The team that can't seem to get its quarterback situation right is back at it again. The Browns lost a game because their backup who started hurt his ankle, which forced the former starter on the field before he was ready.
The result: A not-very-pretty 20-10 loss to Atlanta and many questions about the position as the Browns head to Pittsburgh.
Bottom line: coach Eric Mangini's quarterback machinations meant little, again. All week, Mangini tried to make it seem as if Jake Delhomme might return after spraining his ankle in the opener. Seneca Wallace started, and played fairly well, but sprained his ankle late in the first half.
Enter Delhomme, who moved like Lurch because his ankle still was obviously not healed. He tried, but made poor decisions, bad throws and was picked off twice -- once for a touchdown, once to seal Atlanta's win.
Now the Browns have major uncertainty with Pittsburgh and New Orleans ahead. Wallace and Delhomme both might be unavailable, which could force rookie Colt McCoy or Brett Ratliff -- signed Monday off New England's practice squad - onto the field.
Ratliff was acquired by Cleveland in 2009 from the Jets but was released in September. He spent time on the practice squads with the Jaguars and Patriots.
Ratliff is familiar with the Browns' offense, which should shorten the time he'll need to get prepared to play.
There is only one certainty about this situation: Mangini will not reveal the starter unless he's forced to.
REPORT CARD vs. FALCONS
PASSING OFFENSE: D
Things started well, with Seneca Wallace completing 11 of 15 passes with a touchdown in the first half. But once he injured his ankle on a sack, things fell apart. Jake Delhomme could not move on his injured ankle, yet he was sent into the game because the Browns don't want to rush Colt McCoy. Delhomme tried, but he didn't have it, and he clearly was not over the sprained ankle that has sidelined him since the opener. He threw two interceptions, had at least three more passes that could have been intercepted and missed connections on a simple handoff to Peyton Hillis. The Browns had to know how limited Delhomme would be in the game; it's worth asking why he was asked to be the backup.
RUSHING OFFENSE: D
Peyton Hillis' magic was going to run out eventually, and it did against the Falcons (10 rushes, 28 yards). Hillis is a nice player, but he was playing hurt and was playing as the focus of the defense. He's not good enough to succeed in those circumstances. The bigger quandary is Jerome Harrison, who appears lost and angry. A case could be made that coach Eric Mangini lost Harrison with the way he did not use him this season. But another case could be made that Harrison is a professional who should give his all no matter how many plays he's in the game. With Hillis slowed, Harrison is needed.
PASS DEFENSE: D
Not so much because Matt Ryan was chucking it all over, but because the pass defense again gave up a big play. Sheldon Brown was the culprit this time, as Roddy White beat him deep when the safety jumped an inside route by Tony Gonzalez. Atlanta's talent requires discipline to stop it, but the Browns lack of discipline contributed to the TD and the loss.
RUSH DEFENSE: D
Atlanta had 165 yards rushing, with Michael Turner gaining 140. The Falcons became the first team to run for 100 yards on Cleveland this season, and it did it by playing the kind of power, grind-it-out game that the Browns want to play. The Browns defensive effort really was not that bad -- the Falcons got seven of their 20 points from the defense -- but the problem was at key times the Browns gave up a big play (White TD) or a key first down. Again, the defense played just well enough to get beat.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Yes, the Browns again can be proud of their special teams. It's not going to win a lot of games, but it's something. Cleveland blocked a field goal, Phil Dawson tied the team record for field goals and the Falcons return game was no factor. The Browns have outstanding special teams players and an outstanding coach in Brad Seely. It's too bad that the rest of the team holds the specialists back.
Eric Mangini does not just lose a game. When he loses, he always has you gnashing your teeth and asking tons of questions. Losing to Atlanta, one had to ask about the quarterback situation and why Jake Delhomme was asked to play when he could not move. Same with Peyton Hillis, who did his best to play with a quad strain suffered in practice but who could not move. Too, Jerome Harrison has gone from an up-and-coming speed back to someone who looks lost and angry. There was very little Wildcat and too much reliance on an aging quarterback who could not move but could throw the ball into coverage again and again. Browns fans have every right to be sick and tired of hearing about playing close and injuries and the building process. They've been hearing it for a decade, with little or no hope on the horizon.