The Browns' resiliency, competitiveness and resourcefulness since the end of last season have been apparent. And indeed, they will have to show all of the best of those qualities if they are to beat Pittsburgh in Week Six, particularly if QBs Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme are out with ankle injuries.
When Wallace suffered his ankle injury late in the second half, the Browns inserted Delhomme, his backup for Week Five, into the lineup. Delhomme completed 13-of-23 passes for 97 yards, but he was intercepted twice and did not move particularly well.
After the game Sunday, Browns head coach Eric Mangini explained why he preferred Delhomme to No. 3 QB Colt McCoy, who is healthy but inexperienced: "I think Jake was the better option, which is why we went with Jake, and at times he moved the ball really effectively. We had gotten a few first downs there (and were) driving to tie the game when (Atlanta's Kroy) Biermann made a really nice play and batted the ball and the pick, and that's an outstanding play on his part. Then we moved the ball effectively again and at least could have gotten three (points) there, tried the onside kick and see where we were at that point."
Mangini is referring to the Browns' final two drives, which ended with interceptions, both times off deflections. He makes a good point: Biermann's interception, in which he batted the ball, dove, caught it and ran for a 41-yard touchdown, was truly an outstanding effort. And on the next drive, Delhomme led Cleveland 62 yards (15 via penalty) before Falcons LB Stephen Nicholas intercepted a pass deflected by John Abraham, who had a wonderful game with two sacks vs. Joe Thomas.
We'll never know, of course, whether McCoy could have done better than a limited Delhomme. With the Browns losing — and the possibility of Delhomme being out in Week Six; he suffered another ankle injury in addition to the one he already had vs. Atlanta, per The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer — Mangini opened himself up to criticism. That said, he is most familiar with his personnel, and he made the decision to make Delhomme the backup after a week's worth of practices. If the Browns win and are 2-3, their outlook is completely different today.
As it stands, the Browns are now three games out of first place, and it may be time to get rookie McCoy (and Brett Ratliff, who reportedly signed with Cleveland Sunday) ready for Pittsburgh.