The Seahawks are back home Sunday to host the Cleveland Browns, who are 3-10, but are coming off one of their best performances of the season in a win over the San Francisco 49ers. To find out more about this week's opponent, we asked five questions of ClevelandBrowns.com senior writer Andrew Gribble.
1. The Browns are coming off of one of their best offensive performances of the season in their win over the 49ers. Is it oversimplifying to say that Johnny Manziel was the difference? And along those lines, what has Manziel brought to the offense when he has been on the field this seasons?
Gribble: Manziel played a big part in last Sunday's win, but it was easily the best overall performance of the season for the entire offense and defense. The Browns nearly doubled their previous best rushing performance of the season and the defense racked up nine sacks. The best thing Manziel has done this season is get better almost every time he's stepped on the field. His one step back was early November against the Bengals, but he quickly rebounded with an impressive showing against the Steelers in a losing effort. He has a better handle of the offense than last season and looks much more comfortable in the pocket. His ability to make plays on the run and out of the pocket is the X-factor. That he's doing it sparingly seems to make it even more controlled and effective.
2. Given the similarities in terms of height and athleticism, the Manziel-Russell Wilson comparisons are inevitable. From what you have seen of the two, is that a fair comparison for Manziel?
Gribble: I'll reiterate what Mike Pettine said earlier in the week when asked a similar question. The two are comparable because of their running ability and improvisational skills, but Wilson has clearly been doing it for much longer. Manziel said it himself that he'd obviously love to be mentioned in the same breath as Wilson because of how well he's been playing.
3. Tight end Gary Barnidge is having a monstrous season after never putting up big receiving numbers in his first seven seasons. Is there something different about him, or is this just a case of a player finally getting an opportunity to show what he can do?
Gribble: It's hard to say if Barnidge is doing anything differently because he's never been used in this way. He played behind Greg Olsen for a few years in Carolina and behind Jordan Cameron the past two years in Cleveland. I can say that anyone who watched training camp had a feeling he'd be a central figure in this offense because of the non-stop plays he made, but no one can truly say they saw this coming.
4. What's the mentality of the team finishing out the season with a 3-10 record? And how much of a boost in confidence did last week's win provide following a seven-game losing streak?
Gribble: Last week's win was huge for this team, and pretty much every player and coach expressed that fact in the days after it. There's been a lot of energy in the building, and that was the case in the days before the San Francisco win. This is a team that ended last season on a five-game losing streak. They don't want to carry that feeling into the offseason again, even though they already know there won't be a postseason.
5. Cleveland's pass defense has given up some big numbers to some of the NFL's best offenses, but held other teams in check. How are they equipped to match up against a Seahawks passing game that seems to have turned a corner in the last month?
Gribble: The issue that's plagued Cleveland's pass defense the most this season is injuries in the secondary. The loss of Joe Haden has been big in multiple ways. First off, he's a phenomenal cornerback. Second, there's a trickle-down effect that affects how the defense can be schemed because of Haden's ability to handle an opponent's top receiver by himself. Last week's performance was encouraging because the secondary did its job and benefited from the best pass rush Cleveland's had all season. Rookie Charles Gaines has experienced his ups and downs but appears to have a hold on the cornerback spot previously occupied by Haden.
The Seahawks and Cleveland Browns have met 17 times in the regular season, with the Seahawks winning 11 games and the Browns winning 6 games. Before their 18th matchup this Sunday at CenturyLink Field, take a throwback look at moments from every game dating as far back as 1977.