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Late in the second quarter, the Browns led the Buccaneers 14-3 and were driving to potentially set up another score. Then, QB Jake Delhomme made the game's biggest mistake. On 1st-and-10 from the Tampa Bay 39, Delhomme flung an awkward-looking short pass to his right in the direction of TE Benjamin Watson. CB Ronde Barber intercepted the pass and ran 64 yards to the Cleveland 3. The Bucs scored on the next play, narrowing Cleveland's lead to 14-10.
The Browns would not score again, and the Buccaneers eventually wore them down en route to a 17-14 win. Delhomme, who appeared to be injured late in the first half, will have tests on his right ankle this week, head coach Eric Mangini said Monday, per The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer and the Associated Press.
In all, it was not the season opener the Browns, who finished the '09 season with four consecutive wins, had envisioned.
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Delhomme, who played the entire game, played well early, hitting WR Mohamed Massaquoi for a 41-yard TD pass in the second quarter. But the interception late in the first half brought back memories of his struggles from a season ago with Carolina. Delhomme threw another interception in the fourth quarter. The offense stalled in the second half, with seven of their eight second-half possessions ending in five three-and-outs and two turnovers.
If Delhomme were to miss any time — and that is unknown as of this writing — the Browns would turn to backup Seneca Wallace, who has 14 career starts and played well at times in the preseason.
Whomever the quarterback, the Browns cannot afford to make many mistakes on offense. They are going to struggle to stretch the field against better competition, making efficiency in the short-passing game a must. The same goes for the running game. RB Peyton Hillis fumbled twice in 13 touches, losing one which ended a promising Browns drive on the Buccaneers' 15.
Mistakes on offense will put stress on a defense that, while improved from a season ago, still has its weaknesses. Cleveland surrendered 175 yards after halftime and the game-winning TD pass.