A Tale of Two Halves in Tampa
How did the Browns look so good in taking a 14-3 lead against Tampa, only to see the offense revert to 2009 levels of play calling and execution, eventually turning what looked like a sure opening-day win into a 17-14 loss to the Buccaneers?
It wasn’t even so much that they lost – this team is still rebuilding and will lose more games than it wins this season – as much as how they lost. The one thing you didn’t want to see was Jake Delhomme turn the ball over and make some of the bad decisions that haunted him last season in Carolina. He really needed to carry over his performance from the preseason, both for his confidence and to retain the confidence of the fan base.
But after leading the Browns to the early lead on a 41-yard pass to Mohamed Massaquoi and a 10-yard run by Peyton Hillis, the bad Jake Delhomme returned.
With a chance to put points on the board at the end of the first half after a Mike Adams interception, Delhomme made a horrible throw under pressure, Ronde Barber intercepted and returned the ball to the Browns 3. Tampa then scored right before halftime, trimming the Browns lead to 14-10.
The Browns moved the ball well in the first half, gaining 202 yards, but could only total 138 yards in the second half as offensive coordinator Brian Daboll fell back into his 2009 bad habits of inexplicable play calling. Daboll, supposedly “more comfortable” this year had Delhomme throw three straight passes – the third of which was intercepted – on the series following Eric Barton’s fumble recovery on the six-yard-line. Why?
After completing passes to seven different receivers in the first half, the wide receivers became an after thought about halfway through the third quarter. Was that play calling? Or another example of how this group of receivers just really isn’t all the good?
After Hillis fumbled the ball away at the Tampa 15-yard-line early in the third quarter, the offense ground to a halt. From that point on, the Browns only gained two first downs and had only one play of more than 10 yards.
The Browns also threw 38 passes to only 23 rushes for the game. The team can not win that way, especially on a day when Browns rushers were gaining 4.5 yards per run. Now obviously the game situation can dictate the play calling, but if the plan was to throw the ball that many times, it’s going to be a long year.
And going back to Barton’s fumble recovery for a minute, after falling on the ball he just laid there; why didn’t he get up and run with the ball? He wasn’t down by contact – at least not until defensive end Jason Trusnik jumped on him for no reason. It may have changed the play calling if the Browns hadn’t been starting the drive on their own 6.
OK, it was just one game. For all that went wrong, the Browns did some things well and we’re more disappointed than discouraged. They essentially lost this game through their mistakes, rather than Tampa beating them, but that shows that this team has virtually no margin for error this year; they can’t make mistakes and hope to win.
The running game was solid; the defense put pressure on Freeman, sacking him three times; and the young secondary held up well, with rookie T.J. Ward totaling 10 tackles, a forced fumble and a forced interception.
So while the team has some things to build on from this game, they also have plenty to work on as they prepare for the home opener against Kansas City.