September 17, 2014

The party may be over for Johnny Manziel.

Following his latest off-field misstep, the controversial quarterback will watch from the sideline Monday night when the Cleveland Browns host an injury-riddled Baltimore Ravens team playing its first game in eight years without Joe Flacco.

Though this late-November AFC North showdown likely won't have much bearing on the playoff race, it certainly won't lack for drama after Manziel was relegated to third string for partying during the Browns' bye week and Flacco tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee near the end of last week's 16-13 win over St. Louis.

After reportedly promising coach Mike Pettine he would act on his best behavior over the bye, Manziel was caught on video reciting profane rap lyrics while holding a bottle of champagne at a club in his native Texas. Citing a breach of trust, Pettine announced Tuesday that the former Heisman Trophy winner would be behind Josh McCown and Austin Davis on the depth chart.

''It's the trust, the accountability part of it,'' Pettine said. ''It was right on the heels of discussions that not just I had with him but (quarterbacks coach) Kevin O'Connell and (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) Flip and just that trust was violated. I can't emphasize the importance of the trust and the accountability piece. This is where we had an obvious shortcoming.''

Though Pettine indicated the move isn't permanent, Manziel's series of off-field incidents - which include a domestic dispute with his girlfriend last month that the NFL recently cleared of any wrongdoing - has led to wide speculation about the 2014 first-round pick's future with the organization.

The demotion occurred a week after Pettine had named Manziel the starter for the remainder of the season and publicly praised him for his performance in Cleveland's 30-9 Week 10 loss at Pittsburgh, where Manziel threw for a career-high 372 yards.

In contrast to its division rival, Baltimore (3-7) has been a model of stability at quarterback during a largely successful eight-year run under Flacco and coach John Harbaugh. Flacco had started all 137 games including the playoffs over that span, a streak that will end after he was struck in the knee during the final minute of last week's victory.

''I'm really proud of the fact that I was able to go that long," Flacco said. "I wanted to go my whole career without missing anything. It's just the nature of the game. It happens. I just have to go out there, rehab, get back and be stronger.''

Veteran Matt Schaub takes over, becoming the first Raven other than Flacco to start at quarterback since Troy Smith in the 2007 finale.

Schaub makes his first start since Week 17 of the 2013 season while with Houston. The 34-year-old is 46-44 as a starter, though he's lost his last six.

Though just two games out of a playoff spot, Baltimore's chances of a seventh postseason appearance in eight years appear slim due to a litany of injuries that includes season-ending ones to wide receivers Steve Smith Sr. and rookie Breshad Perriman and top pass rusher Terrell Suggs.

Another was added to the list when leading rusher Justin Forsett fractured his right forearm against St. Louis.

"We'll rally behind Matt. We'll rally behind the rest of our running backs, because we're a football team," Harbaugh said. "We are a team, and that's how we approach it."

For McCown, it's an opportunity to reclaim the No. 1 job he lost to Manziel after missing the last two games with a rib injury and replicate one of his best outings. The 12th-year journeyman amassed a career-high 457 yards and threw two touchdowns in leading Cleveland (2-8) to its most recent victory, a 33-30 overtime triumph in Baltimore on Oct. 11.

Cleveland has since lost five straight and is averaging 11.3 points and 293.3 total yards over the last four.

The loss was only the Ravens' second in 15 meetings with the Browns under Harbaugh. Cleveland last swept the season series in 2007, Brian Billick's final year as Baltimore's coach.

The Ravens rushed for 181 yards and three touchdowns in the teams' previous matchup, with Forsett gaining 121 on 21 carries. Rookie Javorius Allen, who had 67 yards on 22 attempts against St. Louis, will be the new lead back and faces a Cleveland defense allowing a league-worst 138.8 yards per game on the ground.

Browns tight end Gary Barnidge set career highs of eight receptions and 139 yards in the Week 5 win and has seven touchdown catches over the last eight games.

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