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CINCINNATI (AP) — Paul Guenther was nervous all week, something that's very unusual for Cincinnati's first-year defensive coordinator. The reason: Johnny Manziel had played so little in the NFL that there wasn't much to give him a read on how to rattle the rookie quarterback.
What to do?
Guenther started pulling out the college video and came up with a plan that worked perfectly.
Taking a cue from LSU and Missouri, Guenther's defense made the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner look like he still belonged back at Texas A&M. The Bengals knocked Manziel around — and mocked him by repeatedly doing his "money" gesture — during a 30-0 victory on Sunday in Cleveland.
The victory kept the Bengals (9-4-1) a half-game ahead of Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the AFC North and gave a little momentum to a defense that feels it has something to prove.
"We've had some games where we kind of blown up a little bit, particularly in those games we lost," Guenther said on Monday. "We've given up a lot of yards with a lot of points."
Cincinnati has allowed 500 yards in three games this season, a franchise record. The Browns beat the Bengals 24-3 at Paul Brown Stadium on Nov. 6 with Brian Hoyer at quarterback.
Guenther was worried about what Manziel would do in his starting debut Sunday because of his ability to run and improvise. So he started pulling out the college video to see what worked then.
He looked at LSU's 34-10 win over Texas A&M — Manziel was 16 of 41 for 224 yards with two interceptions — and Missouri's 28-21 victory in which he threw for only 195 yards. The common theme: Force him to run to his right, take away the scramble.
"They kind of moved him one side and kept him in the pocket," Guenther said. "Those were his worst two games in college, so you could see obviously what their plan was, to keep him in the pocket or move him to a side where he wasn't throwing."
Worked just like it did in college. Manziel had a dreadful starting debut, completing 10 of 18 passes for 80 yards with three sacks, two interceptions and a passer rating of 27.3. The Browns didn't top 100 yards on offense until the final play of the game.
Everyone on defense got a game ball from Cincinnati's first shutout in six years.
"A guy like that, if you give him time to run around and set up, he'll hurt you," end Wallace Gilberry said. "We knew if we corralled him and got in his face and stayed in his face, it would be a hard day for him and that's what we did."
Now the Bengals switch from preparing for a raw rookie to one of the best of all time. They host Denver (11-3) and Peyton Manning on Monday night, which amounts to a double whammy for Cincinnati.
Manning is 8-0 against the Bengals, throwing for 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He's thrown at least three touchdown passes in five of the eight games. His career passer rating against the Bengals is 106.8.
"It's going to be a big shift, safe to say," coach Marvin Lewis said on Monday. "It's a challenge. He gets everyone's attention in this building right away. The player he is, how he carries himself, how he runs things on the field — it's going to be a great challenge for us. It's what it's supposed to be in December, just like this."
The Bengals have been blown out in both of their prime time games this season — 43-17 at New England and the Thursday night loss to the Browns. They're 18-41 all-time in prime time.
Notes: Tight end Jermaine Gresham was inactive on Sunday because of an injured toe that got worse during the week. Lewis expects him to be back against Denver. ... Quarterback Andy Dalton is 2-6 career in prime time.
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