsistency. Still learning to read the field, the former Texas A&M star finished an ill-fitting 6 of 17 for 83 yards at 4.9 yards per pop.
Manziel's ceiling plays are more than we've seen from a Browns passer in a thousand Sundays, but he floats into September far from a finished product.