Going into their "dress rehearsal game," the Cleveland Browns were looking to improve upon their already surprising preseason performance.
The Cleveland Browns’ offense was extremely efficient in the first half gaining 17 total first downs. While only punting once, the Browns had 152 yards through the air and 65 yards on the ground all in the first two quarters.
Does this look familiar?
It’s what Cleveland’s stats looked like for an entire game at this point last year. Actually, that’s being very generous.
Although a couple of drives were extended due to Detroit penalties, Cleveland’s offense was functioning like a well-oiled machine.
Delhomme certainly played the part of the savvy veteran quarterback that team president Mike Holmgren envisioned back in March. He had command of the huddle and was barking out signals in Cleveland’s hurry-up offense, marching them up and down the field.
Completing 20 of 25 passes, he looked every bit the quarterback that optimistic Browns fans hoped for when he was signed during the offseason. In three preseason games, Delhomme is an astounding 38 of 48 for 345 yards with a completion percentage of 79.2.
Yes, you’re reading this correctly—a 79.2 completion percentage.
Even though it’s still the preseason, who can’t get excited about that?
Cleveland continued to utilize the hurry-up offense, keeping the Lions’ defense on their toes and their hands on their hips. As the Browns got first down after first down, it was noticeable that Detroit’s defenders were sucking wind and had a hard time keeping up.
Despite the no-huddle approach, Cleveland was still able to get a lot of players in on the action as 10 different receivers caught a pass in the first half.
Typically referred to as the “Brady Quinn trade,” it seems a more fitting name would be the “deal for Peyton Hillis”, because it’s clear the Browns are the team benefiting the most from this trade.
Hillis still appears to be a versatile threat for Cleveland as he once again played very regularly with the first-team offense. He constantly carried would-be tacklers and has a knack for getting open, finishing with seven carries for 26 yards and catching four passes for 40 yards.
With Lawrence Vickers leading the way in the goal line package, Hillis bulldozed his way into the end zone on Cleveland’s last play of the first half.
This continued into the second half as he caught a third-down swing pass from Seneca Wallace, turned it up field and plowed his way for 25 yards.
Mohamed Massaquoi only had one catch for seven yards in the first half, but picked it up with a 29-yard reception in the third quarter.
Robiskie’s great hands were also on display as he gained 30 yards on three catches.
Finally getting to play special teams again, Cribbs was more involved as a WR making a great 30-yard catch along the sidelines on Cleveland’s last first half possession. His route-running looks better, and his hands seem to be following suit.
Mitchell showed off his speed as he carried the ball for 26 yards on an end-around and laid a vicious block on a Detroit defender during the fourth quarter. Bobby Engram also got in on the action picking up a crucial third down in the second quarter.
Watson and Moore each caught two and three passes respectively while proving to be a solid one-two punch at tight end.
Joe Thomas is still a force to be reckoned with as Kyle Vanden Bosch couldn’t generate any pass rush for Detroit’s defensive line.
Mack was seen blocking downfield on plenty of occasions and continues to show why Cleveland used a No. 1 draft pick on him last year. One thing to note is that there was another issue between Mack and Delhomme resulting in yet another fumble, but luckily Peyton Hillis was there to clean up the mess.
Aside from Detroit’s first offensive play, Cleveland’s run defense held up really well holding Kevin Smith to 20 yards on eight carries. Just like last season, the defense appears to be susceptible to huge gains by quick running backs.
With a noticeably improved secondary however, Cleveland is allowing fewer huge gains through the air which is a breath of…well, fresh air.
One step at a time, I suppose.
Linebackers Chris Gocong and Scott Fujita were constantly getting interior pressure, while Matt Roth held his edge really well on the outside. David Veikune looked improved, but had a terrible personal foul penalty called against him in the fourth quarter.
Defensive end Brian Schaefering was able to cause a fumble, which was then picked up by Eric Wright who high-stepped untouched into the end zone. This makes two defensive touchdowns in three games, and makes Rob Ryan a very happy gentleman.
Joe Haden continues to progress and showed great ball-skills knocking down a third down pass from Matthew Stafford. Eric Wright had a couple of miscues in the secondary, but his overall tackling looks to be much-improved.
It’s still rather disheartening that Cleveland couldn’t generate a sack or two on defense, but the pass-rush was there as Stafford had to get rid of the ball quickly on more than a few occasions.
As it stands now, the offense Cleveland has been trotting out on the field this preseason looks like an entirely different team.
The defense looks to be slightly improved, but more work needs to be done to eliminate those huge back-breaking plays that Browns fans have become so accustomed to.
Although the outcome eventually resulted in a loss, Cleveland’s first-team units played much better and gave Browns fans even more hope for the 2010 regular season.