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Johnny Manziel: 'I'm not using the rookie excuse'

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"Tough. Just tough."

That's how Johnny Manziel summed up the stinking egg he laid in Sunday's 30-0 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Cleveland's rookie quarterback looked lost from the first snap, leading the Browns (7-7) to five first downs and just 107 total yards of offense. After a defeat that all but ended Cleveland's season, Manziel acknowledged his messy debut.

"I'm not using the rookie excuse. It's not me. Yeah, I'm a rookie but that's out the window. I needed to play better," Manziel said. "I felt coming into today that I was absolutely prepared for today. Being out there, I never felt overwhelmed or that it was too much for me, but when it comes down to it, football is football. You need to make more plays than the other team and you need to play better than the other team and today I didn't do that."

That's putting it lightly. Manziel's Total QBR of 1.0 was the lowest by any starting passer with at least 10 attempts in a game all season. Johnny Football's nightmare also tied for the lowest Total QBR in a debut over the past five seasons with -- wait for it -- former Browns first-round disaster Brandon Weeden.

It wasn't just Manziel. Cleveland's shoddy run defense played in a fog from the opening snap, allowing trash-talking Jeremy Hill to pound away for 148 yards and two scores as part of Cincinnati's outrageous 244 yards on the ground.

"It's frustrating when you go out and get beat soundly in all three phases," Browns coach Mike Pettine told reporters. "I talked to the guys about (how) there's an 'it' factor that you have to have when you go out and play. An edge to you, whether it's the focus or the intensity, and we didn't have it today."

With the playoffs nothing more than a fantasy, it makes sense to stick with the rookie over the next two weeks. It's just one bad start, but Manziel's rugged first act raises plenty of questions about Cleveland's future at the most important position in sports.

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