CINCINNATI (9-4-1): The Bengals played with a focus against the Browns that was apparently honed by all the attention QB Johnny Manziel received prior to the Cleveland-Cincinnati rematch.
"His first start, Johnny Manziel's going to do this (and) do that," Bengals LB Rey Maualuga
offered after the Bengals' 30-0 victory on Sunday. "The whole hype was on him and what he was going to do to this defense. Everything was all about Manziel all week. We just focused on us. We focused on what we needed to do to stop the kid and stop their offense."
Added DE Wallace Gilberry: "All week everybody wanted to make the game about (Manziel). We just took that out and focused on us and focused on what we do. We were able to come out and put on a pretty good show."
The Bengals made amends for a 24-3 loss to the Browns on Nov. 6 in Cincinnati and bounced back from a 42-21 loss to the Steelers on Dec. 7. "Taking a licking is always motivation," Coach Marvin Lewis said … RB Jeremy Hill maintained his 148 rushing yards and the Bengals' 244 yards on the ground against the Browns were attributable in part to Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell. "We stole a few moves from (Bell)," Hill said. "A lot of guys just run downhill and run into people, but sometimes you have to set up the blocks just being patient."
BALTIMORE (9-5): The Ravens keep winning games but they also continue to lose defensive backs to injury.
CB Asa Jackson (right leg) was knocked out of Sunday's 20-12 victory over Jacksonville. Jackson had missed seven games with a toe injury prior to returning to play on Dec. 7 against Miami. And rookie S Terrence Brooks, Baltimore's third-round pick, suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Jaguars.
The Ravens already have four CBs on injured reserve – Jimmy Smith, Danny Gorrer, Aaron Ross and Tramain Jacobs.
With the secondary thinning, the Ravens turned up the heat on the pass rush and registered eight sacks against Jacksonville, including four in the fourth quarter … The Ravens would be eliminated from AFC North Division championship contention if the Bengals beat the Broncos and the Steelers beat the Chiefs. Baltimore would clinch a wild-card entry into the postseason by winning tis final two games (at Houston, Cleveland).
CLEVELAND (7-7): Among the disappointing aspects of the Browns' loss to the Bengals was a perceived lack of the necessary edge for such a big game.
"I can't explain it," Coach Mike Pettine said. "And that's a big part of coaching because when you don't have it, you want to know why. What was different? What were the signs during the week? As a staff we'll meet; we'll talk about it because this isn't Major League Baseball where we have 100 and however many games.
"They're all big and this one was meaningful. That's why it's a surprise. It's shocking that we just didn't have it."
The Browns ran 38 offensive plays against the Bengals, Cleveland's fewest since it ran 28 in a 43-0 loss to the Steelers in the first game of the Browns' franchise resurrection in 1999 … Manziel became the sixth quarterback in the last 20 years to suffer a shutout in his first start, following in the unenviable footsteps of Rusty Smith (Tennessee, 2010), Dave Ragone (Houston, 2003), Henry Burris (Chicago, 2002), Spergon Wynn (Cleveland, 2000) and Danny Wuerffel (New Orleans, 1997).