—The Browns may spin the Jake Delhomme injury anyway they wish, but following numerous viewings of the season opener, coupled with discussions with those around the game, the veteran quarterback struggled after his late first-half interception.
Making matters worse, Delhomme injured his ankle and foot, which limited his mobility and ability to power through many pass attempts.
Granted, Delhomme was cleared by the medical staff to continue playing, but the struggle he faced on the playing field was obvious to the naked eye.
During the game, the belief coming from coach Eric Mangini was the game was a close contest and Delhomme has shown to be capable of efficiently leading the Browns offense.
The Buccaneers, at times, loaded the box with up to 10 defenders to challenge the gimpy-footed Delhomme to beat them through the air. The Tampa Bay defense simply grew in physicality, while minimizing the opportunity for the Browns' young receiving corps to gain separation in the passing game.
Upon reviewing the game film, theOBR has been told the Browns offense had opportunities to capitalize on mismatches in the second half. Yet the Browns were left holding the bag because Delhomme's lack of mobilty was challenged by his lack of accuracy and decision-making. Both occurred after his game-altering interception was followed by his injury.
Indications are Mangini may take a different approach if that situation occurs in the near future.
As for Delhomme, he is expected to be healthy enough to play Sunday in the Browns home opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Now, is "healthy enough" sufficient or does Mangini look toward a much more athletic quarterback in Seneca Wallace while Delhomme heals?
—Josh Cribbs was a non-factor against Tampa Bay. Speculation has already begun he has taken on more than he is capable of. While gaining additional reps at receiver, Cribbs seemed to lack the explosiveness he has been known for in the return game.
Actually, the Buccaneers did a very good job on the kick coverage units and played at a higher level than the Browns in that facet of the game.
Also, the heat and humidity did create issues for the Browns throughout the game, and especially later in the contest.
—Plenty of focus has been placed on the Browns decision to focus on the pass and sway away from the meat and potatoes of the offense — the running game.
The truth of the matter is the Browns offense struggled with their execution throughout the game. Early success was attributed to a handful of positive plays that set the stage for a 14-3 second-quarter lead. The Browns had no answers for what was to come.
On film, the Buccaneers down-linemen were active in preseason action, but did not show a tendency. That led the Browns to believe they could control the line of scrimmage, as they did in the second half of the game.
Surprisingly, the Buccaneers front four beat the Browns offensive linemen off the spot often, which disrupted the Browns rushing attack. In an attempt to loosen the Tampa Bay aggressive surge in crowding the line of scrimmage, the Browns had hoped to utilize the short passing game to beat safeties and linebackers in coverage drops.
Instead, the Buccaneers disguised their scheme and showed little respect to the Browns' vertical passing game.
Tampa Bay's gamble paid off. Delhomme was unable to beat the Buccaneers over the top, and the Browns relinquished a portion of their game-plan that was believed to be solid — the running game.