Jake Delhomme, being chased by the Lions' Ndamukong Suh, led the Browns to a 24-14 lead at halftime Saturday night in Detroit.
David Richard / AP Enlarge
DETROIT - Jake Delhomme is trying to erase the memory of an awful season.
The Cleveland Browns are trying to erase an awful decade.
This could be an interesting marriage.
A team that has struggled so long in trying to nurse consistent, confident, precise, quality play from a quarterback may just have found the answer.
Sure, it's the NFL preseason and records don't matter. But performances do. And not too many quarterbacks in the league have been hotter than Delhomme.
He played the first half of Saturday's game against the Lions at Ford Field, the third exhibition game, the so-called dress rehearsal for starters, and did what he's been doing since camp started - completed passes, moved the chains, and drew raves.
Delhomme completed 20 of 25 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown. His passer rating was "only" 105.3, down from the 116.1 he accomplished during the first two exhibitions when he completed 18 of 23 for 193 yards.
That's 38 of 48 (79 percent) in parts of three games for Delhomme. And this is a Cleveland team that had its quarterbacks complete less than 50 percent over each of the last two seasons which is, by any NFL definition, horrid.
The Browns' starter left with a 24-14 lead in a game that saw the Lions take advantage of second-half Cleveland turnovers to rally for a 35-27 victory.
It was about this time a year ago that Delhomme, a fresh five-year contract extension in his back pocket and $20 million in guaranteed money in his vault, started a slide that ended his career with Carolina. In the 2009 season opener against Philadelphia, he was 7 of 17 for 73 yards, four interceptions, and a lost fumble. And then it got bad.
He was released shortly after the season ended, about the same time that new Browns football management decided there was no future in Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn. So Delhomme was brought in to compete with another import, Seneca Wallace, for the position and, eventually, to mentor draftee Colt McCoy.
The competition, safe to say, is over.
"I thought Jake was outstanding," Browns coach Eric Mangini said. "He's been outstanding all preseason. It's a matter of how he runs the offense and deals with personnel groups and shifts. He's efficient, a good decision maker. And I like how he gets us into plays when we're not in the best situations, how he changes the cadence and slows the defense."
In other words, Mangini likes everything. And he must have really liked Delhomme's 30-yard sideline completion to Joshua Cribbs that set up a touchdown late in the first half - it was a wonderful throw and an even better catch in fairly tight coverage - because the deep ball and exploiting Cribbs' speed was about all that had been missing prior to Saturday.
"Guys made a lot of good plays, and that was one of them," Delhomme said. "Josh is a special player, a weapon I have to get the ball to and use.
"This was good. We ran, I think, 44 plays in the first half, and we did some decent things. Now, we have to go forward."
Delhomme led Carolina to three playoff appearances - and one Super Bowl during which he threw for 300-plus yards and three TDs and a 113.6 rating - in seven seasons, but when that seventh season went sour, he was gone with the wind.
Does he feel that ill wind is at his back now?
"I got back to the locker room and there was a text message from my wife," Delhomme said. "She said, 'It's nice to see that smile back.' To me, being in a new place has been the biggest factor."
Yes, this could be a good marriage.
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