Lions-Browns: Miller's Week 6 Takeaways & Observations

Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

The Browns came in to Sunday riding high on a 3-game win streak. The wind was quickly taken right out of their sails as another poor second half lead to their demise. Time for Miller's take.

The Browns came into yesterday with a 3-game win streak. I was feeling good, excited for another shot at a W. My excitement lasted exactly 1 half yesterday, as a 17-7 lead evaporated into an L, and ended with multiple items being thrown on my part. Cleveland looked poised to nab a 4th win in a row, but an awful second half cost us that chance.

Let's take a look at what happened.

Points Breakdown:

Takeaway(s):

First Half:

The Browns started their first drive at their own 5-yard line and actually got a nice burst from Willis McGahee for 12 yards on 1st down. The Browns first drive would quickly fizzle out however and would be forced to punt inside their own 20.

The Lions got the ball with good field position and would take advantage of back-to-back Joe Haden pass interference penalties that set them up at the Cleveland 1-yard line. Some guy named Joseph Fauria then caught his first of three (!!!) TDs that gave Detroit an early 7-0 lead.

The Browns would get the ball back towards the end of the 1st quarter. On the first play the Browns got the ball in the hands of their speedster, Travis Benjamin. The play was perfectly executed and Benjamin almost took it to the house, but instead settled for a big 45-yard gain. Cleveland would carry that momentum over into the 2nd quarter and would cap the drive off with a Brandon Weeden TD pass to a wide-open Chris Ogbonnaya. That would tie the game at 7-7.

Cleveland got the ball back with 6:38 to play in the half with the game tied at 7 a piece. The Browns would put a nice drive together, ending with a Greg Little TD. No, that is not a typo, Greg Little TD catch. Cleveland would go up 14-7 with just over 1 minute to play in the half and feeling pretty good.

Cleveland was feeling even better after Detroit came out and tried to make something happen, but ultimately punted after two nice pass breakups from Chris Owens and Joe Haden and an incomplete pass. Detroit's final drive of the 1st half would be 3 incomplete passes, 0 yards, 26 seconds elapsed.

The Browns would then get the ball with 50 seconds to play in the half.  A neutral zone infraction gave the Browns a short 1st down & 5, and an Ogbonnaya 8-yard rush gave the Browns a first down at their own 39. After a timeout, Weeden connected with Josh Gordon for 36 yards that put them in Detroit territory. The Browns would settle for a Billy Cundiff 40-yard field goal to take a 17-7 halftime lead.

Second Half:

All that momentum the Browns had heading into the locker room at the half quickly disappeared. After a false start to open the second half, the Browns went three-and-out.

This is when the Reggie Bush Show came alive. On Detroit's first drive of the second half, Bush had 2 rushes for 43 yards and a catch for 18 yards and the TD. The Bush TD would pull the Lions within a field goal, but unfortunately for the Browns, Bush was just getting started.

Cleveland would go quickly three-and-out on their ensuing possession. Detroit would then put together a drive that got them near the Browns' redzone, but an interception by Tashaun Gipson in the endzone and returned for 35 yards, quickly gave Cleveland the momentum right back.

Again, that momentum was short lived. The Browns would go 3 plays for -9 yards on the ensuing drive, that would end the 3rd quarter. Cleveland would head into the 4th quarter up 17-14.

Matthew Stafford again found Fauria for a 23-yard TD early in the 4th quarter to give Detroit their first lead since the 1st quarter. Detroit would go up 21-17.

On the next drive is when things started to really unravel. Weeden connected with Josh Gordon to open the drive for 14 yards. An intentional grounding penalty, followed by a false start penalty, set the Browns up with 2nd and 25 from their own 19 yard line. Weeden would make a good throw and Greg Little made a great catch for what appeared to be a first down. The call on the field was incomplete, HC Rob Chudzinski challenged the ruling on the field, but the refs didn't see enough evidence to overturn the call. I saw all the angles they had, and personally thought it was a catch, however I can see why they didn't have "indisputable evidence" to overturn the call. Mike Pereira, former VP of Officiating for the NFL had this to say on Twitter:

Tough break for the Browns.

After another Browns punt, the Lions had good field position again, and capitalized on a David Akers 51-yard field goal to put the Lions ahead 24-17.

The Browns had a shot to make it a game, just down a touchdown with the ball, and almost 6 minutes to play. What happened next will be talked about ad nauseam for weeks. Simply put, Brandon Weeden made one of the worst passes, ever. The pass was intercepted after he tried to underhand toss it to Chris Ogbonnaya while being sacked. Hat tip to WFNY who did a great job of organizing the Twitter reactions to the interception. At this point I was lost in the moment, threw the remote and was without words (at least words that can be repeated publicly).

The Lions were faced with a 3rd and 3 on the ensuing possession. Cleveland needed a stop to at least try and drum up another chance at a game-tying drive. Cleveland got that stop by way of Buster Skrine defending Calvin Johnson, but it was negated by a roughing the passer penalty on Queintin Groves [throws hat at TV]. I'm never one to blame the refs for costing the game, and obviously that call didn't cost Cleveland the game, but it did cost them a shot at the game. That was a flat out bad call. Back to Pereira's Twitter for thoughts on that call...

Detroit would tack on another Fauria TD to end all doubt, and would go on to win 31-17.

Offense By-The-Numbers:

Takeaway(s):

  • As showcased about, the Browns actually outgained Detroit. A lot of that passing came in garbage time as the Browns worked their way up the field and Detroit was playing a prevent late in the game.
  • Another game where the Browns were over 100 yards rushing, but the stats are a bit deceptive. 45 yards of that came on the Travis Benjamin end around. Cleveland also apparently bailed on the running game early in the second half. After accumulating 115 yards rushing in the first half, the Browns finished with just 11 yards rushing in the second half.
  • After watching Chris Ogbonnaya rush a little more each week, I think he deserves to get more touches in the offense.
  • On defense Cleveland did not play as well as we've seen them play in recent weeks. The Lions picked up decent chunks on the ground all game. I just didn't see that front-seven we've seen most of the season where a RB hits the pile and goes nowhere, Lions RB's were getting 3-4 yards fairly easily it seemed.
  • While the Browns shut down a nicked up Calvin Johnson, they were beat elsewhere. Stafford picked apart the Browns LB's all game by finding Reggie Bush, Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria, Kris Durham, etc. The TE's, RB's and slot guys killed the Browns LB's.
  • I mentioned above Reggie Bush not getting really going until the second half. Bush had 135 yards from scrimmage on the day (78 rushing, 57 receiving) and a TD. 121 of his 135 yards came in the second half.

First Downs and Conversions:

Takeaway(s):

  • Cleveland had done a good job improving on 3rd down conversions in recent weeks. They took a slight step back last week against the Bills finishing at 41%. This week they took another step backwards on offense, to just 36% (5-14).
  • On the defensive side, the Lions were 8-14 (57%) on 3rd down. Cleveland never was able to dial up the pressure with the front-seven to really make Stafford work for the 3rd downs.
  • The Lions were aided by 3 penalties that resulted in 1st downs. Two on Joe Haden that put Detroit at Cleveland's 1 yard line early on, and the other on the Groves roughing the passer that was a back-breaker late.
  • It was nice to see Cleveland get a season-high 8 1st downs on the ground. They eclipsed last week's total of 6, which was their highest mark of the season. Hopefully this trend continues.

Miller's Random Observations:

  • Brandon Weeden - I was in the camp that believed Weeden might be able to do something with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron in the fold. All my belief has been tossed out the window after yesterday. I don't believe Jason Campbell is the answer, but I have to imagine that he's going to see his practice reps increase.
  • Josh Gordon - If the front office was seriously entertaining the thought of trading Gordon, I really hope Sunday made up their minds and stopped them if they hadn't already. Gordon was essentially the only spark on offense. He finished with 7 catches for 126 yards on 9 targets.
  • Buster Skrine - I've talked about his improvement all season, and he continues to impress. I'm not yet convinced that he's a shutdown corner opposite of Joe Haden, but man he's been playing well.
  • Pass Rush - We've talked all season about how great this front-seven has played. Sunday they didn't play up to the level we've seen them, specifically in the pass rush. The Browns were able to only get 1 sack, and that resulted in 0 yards lost. In order for this defense to be dominant, they need to improve the pressure on the quarterback. Hopefully Jabaal Sheard will be healthy soon to aid in the rush.
  • T.J. Ward - I thought Ward played really well, he finished with 11 total tackles, 1 TFL, and 2 passes defended. However, Ward also missed 5 tackles according to PFF. It is still a good sign to see Ward playing like we know he can.
  • Officiating - I won't harp on this long because it'll be talked about like crazy (and I've mentioned it already). But, the refs in this one stunk. There were a few plays that stuck out to me. Haden's PI in the endzone I didn't think was pass interference. I thought Little was in, but I could see why they stuck with the original call. And the Groves roughing the passer was atrocious. The Browns still shot themselves in the foot on ‘real' penalties though with false starts, illegal shifts, etc. Cleveland had 9 penalties for 87 yards. Oof.

Parting Thoughts:

If the Browns just played 1 half of football each week, they'd be 6-0 right now. The problem with that, is that there's 2 halves in a football game. The Browns have taken a lead into halftime every game this season. The issue is they've finished with the lead (and the W) only 50% of the time.

The Browns are outscoring opponents 78-43 in the first half of games this season. On the contrary, in the second half of games Cleveland is being outscored 40-82. That's almost mirror images of one another.

Included in that lackluster second half scoring stat, is the fact that they have been shutout twice in the second half (@ BAL, vs. DET). Without a 20 point second half against Buffalo, that stat becomes even more alarming. Outside of the wild game against Buffalo, Cleveland is averaging 4 points per game in the second half of games this season. FOUR. Even with the Buffalo game, they're still averaging just over 6 ppg in the second half.

I can't say for certain what the issues are; if it's game planning, if it's coaching, if it's luck, if we're cursed, I don't know. What I can say for certain, is that if this team wants to win more ball games, they have to be better in the second half.

Cleveland now has to get ready to hit the road for two straight in Green Bay and then Kansas City. This is a tough stretch for this young team, it'll be interesting to see how they respond. The Packers have a formidable offense that took a hit Sunday as James Jones and Randall Cobb both went down with injuries. It'll be worth watching to see if/how Cobb and Jones practice this week. Cleveland will have to sure up it's defense either way to really take a run at the Pack.

ESPN stats were used in the compilation of the charts in this article.

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