Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

The Return of Derek Anderson

The Browns dropped another hard-fought, close game on Sunday to Atlanta – the fourth such loss of the season – and in the process Jake Delhomme came off the bench to deliver his best Derek Anderson impersonation.

Once again, the defense did everything it could to give the Browns a chance to win. They held the Falcons to just 13 points and – just like the Tampa game – gave up just one big play, a 45-yard TD catch by Roddy White where safety Abe Elam decided to double-cover Tony Gonzalez underneath rather than give cornerback Sheldon Brown help over the top on a deep pass.

Other than that, the defense held Matt Ryan to just 187 yards passing, sacked him twice and hit him hard on several occasions. They did give up 140 rushing yards to Michael Turner, including one 55-yard run, but when it mattered held Atlanta out of the end zone except for the White TD.

As for the offense .. oh boy.

After ripping the Ravens and Bengals for big rushing days, the Browns rushing attack struggled to get anything going, picking up just a single first down on the ground. Peyton Hillis repeatedly had to leave the game with some kind of injury; as a result he totaled only 28 yards on the ground but added 49 in the passing game, including a nice TD catch.

When Hillis was out Jerome Harrison continued to prove the end of last season – when he ran for 561 yards over the final three games – was a complete mirage. Harrison ran six times for a total of six yards, bringing his season total to 91 yards. It’s clear why the Browns were hesitant to give him a contract extension.

As bad as the rushing game was, the passing game was even worse after Seneca Wallace left with an injury. Starting in place of Jake Delhomme, Wallace kept the Browns in the game as he was 11-of-15 for 139 yards and a 124 QB rating before getting hurt right before the end of the first half.

Enter Delhomme, who proceeded to give everyone wearing Brown and Orange flashbacks to the days of Derek Anderson.

Simply put, Delhomme was horrible. Whether it was rust from not playing since Week 1 (probable), not being 100 percent healthy (also probable), the offense completely short-circuited under Delhomme, who was beyond ineffective.

Finishing 13-for-23 for 97 yards, a QB rating of 30.5 and two interceptions – one returned for a game-sealing touchdown in the fourth quarter – Delhomme gave the Browns no chance to win this game. He consistently threw into double coverage and once, on a pass to Josh Cribbs in the end zone, into quadruble coverage, in the process looking like a quarterback who’s better days are far, far behind him.

I’ve been watching the Browns, and by extension the NFL, since the mid-’70s and I can’t remember the last time a team had three TAINTs in a five-game stretch, let alone in one season. And yes, the Tampa interception wasn’t officially a TAINT, but for our purposes it was close enough.

The receiving corps didn’t help either, as Brian Robiskie checked in with his weekly one catch for five yards and Mohamed Massaquoi pulled in five catches, but for only 55 yards, furthering the believe that these two are Canadian Football League talent – on a good day – and taking all of us one step closer to making the second round of the 2009 draft a complete void.

Tack on another seven penalties from the Browns and it’s a surprise this game was as close as it was at the end.

Having said all that, it’s clear that Delhomme is still not 100 percent healthy and, even with his experience, not really practicing much over the past three weeks showed. If Wallace hadn’t been injured, Delhomme wouldn’t have even been in the game.

However, it’s a fair question to wonder if Wallace, while probably not a better quarterback than Delhomme, is a better quarterback for this Browns team. He certainly was better today and, while not performing at an Pro Bowl level, has played decently the past three weeks.

Look, as with most weeks the Browns needed to play a perfect game to beat Atlanta. It’s a testament to them that with the injuries and poor offensive performance they were able to still be in the game up until the interception return. We’re still in the disappointed and frustrated stage with this team, rather than the disgusted stage.

But depending on how bad Wallace is injured, the Browns face the prospect of heading to Pittsburgh next week with an immobile Delhomme at less than 100 percent. And if neither Delhomme or Wallace are healthy enough to play, Colt McCoy becomes the only healthy quarterback on the roster.

Not a happy thought to carry us through the week.

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