DETROIT - The fact that the Cleveland Browns had a 10-point halftime lead might lead to the conclusion that their preseason game against the Lions was a success.
Then again, maybe not.
The Browns continued to show weaknesses in what turned into a 35-27 win for the Lions on Saturday at Ford Field. The three-play, 68-yard drive by the Lions on their first possession was a case in point.
Lions rookie running back Jahvid Best ran 51 yards on the first play, and he followed up with a 10-yard gain on a screen pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford then threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Bryant Johnson, who hauled in the ball over the coverage of cornerback Sheldon Brown.
It's obvious that the Browns' offense has made strides in the move to Jake Delhomme at quarterback. The word "prolific" will never be used, but the unit will be more productive than offenses of recent seasons.
The concern has to be with the defense.
"I've talked about this a lot with the coordination of sacks, but it comes under the coordination of where guys are supposed to hit," Browns coach Eric Mangini said. "That's what I want to get right. That's what I want to get fixed. Typically in a 34 defense you're bigger as opposed to being faster. We're built for power and we're built to play sound. You have to understand where your weaknesses are and play to your strengths."
Mangini proved last season that game-planning could manufacture sacks (40 in all), but can he do it again this season?
In three preseason games, the defense has failed to show any semblance of a strong pass rush.
That could change once Mangini unleashes the defense in the regular season, but, then again, it might not change.
"Defensively, I really don't think we're that far off based on the run play," Mangini said. "(But) you can't be a little bit off and be successful (against the pass). It's the small margin of error that leads to big plays instead of sacks and turnovers."
The defense played well against the run in the first two preseason games. That changed Saturday as the Lions rushed for 154 yards.
Then there's the collective performance against the pass in three games. Starting quarterbacks the Browns have faced in the preseason (Aaron Rodgers, A.J. Feeley and Stafford) are a combined 30-of-35.
"You can't take anything out of one bad performance and say this is how it's going to be," Brown said. "It's times like these that make you go out and work even harder."
The news is better for the Browns' offense. Delhomme all but wrapped up a successful preseason with a 20-of-25 showing for 152 yards and one touchdown.
"Offensively, we're still growing and still learning," Delhomme said. "Hopefully, as the quarterback you always want to move the football and be precise in the passing game. Tonight guys made some good plays and had some long drives."
The disappointing part of the offense for Mangini was another sloppy ballhandling effort. Running back Jerome Harrison, backup quarterback Colt McCoy and tight end Evan Moore each lost a fumble, leading to 21 points for the Lions.
Harrison lost a fumble a week earlier against the St. Louis Rams. He thinks it's too early to panic.
"It's something I have to tighten up on and be more conscious of it, especially down backed up," Harrison said. "Just keep working. I think we're headed in the right direction as a team."
The Browns opened the game with a 15-play, 45-yard drive that netted a 35-yard field goal by Phil Dawson.
The Lions needed just three plays to go 68 yards to score on the 9-yard pass from Stafford to Johnson.
Browns cornerback Eric Wright picked up a fumble by running back Kevin Smith and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown to give the Browns a 10-7 lead. The Browns took a 17-7 lead on a 5-yard touchdown pass from Delhomme to fullback Lawrence Vickers.
Harrison fumbled on the next possession. Randy Phillips picked up the ball and ran 14 yards for a touchdown.
Peyton Hillis ran 1 yard for a touchdown late in the second quarter to give the Browns a 24-14 halftime lead.
It was all Detroit in the second half. Smith scored on a 2-yard run. After a 45-yard field goal by Dawson, the Lions scored on runs of 4 and 2 yards by Aaron Brown.
The Browns conclude the preseason at home against the Chicago Bears.