This was not how I expected the 2010 season to begin. After dominating the first 28:00, the Browns made stupid mistakes that cost the game.
In summary, my three main concerns about the team all impacted the result:
- I have been concerned about how Jake Delhomme would perform despite a very solid preseason.
- I have been concerned about the defense.
- I became concerned about the inability of players on offense to take care of the ball.
There were also some surprising areas that did not go well.
Here are some random thoughts about what I saw:
- Jake Delhomme started the game much like the preseason: making good decisions, making good plays. Then he makes a terrible play. You never throw the ball falling backward. There was also the mysterious foot problem. After that, I thought it was Derek Anderson out there.
- The defense was better than I expected, but it was inconsistent. There were several tackles for loss, yet too many running plays went 5 or more yards. The secondary made some plays, yet receivers roamed free many times and contain was lost on several plays. You can't let a scramble turn into a 30-yard gain. You can't let the opponent convert third and 10 late in the fourth quarter - twice.
- Peyton Hillis made some nice plays, in particular the 12-yard run on third and 12 and the touchdown. But two fumbles? Have a seat, Mr. Hillis.
- What does Jerome Harrison have to do to get some playing time? Nine carries? For that matter, between Harrison, Hillis, and Josh Cribbs, 21 lousy attempts? The Cleveland Browns want to be a pass first team? Really?
- OK, I'll say it. That may have been the worst game Cribbs has played for the Browns. No spark on returns that led to bad field position, so-so play on offense, and I guess the brain trust is still saving the wildcat package we heard so much about. I know other teams gun for him, but still.
- The season starts and camp star Brian Robiske becomes invisible. Also, when your team is down, you have mere seconds remaining and no time outs, drag your foot!
- T. J. Ward certainly looks the part. Nice first game. Joe Haden also did well. I don't blame him so much for the touchdown as it was an all-out blitz. It would have helped if it generated some pressure.
- The poor offensive line play, especially in the second half, was stunning. I did not see that coming despite the fact that the right side was unsettled. It was more seeing some very ineffective play on the left side. A gimpy quarterback and poor protection are not a good combination.
- Some deep thoughts: How deep would the oceans be if sponges didn't live there? How effective might the Browns defense be without Eric Barton and Abe Elam?
- Speaking of Barton, with very little time left and a fumble away from opposing players, why not try to run with it? Even 20 yards might have made a huge difference.
- Great seeing Shaun Rogers work his way back in. He was consistently drawing multiple blockers when he was in the game.
- Marcus Benard is earning the playing time he is getting. He just makes plays. And now he is a threat as a kickoff returner!
- While the other linebackers were better than the preseason, it would have been nice to see more than a handful of plays.
- The more things change, the more they stay the same. The previous Browns regime insisted on taking Kellen Winslow out on third down. Brian Daboll does the same thing with Evan Moore. Leave him in at the start of the third quarter on third down and what happens? He takes a short pass on third and five, breaks a tackle, and turns it into a 45-yard gain. Brilliant. Of course, we had to pull him out to get the obligatory throw to Robert Royal that he didn't catch.
- Mohammaed Massaquoi was toasting the Buc DBs at times. Too bad we could not get him the ball more, but the Bucs doubled him up much of the time.
- Nice game, Robaire Smith. This guy goes full on every play.
- Stop me if you've heard this one -- the Browns got very little pass rush without blitzing. Other than Mr. Benard.
- Phil Dawson had plenty of leg from 62, just off the mark. Wow.
- Eric Mangini has a lot to answer for on this one. Why let an obviously injured quarterback struggle through the second half? Why not establish the run more? How do you let this game get away? I know, two mistakes turned what would have been a minimum of a 20-7 Browns advantage into a 17-14 loss.
Let's not lose sight of the fact that this team dominated nobody until December in 2009. To see them come out and start well is progress. The defense had its problems, yet it still effectively held Tampa to 10 points. Can Jake Delhomme reign in some of the gunslinger mentality? Who knows? But while this was a winnable game against an inferior team that the Browns gave away, there were positives. Many games in 2009 had few if any bright spots.
Losing this game after starting it well might have the potential to set the tone for the season, and not in the way you want it to be set. The Chiefs game now becomes a must-win situation. Lose this one and then you have 7 difficult games. An 0-9 start could be where this team is headed. Mangini's job may well be on the line if things unfold in the wrong way.
The Browns can't afford to wait to get things back on course.
The home opener against Kansas City and the return of RAC.
The season is short. Bark hard!