Thursday Night Football became a Tale of Two Backups in the third quarter between the Buffalo Bills and the Cleveland Browns in Ohio.
Cleveland Browns new hope Brian Hoyer was injured on a scramble for first down in the first quarter. This created the opportunity for previous first string quarterback Brandon Weedon to step onto the field and redeem his 0-2 start with the Browns. Two quarters later, Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback E. J. Manual was injured on a hit that opened the door for his backup, Jeff Tuel.
Hoyer was flushed from the pocket and scrambled for the first down. His run came to a crushing end when Bills’ Kiko Alonso nailed him as he attempted to slide toward the sideline. Hoyer’s body was folded forward over both legs; the left bent completely under his full body weight, and the right leg twisted under him. He did not leave the field under his own power, and did not return to the game.
Reports today indicate Hoyer has a torn ACL and must have season-ending surgery to correct the damage. The Browns’ golden boy has been stopped in his tracks only two games into what may have become a break-out season.
For Manual, his scramble was also an escape from a sack. He made it to the first down marker but he kept running along the sideline instead of seeking safety out of bounds. Browns’ Tashaun Gibson took him down inside the 14-yard line just a stride away from the sidelines where he may have been less likely to be injured from the hit.
Manuel was able to leave the field on his own and remained on the sidelines for some time. He did not return to the game however, and reports on his condition are more encouraging that Hoyer’s. Manuel has a sprained LCL in his right knee that does not require surgery. Coaches expect Manuel back in the lineup within 4-6 weeks. In the two and nearly a half quarters he played, Manuel was 11/20 for 129 yards.
Weedon’s arm strength was on display but so too was his trouble with accuracy, quick release and field awareness. Cleveland’s first-round pick from the 2012 draft can get the ball down the field, but he did not seem to be paying attention to exactly who was in the vicinity. Inconsistent and incomplete repeatedly, Weedon finally managed to get his groove going into the third and fourth quarters, hitting both Josh Gordon and Tashaun Gipson for touchdowns that stretched the Brown’s lead. Weedon completed 13/24 passes for 197 yards, no interceptions and one touchdown. One may call that the beginning of redemption.
The Browns are now 3-2 for the first time since 2001. No call yet has been made on whether or not Weedon will regain his status as starter. He was sidelined due to a sprained thumb, and may not be completely ready to come back yet. Thankfully, the Browns still have quarterback Jason Campbell on the roster.
Jeff Tuel is an undrafted rookie free agent who had yet to start in the NFL. Tuel completed only 40% of his 8/20 passes, for 80 yards. He threw an interception, and was sacked twice for 11 yards. The rookie’s current NFL passer rating is a painful 31.3. Fans expressed their dismay at Tuel’s lack of experience in online forums. That call for action became even louder after Tuel’s pass was intercepted by T. J. Ward and returned 44 yards for a Cleveland touchdown.
Experience aside, the Bills will be seeking a quarterback from “outside the organization.” It begs the question: Why would any team with a hope of a winning season have a completely inexperienced rookie as their sole backup for another rookie?
In this tale of two backups, Weedon comes out the better of the two. Despite Weedon being unprepared to go in, he came through for the Browns when needed. Tuel simply did not do well enough to bring the game home for Buffalo. The Bills were caught out in the cold on their quarterback depth chart, and now have to move quickly to prevent this season from crashing and burning around them.
Written by: Brandi Tasby