BEREA — As if quarterback Jake Delhomme didn’t have enough on his mind after two costly interceptions in a 17-14 loss Sunday in Tampa Bay.
He injured his right ankle in his Browns debut, was still sore Monday and will undergo tests as early as today.
“We’ll get him tested and looked at and figure out where we’re at,” coach Eric Mangini said. “The day after the game is a little tough because everybody’s pretty sore. It’s usually (today) that you get a better idea where you’re at.”
The ankle was hurt on the first interception — the game-changer late in the first half — and it bothered Delhomme throughout the second half. He remained in the game, but the offense sputtered and the Buccaneers were able to finish their rally.
Delhomme said after the game the ankle got “stiff” but was fine. He wasn’t available to the media Monday. President Mike Holmgren said at the Ring of Honor kickoff at Cleveland Browns Stadium that the ankle was “sore.”
If it’s an issue all week, Seneca Wallace could see an increase in repetitions in preparation for Kansas City’s visit for the home opener.
The offense screeched to a halt after Peyton Hillis’ fumble on the first possession of the third quarter. The Browns managed four first downs in the second half, just two after the fumble. They were 1-for-7 in third-down conversions after halftime, with 138 total yards, 17 rushing.
Mangini discussed Delhomme’s injury with coordinator Brian Daboll and the trainers, but stayed with Delhomme. He would favor the ankle after some plays, yet looked fine on others when he had to scramble.
“His ankle got a little twisted up, but he felt good enough to continue on and I felt good enough with him continuing on at that point,” Mangini said. Wallace lined up as a receiver four times when Joshua Cribbs was Wildcat quarterback, but Wallace never got a chance under center.The Browns started their last four drives at the Cleveland 7-, 6-, 3- and 11-yard lines, where Wallace might’ve been an asset with his ability to scramble. “We have packages for Seneca. That’s not something we’re the least bit uncomfortable with,” Mangini said. “We felt at that point Jake gave us the best chance to get out of a backed-up situation.”
The game turned on Delhomme’s first interception, and he can’t blame it on the ankle. Ronde Barber returned the pick 64 yards to the 3-yard line, and Tampa scored on the next play to cut the lead to 14-10. Delhomme wasn’t the only one at fault.
Defensive end Stylez G. White beat Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas around the edge, but Thomas was able to force him wide and to the ground. White still managed to reach for Delhomme’s leg, likely causing the injury.
Delhomme felt the pressure behind and saw rookie defensive tackle Gerald McCoy coming at his face as he got past left guard Eric Steinbach late. Instead of taking the loss or abandoning the play, Delhomme threw sidearm as he lent back and to the right.
On the receiving end, tight end Benjamin Watson and receiver Chansi Stuckey wound up in the same area — someone should’ve run to the middle — drawing the coverage to where Delhomme was going with the ball. On the sideline, TV cameras caught Watson saying “my fault” to Delhomme.
“That’s how it’s going to work with a lot of interceptions,” Mangini said. “Yes, Jake should have made a better decision. He knows it and I’ll expect that in the future, but there were other components in that play that contributed just as much as that decision.”
Hillis’ fumble at the Tampa 15 ruined the chance to regain momentum, and the Buccaneers eventually took the lead with 6:45 left in the game. Delhomme’s second interception came on the ensuing possession.
On third-and-10 from the 6, Mohamed Massaquoi got behind cornerback E.J. Biggers but Delhomme underthrew him as he didn’t plant his back foot. The ankle could’ve been a factor, plus Bucs tackle Ryan Sims was coming free in his face.
“I think he wasn’t able to step into the pocket as much as he would normally,” Mangini said. Delhomme’s honeymoon in Cleveland didn’t last long. All the positive vibes gathered during the preseason vanished with the interceptions and the loss. They were replaced by references to the ugly past — Delhomme’s 23 interceptions in his last 12 games with Carolina. Mangini is convinced Delhomme will rebound and avoid being sucked into another tornado of turnovers.
“Because he’s smart, he cares, he understands where the mistakes were,” Mangini said. “I can tell you with those interceptions, I know it always goes back to the quarterback, but it’s a group effort.”
Center Alex Mack said he never noticed the ankle bothering Delhomme, and he isn’t worried about him.
“Jake’s a real professional,” Mack said. “He takes everything really hard and does everything he can to fix mistakes.
“I believe in him. He’s a great guy. I think he’s a great quarterback.”
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