DETROIT — Whether it is the soggy conditions at Cleveland Browns Stadium or a controlled environment inside Ford Field, the Browns are suffering from a severe case of fumbleitis.
In the Browns’ last two preseason games, they put the ball on the ground nine times, losing six, and opponents scored 30 points off those fumbles.
“You can’t be successful that way,” Mangini said. “I talked to the guys about this in the locker room (after Saturday’s game) with all that offense, all those positive things we did are offset by turnovers.”
The Browns led the Lions by 10 points at halftime, but two fumbles on two consecutive possessions led to 14 second-half points for Detroit. In all, the Lions scored 21 points off three Cleveland fumbles. On Aug. 21 against St. Louis, the Rams scored nine points off three fumbles.
The Browns lost both games.
“We had two good drives going in the second half and we turn it over,” Mangini said. “You can’t do that. It offsets a really great effort and it has led to the other team scoring points this week and last week.”
Browns starting running back Jerome Harrison has been one of the main culprits putting the ball in the ground once in each of the last two games. The Browns recovered Harrison’s fumble against St. Louis. Against Detroit, Harrison’s fumble came with less than four minutes remaining in the first half. Cleveland was ahead 17-7 and had first and 10 on their own 12-yard-line. Harrison took the Delhomme handoff and ran toward the right tackle where Lions’ safety Randy Phillips knocked the ball loose. Teammate Chris Houston scooped it up and ran 14 yards for the touchdown.
“All coach (Mangini) said to me was to just take care of the ball,” Harrison said. “(Fumbles are) not me and not a part of my game. He just tapped me on the back and said, ‘Take care of it.’”
In three games, Harrison has 23 carries for 74 yards and one touchdown. Last season, Harrison finished with a career-high 862 yards on 194 carries, five touchdowns and two fumbles.
“I have confidence in Jerome’s ability to run the ball,” Mangini said. “What I want is to get him to take care of the ball. Protect the ball first.
“I know he can carry the ball effectively and protect the ball effectively. I have faith in Jerome. I don’t expect this to be a continuing trend.”
Unlike last season, Harrison has his fair share of competition. The Browns selected Montario Hardesty in the second round in last April’s draft, and this preseason has announced the emergence of Peyton Hillis.
“My run reads are getting better, I just have to break some more tackles,” Harrison said. “The offensive linemen are giving me holes to pick and choose from. The home run ball is there and we’re going to hit them. I’m where I want to be besides the fumbles.”