CLEVELAND — Eric Mangini’s oldest son, Jake, decided Sunday would be the day he attended his first regular season NFL game.
Jake Mangini turned out to be a lucky charm for his dad.
“I think we’ll have to cancel his Sunday plans,” Mangini said.
Mangini may not be able to plan for Jake to be at the Browns remaining 12 games this season. He can plan for wide receiver Chansi Stuckey to be on the field catching key passes.
On Sunday, Stuckey’s five catches for 56 yards helped the Browns edge the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20. Stuckey’s numbers sound pedestrian, but he had a key catch on both of the Browns’ touchdown drives.
“Our offensive line gave protection, Seneca (Wallace) was on point and he gave me the ball in space,” Stuckey said. “I was able to make a couple of moves and have some positive things happen.”
Stuckey’s first big catch came early in the second quarter. Wallace caught a short pass and went 17 yards down to the Bengals 40-yard line. Two plays later, Wallace hit Evan Moore for a 24-yard touchdown pass and the Browns led 10-0.
Early in the third quarter, the Browns led 13-10 and faced a third and 3 from the Bengals 28-yard line. Wallace rolled right and found Stuckey on the sidelines for eight yards and a first down. Five plays later, Hillis scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and gave the Browns a 20-10 lead.
“I think Chansi can continue to evolve as a core part of our passing game,” Mangini said. “He’s made plays through the preseason and, to me, he’s still a young guy.”
Mangini’s relationship with Stuckey goes back to their time with the New York Jets. Stuckey was drafted in the seventh round of the 2007 NFL Draft by Mangini’s New York Jets. Stuckey spent his rookie season on injured reserve before playing in 15 games for the Jets in 2008. That season, he caught 32 balls for 359 yards and three touchdowns. The Browns traded for Stuckey midway through last season. In 11 games for Cleveland, Stuckey caught 19 balls for 198 yards and a touchdown.
“He’s still a relatively young guy,” Mangini said. “He’s got good short-area quickness, he’s a really bright guy, he has a good ability to get open in a zone and I’m happy for him and for us he’s starting to emerge.”
Among the Browns much maligned receiving corps, Stuckey is second on team with 10 catches for 97 yards behind Josh Cribbs’ 167 yards on 14 catches. Against Cincinnati, the Browns were without a full complement of receivers as Brian Robiskie was inactive.
“In practice we know we work hard and we had to be patient,” Stuckey said. “We know it will come together at some point. We have made plays and it has been a collective effort from the offensive play calling to the execution, we did a better job than we have in previous games.”
Stuckey is well aware more improvement is needed. On Sunday, he saw first-hand how receivers can be a factor. Cincinnati’s Terrell Owens finished with 222 yards receiving on 10 catches including a 78-yard touchdown reception.
“I watch the other guys on film and when we play to see the small things they do that I can use,” Stuckey said. “I’ll enjoy this game now, but I have to forget about it and start working again. I built a little confidence today, but I need to correct my mistakes on film and go into next week against Atlanta and prepare for them.”