CLEVELAND -- If the Browns have any thoughts about looking beyond the Carolina Panthers, all they need to do is look back to the 2002 season.
On the way to their only playoff appearance in the expansion era, the Browns hosted the 3-8 Panthers in what seemed like a certain win. The Panthers had other ideas. Behind a suffocating defense, Carolina emerged with a 13-6 victory.
The Panthers are back today for another game at Browns Stadium facing similar odds. With a 1-9 record and arguably the worst team in the NFL, the Panthers aren't expected to defeat the 3-7 Browns.
"We're definitely struggling," Panthers coach John Fox said. "I'm sure it's going to be tough duty this time around, just like it was the last time."
The Browns need a win after losing consecutive games to the New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Suddenly, back-to-back wins over the New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots seem like a long time ago.
Injuries have become a problem for the Browns. Rookie quarterback Colt McCoy is out with a high left ankle sprain, which means a start for Jake Delhomme. Joshua Cribbs, who missed last week's game with four dislocated toes on his left foot, could be back, but linebacker Scott Fujita will miss another game because of a knee injury.
The quarterback situation has been the focal point since Delhomme sprained his right ankle in the second quarter of the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Seneca Wallace sprained his right ankle four weeks later, which gave McCoy a chance to showcase his skills.
As of today, Delhomme is happy to be back on the field. The same can't be said of Wallace, while McCoy is frustrated that he couldn't follow up on his positive indoctrination into the NFL.
"I don't think there's any doubt that it's a difficult situation," Delhomme said. "I think we all get along very well. I think we all respect each other as players very well. I think (quarterbacks coach) Carl Smith does a great job with all of us.
"Whatever combination of three plays, whatever order you are on game day, that's the way it's going to be. I think we're all professionals enough. I know he (Smith) has been around awhile. I've been around a good while, Seneca has been around a good while and Colt is the new guy here, but when you have a room that has harmony in it, it makes things better. We can only control what we can control. The coaches have to decide."
Managing an offense that has had three quarterbacks suffer a sprained ankle hasn't made offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's job easier.
"It's definitely a challenge," Daboll said. "Jake hasn't been out there for quite some time now, and he's just trying to get his rhythm back. It's different."
There shouldn't be much of a change in the Browns' offensive game plan. If running back Peyton Hillis is successful on the ground, everything else should fall into place.
Hillis, who's rushed for 774 yards on 173 carries, was limited to 48 rushing yards last week by the Jacksonville Jaguars, who play a 4-3 base defense. The Jaguars often stuffed the box to give the line more run support.
The Panthers also present a 4-3 base look. Hillis downplays the 4-3 as a factor in slowing down the ground game.
"It's not that," Hillis said. "We do play in a division where everybody is a big 3-4, strong and stuff like that, but it doesn't mean anything. It's still football, and we still face it. We faced it in the preseason, and we've faced it a lot. We've just got to learn to deal with the pressures that they give us."
The offense needs to be better than it was last Sunday.