CLEVELAND — The Browns and Rams combined to win six games in 2009.
The downpour started Saturday hours before kickoff and never let up. Sheets of rain blew in off the lake and swirled among the empty orange seats.
The second game of the preseason had all the makings of a sloppy mess. It didn’t disappoint.
Jake Delhomme fumbled the first snap but recovered. On the second possession, he dropped the snap and lost it. Joshua Cribbs fumbled a punt to the Rams. Syndric Steptoe fumbled a punt in the second half. Seneca Wallace and Brett Ratliff threw interceptions.
The Browns rallied from an early hole to take a lead, but the Rams
(1-1) backups managed two field goals in the fourth quarter to pull out the 19-17 win.
“You can’t win any games turning the ball over five times,” coach Eric Mangini said. “It’s, I think, statistically impossible to do it.”
No number of towels could keep the balls from getting slick. But Mangini or his players weren’t using that as an excuse, even though they haven’t practiced in rain all training camp.
“It’s either going to rain next week or I’m going to turn the sprinklers on or we’re going to dunk the ball in water,” said Mangini, who was also upset with a 4-0 sack deficit and seven penalties. “It shouldn’t be like that.”
For the first quarter, the Browns looked nothing like the team that beat the Packers in the opener with crisp execution. After falling behind 13-0, they temporarily cut down the mistakes, made some nice plays in the slop and rallied to take a 17-13 lead.
Delhomme, making his home debut as a Brown, started the comeback after two three-and-outs sandwiched around a fumble. He led an 11-play, 77-yard touchdown drive that included a 29-yard dump-off to Chansi Stuckey and a 9-yard hook to Cribbs on fourth-and-3.
The touchdown was a work of art among a wall of finger-paintings.
Tight end Benjamin Watson made a one-handed grab in the back of the end zone, dragging both feet inbounds. Mangini won the replay challenge, giving the Browns a touchdown.
“That was pretty amazing,” Mangini said of the catch.
Delhomme played the entire first half and cut the deficit to 13-10 with a 38-yard Phil Dawson field goal. Delhomme finished 12-for-16 for 127 yards, a touchdown and a 118.5 rating. Through his first two games as a Brown, he’s 18-for-23 for 193 yards, no interceptions and a 116.1 rating.
“Disappointed with the way we started,” he said. “We were sleepwalking there for whatever reason. We did better the second quarter.”
Delhomme said he had no problems with center Alex Mack’s snaps during pregame warmups and it had been “awhile” since he fumbled a snap.
“I’m ticked off. That bothers me,” he said. “We’re going to do some work with some wet, heavy, soggy footballs.”
Backup quarterback Seneca Wallace started the second half and played one series with the first-team offense. It was a good one.
He hooked up with Cribbs (five catches, 30 yards) for a third-down conversion, found tight end Robert Royal down the seam and mixed in a few Peyton Hillis runs off tackle. The touchdown was another beauty, as Wallace let the pass go early, throwing to a spot he knew Cribbs would reach. The ball wound up on Cribbs’ back shoulder on the left side of the end zone – an indefensible spot — and he snared it for a 15-yard touchdown and a 17-13 lead.
“You can see his development as a wide receiver,” Mangini said. “It was a nice touchdown. He’s come a long way in that regard.”
Wallace went 5-for-9 for 67 yards, a touchdown, an interception and a 16-yard scramble on third-and-15.
After a slow start, the defense gave the Browns the chance to come back.
A.J. Feeley took the Rams 65 yards for a touchdown in 10 plays on their first drive. He hit Daniel Fells for 9 yards for the touchdown with reserve cornerback Brandon McDonald in coverage. Feeley’s thumb was injured on a hit by linebacker Chris Gocong, but stayed in the game to finish the drive.
The fumbles by Delhomme and Cribbs led to field goals and the 13-0 lead. But the Browns defense had tightened, helped by the departure of running back Steven Jackson.
Eric Wright played well in run support, and No. 1 draft pick Sam Bradford wasn’t able to get anything going. He looked uncomfortable in the pocket, going 6-for-14 for 24 yards. The first-team Browns defense allowed just 95 yards through the first series of the second half.
Hillis took his first giant step toward folk hero with a 9-yard run that will be played on local highlight shows until the real season starts. He broke a tackle by Na’il Diggs and carried James Laurinaitis – a pair of former Ohio State Buckeyes – and was never brought to the ground. The officials blew the play dead while he kept his legs churning.
When he broke loose from the pack, Hillis flexed for the fans.
Hillis rushed 12 times for 51 yards and caught two passes for 12 yards.
“Peyton’s a big, strong man,” Delhomme said. “That’s pretty obvious.”
Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy entered in the fourth quarter and did nothing in two drives. He was 0-for-2 with two sacks.
Brett Ratliff, who led the comeback win in Green Bay, threw an interception to end the Browns’ chances in his only drive.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or email@example.com.