Jerome Harrison’s(notes) record-setting rushing performance and Josh Cribbs’ two touchdowns on kickoff returns sparked Cleveland’s win at Kansas City last season, breakdowns the visiting Chiefs must avoid Sunday to earn their first 2-0 start in five years.
Kansas City (1-0) won only 10 games from 2007-2009 but entered its home opener against San Diego hoping three years of stockpiling draft picks would finally spark a turnaround.
For at least one rainy Monday night at Arrowhead Stadium, it appeared that could happen. Rookie second-rounder Dexter McCluster(notes) set a team record with a 94-yard punt return for a touchdown, and 2008 third-rounder Jamaal Charles(notes) had a 56-yard TD run.
Yet, the 21-14 win wasn’t complete until Kansas City’s much-maligned defense kept the four-time reigning division champions from scoring inside the 10-yard line in the waning seconds.
“We fought a hard-fought game. Nobody gave us a chance,” said defensive end Glenn Dorsey(notes), who had six tackles and a half-sack in perhaps his best performance since being picked fifth overall in 2008.
“For us to come that far and dealing with our past, where maybe the other team might score in that situation, we all had that in the back of our mind, saying, ‘Not tonight.’”
The win offered a far more pleasant memory than what the Chiefs last experienced in a regular-season game at Arrowhead. Dorsey missed Kansas City’s Dec. 20 visit from Cleveland (0-1) with a knee injury, and his team certainly missed him.
Harrison gashed the Chiefs for 286 yards rushing, third-most in NFL history. He scored all three of his touchdowns - including a 71-yarder - in the second half of the Browns’ 41-34 victory.
Cribbs, meanwhile, kept Cleveland in the game in the first half. The two-time All-Pro return man took two kicks back for touchdowns, giving him a league record eight career return TDs.
Neither of the Browns’ dynamic playmakers could make a difference in their Week 1 game at Tampa Bay. Cribbs was held in check and Harrison had 52 yards on only nine carries - the same number as backup Peyton Hillis(notes) - in a 17-14 loss.
“We’re better than we just did. We just played Browns vs. Browns, and the Browns lost,” said Cribbs, limited to 15.3 yards per kick return and 22 yards from scrimmage. “I would love to give Tampa a lot of credit. They’ve got talented guys out there, but we beat ourselves. We were the better team, but not today.”
Dorsey and rookie safety Eric Berry(notes) won’t be the only potential difference-makers on defense the Chiefs will have Sunday who didn’t face Cleveland in 2009. Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel makes his return to the shores of Lake Erie for the first time since the Browns fired him in 2008 after four seasons.
Crennel might have a tough time figuring out a definitive game plan against his old team, however. Delhomme sprained his right ankle while throwing a game-swinging interception late in last Sunday’s first half, and he missed a third consecutive day of practice Friday.
“Jake’s made progress all week long,” coach Eric Mangini said. “He knows the game plan. He’s got such an ease with picking things up. I have complete confidence in him. If we’re in a situation where we could play him, I have total confidence in him.”
However, it appears more likely mobile backup Seneca Wallace(notes) will get the call in Delhomme’s place. The offseason pickup started 14 games over seven seasons in Seattle, including two last season.
“I feel real good about what Seneca’s done all week,” Mangini said. “Not just me, it’s the coaches, the players. We all feel good about him leading us as well.”
Perhaps an even bigger concern for Cleveland is nose tackle Shaun Rogers(notes) not being 100 percent. The stout run stuffer, though, returned to practice Friday after missing the previous two days with a hip injury and is expected to play.
The Browns’ chances of winning a home opener for the first time since 2004 may depend on their ability to contain Charles. Kansas City’s passing game struggled Monday - Matt Cassel(notes) threw for 68 yards - but Charles had 92 on 11 carries, a solid effort after closing 2009 with 658 yards over his last four games.
He ran for 154 against the Browns, while Cassel threw for a season-high 331 and two touchdowns.
The Chiefs are 2-7-1 all-time in Cleveland.