Before kickoff of the Browns-Bucs game Sunday in Tampa, optimists thought the Browns had a chance to build on their four-game winning streak that ended the 2009 season with a 2-0 start against the Bucs and Kansas City Chiefs.
Now, 48 hours later, everything seems different.
The Browns' offense looked stagnant in the second half of a 17-14 loss to the Bucs. On top of that, starting quarterback Jake Delhomme suffered a right ankle injury on his game-turning interception at the end of the first half, putting his status for the home opener in doubt.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, 4-12 a year ago, seemed like fodder for the Browns on Ring of Honor day, especially after Jerome Harrison set Cleveland's single-game rushing record with 286 yards in a 41-34 triumph last year in Kansas City.
Then Monday night, the Chiefs upset the four-time AFC West champion San Diego Chargers 21-14. Suddenly, a Browns team that could have started 2-0 looks to be flirting with 0-2.
The Chiefs showed off speed, speed and more speed against the Chargers, getting a 56-yard TD run from Jamaal Charles and a 94-yard punt return touchdown from rookie Dexter McCluster. Charles now has five rushing touchdowns of 40 or more yards since the start of last season, including a 47-yarder against the Browns on Dec. 20.
What makes Charles and McCluster seem all the more dangerous was the success Detroit rookie running back Jahvid Best had in a 35-27 preseason victory over the Browns last month. The speedy Best ripped off a 51-yard run on the Lions' first play from scrimmage and caught a 10-yard pass on the next play to set up a touchdown. Chances are Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has already noted the Browns' vulnerability in that regard.
Clouding the issue for Sunday is the status of Delhomme, who limped through the second half against the Bucs, injured on an interception with 26 seconds remaining in the second quarter that led to a Bucs' touchdown.
When media members who spoke to Browns president Mike Holmgren Monday at the unveiling of Heritage Hall at Cleveland Browns Stadium suggested that Delhomme's injury was nothing major, Holmgren didn't seem so sure. It's possible the Browns will start backup Seneca Wallace against the Chiefs, which would not upset critics of Delhomme, who threw two interceptions after making it through the preseason without one.
When Browns coach Eric Mangini addresses Delhomme's status on Wednesday, he'll likely be vague. He may say Delhomme will be a game-time decision just to force Chiefs defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to spend more time practicing for the Browns' Wildcat package of Wallace and Joshua Cribbs.
Considering the conservative offense the Browns displayed against the Bucs, more Wildcat may be in order, even if Delhomme does make a quick recovery.