The Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions were both 3-2 coming into this game with a chance to maintain at least a share of first place in their respective divisions. Calvin Johnson received much of the focus as his playing status was up in the air and while he was active, his impact was nowhere near what fans are used to seeing from the superstar. The Browns were hoping they could find ways to take pressure off of this defense while the Lions had to figure out ways to get points without a big impact from Johnson. The Lions started off strong with a response from the Browns, but the Lions took the game over in the second half of the game and simply dominated the Browns to the tune of a 31-17 victory.
The Lions came out and managed to get a decent drive right off the bat using plays to Reggie Bush, Kris Durham and Joique Bell. Matthews Stafford seemed to like throwing the ball to Durham who did not make all of the plays, but made a few impressive ones that led to big plays. The Lions were able to flip the field before being forced to punt.
The Browns were not able to get anything going in their initial drive and had to punt it right back to the Lions in great field position. The Lions offense was able to move down the field in part due to back to back pass interference penalties on Joe Haden in coverage against Johnson, which set them up right on the goal line. They ultimately used their size mismatch in tight end Joseph Fauria to score the touchdown as he caught the pass over Johnson Badmosi.
From that point on, the Browns were able to get things going in a far more positive direction. After punts from both teams and a questionable punt return by Travis Benjamin, they went right back to Benjamin on an end around that went for 45 yards and set them up at the Lions 26. The Browns were able to keep driving and finished off the drive with a touchdown pass to Chris Ogbannaya who was wide open in the end zone.
After another three and out by the Lions offense, the Browns were able to start a drive that got them into Lions territory. The drive ended on a great play from the Lions defense and a bad decision from Weeden. Weeden stared down a wheel route from Ogbannaya who was blanketed by DeAndre Levy. In part from pressure from Ndamukong Suh, Weeden forced the throw anyway and Levy made a great play to secure an interception and kill the drive.
The Lions could not capitalize on the drive but put the Browns on their own 16 yard line with a punt. The Browns came out and got a big gain on a pass interference penalty on Greg Little by Darius Slay that moved the Browns up 23 yards. From that point, the Browns got yardage in chunks with a scramble from Weeden for 9, a pass to Josh Gordon for 14, and a quarterback keep from MarQueis Gray for 10 yards. The Browns capped this drive off with a quick pass to Little in the end zone to put the Browns up 14-7.
The Browns forced a three and out with time running low before the half. Weeden hit Gordon on a play where he was able to get a bunch of yards after the catch for 36 yards. The Browns all but stalled from there, but were close enough to where they could attempt a field goal, which Billy Cundiff made giving the Browns a 17-7 lead going into the half.
Coming out of the break, the Lions came out firing while the Browns looked lethargic and unprepared. The Lions went right down the field on their first drive out of the break. Reggie Bush came out in a big way, making a couple of big plays including a 39 yard run and the touchdown which was a slip screen for 18 yards and put the Lions within three.
The Browns offense, unable to get anything going punted the ball right back to the Lions. The Lions promptly picked up where they left off and it took a great play from the Browns to avoid a disaster. After a few plays that put the Lions on the 28 yard line of the Browns, Stafford tried to throw a pass intended for Patrick Edwards in the end zone but Buster Skrine managed to sneak his arm into the play and deflect the pass and Tashaun Gipson capitalized on the play by making the interception.
Unfortunately for the Browns, their offense continued to struggle and they had to give the ball right back to the Lions. Undeterred by the interception, Stafford and the Lions kept up the pressure and were able to drive back down the field. They capped off the drive with a couple of big pass plays to tight ends including Brandon Pettigrew for 12 yards another big throw and catch from Stafford to Fauria for 23 yards, which put the Lions up 21-17 and had the Lions with 14 straight points. Both plays were against Browns linebacker Craig Robertson.
The Lions were able to take over the second half largely by eliminating their own mistakes. The Browns made some good plays on defense but there were several missed connections and opportunities missed by the Lions on offense. Defensively, the defensive line of the Lions led by Nick Fairley and Suh were able to impose their will and get an increasing amount of pressure and cause problems in the backfield of the Browns.
On the drive after the Lions touchdown that put the Lions up 21-17, the Browns had a bad intentional grounding penalty from Weeden that set up 2nd-and-25. Weeden made a big throw that Little caught by the sideline and was ruled incomplete. The ruling on the field was incomplete but it looked extremely close and Rob Chudzinski went ahead and challenged it. The refs stayed with the call and the Browns could not get out of the hole and were forced to punt the ball again. To this point in the second half, the Browns had one first down and 14 yards of offense. The Lions were in complete control, which made that challenge and result that much bigger for the Browns in that moment.
The Lions were aided by a huge penalty on the punt that set them up at their own 41. They were able to drive far enough into Browns territory for David Akers to attempt a 51 yard field goal which he was able to make. That put the Lions up 24-17 and after 17 straight Lions points, the pressure was squarely on the Browns to move the ball and make some plays offensively with 6:04 left in the game.
The Browns were able to get a few first downs on their next drive with passes to Gordon and Cameron, but then Weeden had a play that will be forever attached to him on highlight and blooper reels. After making a couple of nice throws that enabled the Browns to get some yards, Weeden dropped back to pass, did not find anyone open and while being pressured, tried to backhand a ball about 10 yards to Ogbannaya in the flat. The result was Weeden throwing the ball almost straight up and DeAndre Levy being able to make his second interception of the game near the sideline.
The Lions took the ball near midfield with the game in control and the Browns in position where they needed to get a stop, get the ball back, and try to tie the game. The Lions were able to move the ball for a couple first downs.
The biggest play came on a 3rd-and-3 situation. Stafford dropped back and tried to make a throw that was broken up by Skrine, but the refs threw a flag. They called outside linebacker Quentin Groves for roughing the passer. The problem is that Groves made a perfectly form hit on Stafford in a reasonable amount of time. The Browns had certainly dug their own grave in this game, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was a terrible call by the referees.
The Lions took full advantage and Stafford hit Fauria for his third touchdown of the game. Fauria only had three catches in this game and they all happened to be for touchdowns. As a result, the Lions took a 31-17 lead and went on to win the game with 24 unanswered points, all in the second half. Fauria got the touchdowns, but Reggie Bush along with Stafford were the stars on offense. Bush totaled 135 total yards including 57 yards on 6 receptions along with his lone touchdown. For the Lions, Suh and Fairley along with a couple huge plays out of DeAndre Levy carried the day. The Browns were shutout in the second half and while there were questionable calls that hurt, they simply could not get anything going in the second half and the Lions dominated.