Turnovers Costly in Browns Loss

Browns give the ball, and the game, away to a weak Tampa Bay squad. Fred Greetham recaps the action.

Unfortunately for the Browns, the bad side of Jake Delhomme reared its ugly head and the Browns ended up squandering a 14-3 lead and losing the season opener 17-14 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It wasn't as much as Tampa Bay winning the game, but the Browns giving it away as they dropped their eleventh season opening game in 12 attempts since returning in 1999.

Leading 14-3 and seemingly having the game in control and going in for a possible score in the second quarter, Delhomme threw an interception to Ronde Barbe, who returned the interception 64 yards, all the way to the Browns' three.  The Bucs capitalized as Josh Freeman hit Mike Williams for the touchdown on the next play.

Delhomme finished 20-of-37 with 227 yards and a touchdown, but it was two interceptions that really hurt.

The Browns started well as they took a 7-0 lead with 2:48 to play in the first quarter as Delhomme hit Mohamed Massaquoi for a 41-yard touchdown. Massaquoi got behind two Tampa Bay defenders and Delhomme lofted the ball high enough for it not to be intercepted. The two key plays on the drive were when Barber jumped off side on third-and-5 and then Peyton Hillis picked up the first down on third-and-12 on a draw play up the middle. On the next play, Delhomme found Massaquoi.

Tampa Bay answered the Browns with a 49-yard field goal by Connor Barth with 50 seconds to play in the first quarter to make it 7-3. The field goal was set up by a 33-yard scramble by quarterback Josh Freeman to the Browns' 30.

The Browns increased their lead to 14-3 with 5:35 to play in the second quarter as Peyton Hillis went around left end for a 10-yard touchdown run. Hillis opened the drive with two runs for eight yards and then on third-and-two, Josh Cribbs took the direct snap for six yards and a first down around the right side. On the next play, Jerome Harrison broke loose for 39 yards to the Buccaneers' 10. Hillis went in on the next play. The Browns went 63 yards on five plays as they took 5:35 off the clock.

In the final two minutes of the first half, Tampa Bay was driving when Mike Adams intercepted a pass from Freeman and returned it to the Browns' 47 with 1:34 to play in the first half. After moving to the Bucs' 39, Delhomme threw an errant pass and Barber intercepted it and returned the ball 64 yards to the Browns three.

The Buccaneers cut the lead to 14-10 with 18 seconds to play in the half. On the first play after the interception, Freeman hit Williams in the end zone. Sheldon Brown batted the ball up in the air and Williams came down with it in the back of the end zone.

In the early going of the third quarter, the Browns started on their own 18 after the second half kickoff. Delhomme hit Evan Moore on a short pass, but he broke a tackle for a 45-yard gain. A couple plays later, Moore had a 16-yard catch to the Bucs' 23. However, Hillis fumbled the ball back to Tampa Bay inside the 20.

Tampa Bay took a 17-14 lead with 6:45 to play as Freeman hit Michael Spurlock for a 33-yard touchdown over Joe Haden. In a battle of field position, the Bucs took over at the Browns' 47 on a short punt after forcing the Browns to punt from inside their 10.

A pass from Freeman to Williams moved the ball to the Browns' 33. After a run for no gain, Freeman found Spurlock racing down the sideline.

After Delhomme threw an ill-advised pass into double coverage to T.J. Biggers, the Bucs had the ball at the Browns' 39 with 6:17 to play. Tampa Bay moved to three yard line with 2:17 when Earnest Graham fumbled and Eric Barton recovered at the three stopping the drive giving the Browns one last chance.

The Browns had a couple of last ditch chances, but were unable to move the ball into field goal range to try to send the game into overtime.


Cyclone Debuts: The Browns opened their second possession with QB Jake Delhomme on the sidelines and WR Josh Cribbs took the first direct snap for five yards. On the next possession, Cribbs threw a 9-yard pass to QB Seneca Wallace. Cribbs carried the ball just three times for 11 yards and caught two passes for 11 yards.

Jake's Start: QB Jake Delhomme threw a short pass to RB Peyton Hillis on the first play for 16 yards. He hit RB Jerome Harrison for seven yards on his next pass, before TE Ben Watson couldn't hang on to a third down pass. Delhomme was 2-of-3 for 23 yards on his first possession. He finished the first half 11-of-18 for 106 yards with an interception. Delhomme was limping near the end of the first half and into the third quarter. He finished 20-of-37 for 227 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Slippery Hands: RB Peyton Hillis fumbled twice, losing one, while WR Josh Cribbs fumbled a punt return, but LB Blake Costanzo fell on it.

Smash and Dash: The Browns lined up RB Peyton Hillis in the backfield with the starting unit to open the game and he carried a lot of the load. RB Jerome Harrison broke loose on a 39-yard run in the second quarter. Hillis had a 10-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Hillis had 6 carries for 34 yards and two receptions for 14 yards. Harrison had three runs for 42 yards and one catch for seven yards.  Hillis fumbled in the first half, but TE Robert Royal recovered. When the Browns were driving to start the third quarter, Hillis fumbled again and Tampa Bay recovered at the 15. Hillis finished with 9 carries for 41 yards and a touchdown, while RB Jerome Harrison had 9 rushes for 52 yards. Hillis caught four passes for 24 yards.

Evan's Play: TE Evan Moore had two receptions on the first possession of the third quarter for 61 yards. He caught a 45-yard pass and broke a couple of tackles down the sideline and then caught a 16-yard pass. Moore finished with three receptions for 87 yards.

Long Ball Mo: WR Mohamed Massaquoi caught a 41-yard touchdown for the Browns first score of the season.  Massaquoi had two receptions for 46 yards in the first half.

Long Shot: The Browns had K Phil Dawson attempt a 62-yard field goal to end the first half. The kick was long enough, but drifted to the right. Dawson made a 59-yard field goal at Green Bay in the preseason opener.

Big Joe: CB Joe Haden didn't start, but had two big plays in the first quarter as he broke up a pass intended for WR Mike Williams. On the next play, a third down, Haden broke up a pass intended for WR Michael Spurlock. Haden was victimized for the game-winning touchdown by Spurlock in the fourth quarter.

Like Mike: DB Mike Adams had the first interception of the season for the Browns in the second quarter. He had three tackles.

Early Dividends: LB Scott Fujita combined with LB Marcus Benard for a sack on Tampa Bay's second possession. The Browns had trouble getting to the quarterback in the preseason, but picked up their first one on third down. DB Sheldon Brown batted down a long pass intended for WR Mike Williams. Benard had another sack, as did LB Jason Trusnik later in the game.

Long Drought: The Browns haven't won a season opener since 2004 when they defeated the Ravens, 20-3. They are now 1-11 since returning to the NFL in 1999.

Right Side Surprise:  In a mild surprise, John St. Clair started at right tackle, despite missing a week for personal reasons. OL Tony Pashos was signed as an unrestricted free agent in the off-season. Womack missed all of the preseason with a knee injury, but OL Shawn Lauvao twisted an ankle this past week.

Nice Start for T.J.: On the first series, the Bucs threw a screen to TE Kellen Winslow on third down and S T.J. Ward smothered Winslow for a one-yard loss forcing a punt. Ward led the Browns with seven tackles and three assists.

Rubin Starts: DL Ahytba Rubin started at nose tackle in place of DL Shaun Rogers.

Old Friends: Former Browns OL Jeff Faine, DB Sean Jones and TE Kellen Winslow played against the Browns. Winslow had three receptions for 24 yards in the first half, but had a big holding penalty that negated a first down run to inside the Browns' 20.

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