Searcy intercepted Hoyer twice, defensive end Jerry Hughes scored on an 18-yard fumble return and tackle Kyle Williams forced Manziel to throw a key incompletion in the final minutes to secure a 26-10 win over the Browns on Sunday.
"It didn't change too much," said Searcy, of the Bills approach after Manziel took over with 12:01 left. "Coming on the field, we knew he was in there. We just told each other to look for (bootlegs)."
Coach Doug Marrone was more relieved by how the Bills overcame a sloppy first half.
Buffalo took control by scoring touchdowns 10 seconds apart midway through the third quarter. Kyle Orton bounced back from two interceptions by throwing a 3-yard touchdown pass to Chris Hogan. And then Hughes returned Terrance West's fumble on the Browns' next play from scrimmage.
"I concentrate on my own team," Marrone said, when asked about Manziel. "There's not a lot of film on him, so you've got to see how he plays."
Manziel did provide an initial spark in enjoying his most significant playing time of the season, and in his first appearance since a 23-21 loss to Baltimore in Week 3. The rookie first-round pick capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run that cut the Bills' lead to 20-10.
The Bills then put the clamps on Manziel on Cleveland's next possession. Williams got in Manziel's face and forced what was initially ruled a fumble before a replay review ruled it an incomplete pass.
The Browns then gave up the ball on downs on the next play, when Manziel completed a 5-yard pass to Miles Austin on fourth-and-6.
And just like that, the Bills (7-5) are still very much alive in a jumbled AFC playoff picture. And the Browns (7-5) had a dent put in their playoff hopes. Cleveland now trails Cincinnati (8-3-1) by 1 1/2 games in the NFC North, and suddenly faces questions at quarterback.
Coach Mike Pettine, who spent last season as the Bills' defensive coordinator, said it's too early to tell who will start against Indianapolis next week.
"I'm not going to put it all on Brian," Pettine said of Hoyer, who has now thrown six interceptions in his past three starts. "Sometimes you just need change for the sake of change. We'll scope it out to a staff decision, and we'll make the evaluation."
Hoyer insisted that this is still "my team," but acknowledged the decision is out of his hands.
"I'm never going to hang my head and feel sorry for myself," he said. "We have four games and whatever coach decides to do, I'll be here to support this team."
As for Manziel, he capped a tumultuous nine-day stretch. It began with him being confronted during an altercation with an aggressive fan in the lobby of his apartment last weekend. And now there's a chance he could be in line to start.
"That's up to coach Pettine," Manziel said. "But if that is the case, and my name is called, I definitely will be ready."
Neither team seemed ready in a game that featured a sloppy first half that ended with the Browns up 3-0 on Billy Cundiff's 22-yard field goal.
Cundiff missed on a 37-yard attempt wide right, and Hoyer threw an interception at midfield with 62 seconds left.
After Orton and Hughes put Buffalo up 14-3, Carpenter secured the win by hitting all four field goal attempts in the fourth quarter.
The Bills were back home after a severe snowstorm forced them to relocate to Detroit, where they routed the New York Jets 38-3 last Monday night. With temperatures in the mid-50s on Sunday, there were only a few remnants of the 6-plus-feet of snow that fell on the Buffalo region.
"It's great. We wanted to come out and win for the fans," Searcy said. "They weren't able to be with us on Monday night, so to have a game back in (Orchard Park), and get a win for them was good."
Austin was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons after experiencing what the team called abdominal discomfort following the game. ... Browns WR Josh Gordon had seven catches for 75 yards in his second game since serving a 10-game NFL suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. ... The Bills matched their best start since opening 7-5 in 2000.