It wasn’t easy. It never is with the Detroit Lions. After a slow start that lasted much of, if not the entire first half, the Lions were able to rebound and beat the Cleveland Browns 38-24 Sunday afternoon at Ford Field.
The Lions seem to make a habit of making games closer than they need to be and this fell right into that trend. Going into this game, the Browns were allowing 25.3 points per game, so the Lions should have had no problem putting up points.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked on the first play of the opening drive losing four yards. The next play, a hand off to running back Ameer Abdullah for a loss of six.
In the first two plays, Detroit’s two biggest weaknesses were already showing.
The Lions would eventually be forced to punt on the opening drive, something they have not done since their matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers back in Week 8.
Cleveland’s rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer came ready to play. Starting at the Lions’ 47-yard line, Kizer completed a huge 38-yard pass to wide receiver Sammie Coates, putting them on the Lions’ 9-yard line.
The defense was able to keep them out of the end zone, forcing Cleveland to settle for a field goal putting it up 3-0.
Later in the first quarter, after an interception thrown by Stafford, the Browns got the ball back on the Detroit 31-yard line. On the third play of the drive, Kizer threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kenny Britt to put the Browns up 10-0 early, their biggest lead of the season.
The Lions picked up the slack after that. With the ball back, Abdullah started off the drive with a 20-yard rush. Two plays later, it was running back Theo Riddick with a 21-yard carry, moving Detroit to the Cleveland 24-yard line.
Matt Prater came on to nail a 46-yard kick when the drive stalled, putting his team on the board.
The Lions started the second quarter strong by marching their way down the field. Starting off on their own 10, Abdullah had yet another big run, this time for a gain of 19-yards, Stafford hit receiver Golden Tate III for a 35 yarder. Later in the drive, Abdullah rushed for a touchdown, tying the the game at 10.
Later in the quarter, Kizer threw a pass to tight end Shane DeValve, who then fumbled. Detroit’s cornerback Nevin Lawson scooped it up and took it to the house. After the extra point, the Lions were on top 17-10.
With the clock winding down in the first half, Kizer was hoping to tie it up. A 18-yard pass to receiver Rashard Higgins and an 18-yard run by Kizer, the Browns wound up on the Detroit two-yard line.
With no timeouts left and 15 seconds left in the half, Kizer made a rookie mistake and elected take it up the middle himself. He was stopped and the clock was running. Cleveland’s offense wasn’t able to get another play off before halftime.
Kizer came back out in the second half looking to make up for his mistake. Running back Isaiah Crowell capped an eight-play drive, scoring from six yards out, evening the score at 17.
The Browns would score again on their next possession. A 20-yard run by Kizer and a 45-yard pass to DeValve brought them to the 1-yard line, where Kizer ran it in himself. Browns lead 24-17.
The Lions offense answered right back. Receiver Kenny Golladay had a phenomenal over-the-shoulder catch for a gain of 50 yards. Two plays later, Detroit reached the end zone off of an 8-yard pass to Riddick, tieing it up 24.
Not long after in the fourth quarter, the Lions worked their way down the field again, scoring off of a huge 29-yard pass to tight end Eric Ebron, putting them back on top 31-24.
Late in the fourth, Detroit’s defensive tackle Anthony Zettel brought down quarterback Cody Kessler for his second sack of the game, and eventually forcing a punt.
Jamal Agnew, Detroit’s rookie punt returner, proved that he is one of the most electric returners in the game, returning a punt 29 yards, putting Detroit on Cleveland’s 44-yard-line. Agnew returned a punt earlier in the game for 49 yards, but was brought back after an illegal block in the back.
The Lions would find the end zone yet again, thanks to a 40-yard touchdown pass to Tate III, giving the Lions a comfortable 14-point lead with just 4:28 left in the fourth quarter.
The Lions would go on to win by a score of 38-24.
There are a few things to takeaway from this back-and-forth game.
Let’s start off with the good: Ameer Abdullah. He racked up 52 yards, averaged 4.7 yards per carry and a touchdown. Much improved from last week where he averaged 2.3 yards per carry.
Cleveland is the fourth best rush defense in the NFL, making Abdullah’s showing even more impressive
Also, Stafford put together another good game, passing for 249 yards and three touchdowns. Take this with a grain of salt though, as Cleveland’s pass defense is abysmal.
A couple of red flags went up in this game as well. The Lions offensive line still allowed four sacks to a so-so Cleveland pass rush. The defense let up 24 points to the second worst scoring offense in the NFL
The defense could be trouble going forward if something doesn’t change.
The Lions will look to make improvements before their next game against the Chicago Bears. Though, with the strength of schedule being on the weaker side going forward, things are still looking up for Detroit.