Delhomme successful in debut
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Jake Delhomme’s Cleveland Browns debut was a smashing success. No one was happier than Josh Cribbs.
Delhomme led the Browns to a touchdown in his only drive and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers threw one of his own in Cleveland’s 27-24 win on Saturday night in the exhibition opener decided on Phil Dawson’s field goal as time expired.
“It’s preseason, it doesn’t count. But hey, everybody has a smile on their face,” Delhomme said.
Cribbs certainly did. At times last year, he seemed like Cleveland’s only offensive weapon in a 5-11 season. Against the Packers, he didn’t touch the ball.
“I wanted to sit back and put my hat on and watch,” Cribbs said. “I was just amazed at how quick he picked up on the offense and how he just was boom-boom-boom through his reads. You see the veteran play in him. It’s very promising.”
Delhomme went 6 of 7 for 66 yards, including a fourth-and-1 flick to Mohamed Massaquoi for 12 yards that set up Jerome Harrison’s 4-yard TD run. Backup Seneca Wallace added two touchdown passes.
“Everybody offensively did a great job. From what I saw last year on film, it’s totally different. They’re very eager to get better,” Wallace said. “We’re moving in the right direction and that’s what you want, a lot of guys who want to get better.”
Rodgers was similarly efficient, reading a corner blitz for a 25-yard TD pass to Greg Jennings. He finished 12 of 13 for 159 yards, but the Packers lost starting running back Ryan Grant after a hit to the head.
“When you can throw the ball to the kind of guys we can throw it to, it’s going to be just on me to be accurate,” Rodgers said. “We’re always talking about rhythm on offense, and the play calling I really felt like got us into a good rhythm.”
Rodgers completed his first 10 passes, beginning his streak after Grant left. Grant fumbled on his first touch that Cleveland converted for a touchdown before being hit hard on his third carry by Chris Gocong and Robaire Smith.
He stumbled badly getting to his feet and did not return.
“Did it look like I got stung a little bit?” Grant asked, laughing. “If it was the regular season, I definitely would’ve tried to get back in the game (even) with all the head stuff going on, how they handle that.”
Cleveland’s hopes to improve begin with the 35-year-old Delhomme, who signed after his release from Carolina. His last year with the Panthers was one to forget with 18 interceptions and three lost fumbles in 11 games.
New Browns president and former Packers coach Mike Holmgren watched the game in Cleveland while recovering from surgery on his right foot. No doubt he was pleased with Delhomme’s play and that of Dawson, who nailed a 58-yarder with 1:27 left and the 46-yarder to end it.
The Packers have been embracing high expectations early this season despite their defensive questions. The unit allowed 45 points in a first-round playoff loss to Arizona and is missing key contributors like linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) and cornerback Al Harris (knee).
“We’re not happy at all,” Charles Woodson said.
The prolific offense keeps making up for it.
Rodgers found Jennings after changing the play when he correctly read a corner blitz and tossed a perfect pass over Browns safety T.J. Ward that made it 14-7. John Kuhn tied the game on a 3-yard TD run on Green Bay’s next drive.
Browns third-string quarterback Colt McCoy, the former Texas star who won more games than any other quarterback in Division I history, began his pro career midway through the second quarter. His night ended like his college career did, a trip to the locker room for tests. This time it was after banging his hand on the back of a teammate’s helmet.
Head coach Eric Mangini said he didn’t believe McCoy’s injury was serious, but they pulled him as a precaution.
That was the only downer for the Browns this night.
“Coach, in meetings he had, he had all the new guys stand up. It was almost the whole team,” Cribbs said. “We’re not the old Browns, we’re a new team, refreshed — new quarterback, new president, new everything and we’re ready to play some football.”
Notes: McCoy finished 5 of 10 for 25 yards with two interceptions against the Packers. He added 25 yards scrambling from trouble. … Browns backup NT Titus Adams (shoulder) left early in the second quarter. … Browns WR Jonathan Haggerty (foot) left in the third quarter and did not return. … Packers TE Tom Crabtree (hand) went in for X-rays. … Neither coach had updates on any of the injuries.