clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Game Review: Browns Fall Apart in Second Half of 31-17 Loss to Lions

Chris Pokorny breaks down the Cleveland Browns' 31-17 loss to the Detroit Lions.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

No...not again.
No...not again.
Matt Sullivan

The Browns are a .500 team again. At 3-3 and only one game out of the division race, there's no reason to throw in the towel on this team, even if you don't care for the play of QB Brandon Weeden. With that said, let's get to my complete game review from the Browns' 31-17 loss to the Detroit Lions, so we can take a look at some of the mistakes that need to be avoided in the future.

Detroit Lions vs. Cleveland Browns

1st 2nd 3rd 4th FINAL


  1. Goat of the Game: LB Craig Robertson - Ugh, it's been awhile since I've had to start with a goat of the game, and this week, it features linebacker Craig Robertson (although to be fair, Brandon Weeden's flip pass kind of makes him an automatic goat too).

    Both inside linebackers struggled, but Robertson was picked on in coverage, struggling against the Lions' running backs and tight ends. I don't expect Robertson to be able to cover a guy like Reggie Bush with success every time, but you expect your linebacker to win some battles. Against Detroit, Robertson didn't win any of them. Pro Football Focus described in more detail some of Robertson's struggles:
    Craig Robertson (-4.1) couldn’t guard the tight ends through the air while D’Qwell Jackson (-3.0) couldn’t get off them on the ground. Robertson was single-handedly responsible for Detroit’s go ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter. First he missed an easy tackle on Pettigrew that ceded a first down on 3rd-and-7. Then on the very next play he let Fauria gain too much ground over the top of him and allowed an easy back-shoulder 23-yard touchdown pass. For the day Robertson yielded 8-10 targets for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Along with Jackson’s 27 yards allowed the two inside linebackers gave up over half of Detroit’s passing yards.

  2. Awarding the Game Ball: CB Buster Skrine - It's about time that Buster Skrine get some recognition for his solid play. You might look at the stats and assume that Skrine was responsible for a lot of Matthew Stafford's passing yards, but he wasn't. As PFF described above, half of the passing yards came against our linebackers, and a lot came against our safeties. Skrine made several aggressive tackles and had two pass breakups, one of which came in the end zone and led to an interception for Tashaun Gipson to temporarily prevent the Lions from taking the lead.

  3. Solid Game for Stafford: I didn't spend a lot of time showing screenshots on this, but after watching the game, I wanted to praise Matthew Stafford for doing a good job. Cleveland couldn't get a lot of pressure on him, and besides some good pass protection, a big factor in that was Stafford making the right read every time and continuously taking advantage of our lesser-skilled pass coverage guys.

    Here's an example in the first quarter on third down. You can see Paul Kruger just coming off the line. Over the middle, Brandon Pettigrew is either going to go left or right, and D'Qwell Jackson is in coverage on him.

    After the previous screenshot, Kruger actually makes a nice inside move that would probably sack or disrupt a lot of quarterbacks (definitely Brandon Weeden). As soon as Stafford saw Pettigrew make a move on Jackson (one of many cases our linebackers failed in pass coverage), the ball is out and the chains are moved.

  4. Hat Trick for Joseph Fauria: It had to be tough for Ray Horton to see an undrafted free agent tight end, Joseph Fauria, catch three passes for touchdowns against his defense. Let's take a quick look at each of them.

    The first one had Johnson Bademosi on Fauria at the goal line. Stafford places the ball beautifully and Fauria gets good position for the grab. This was Bademosi's only play of the game, but this is tough to ask him to defend -- he's right there with him.

    Fauria's second touchdown, the go-ahead one in the fourth quarter, came with Craig Robertson in coverage. Robertson is following Fauria down the seam as best as he can, but Stafford delivers the ball high and where it needs to be; Fauria, to his credit, goes up and hangs on, despite a shot he takes from Buster Skrine.

    Here is the final and game-clinching touchdown for Fauria and the Lions. This time, T.J. Ward is in one-on-one coverage. He is in the best position out of all three plays to break up or even intercept the pass, but Stafford probably sees his back turned and gives his tight end a chance to make a play. Despite Ward's arm being in front of Fauria's body, it's our luck that the pass perfectly finds the opening into Fauria's chest for the score.

    How would we have gameplanned differently? Double teamed an undrafted free agent we didn't expect to beat us? Put Joe Haden on him? I don't really know. I might just chalk this one up to the Lions getting the better of us on this day.

  5. Playaction & Gordon Draw Defense on TD: Now that we are done sulking in some of the defensive woes, let's get to some of the positives for the Browns.

    Down 7-0 in the second quarter, the Browns face 2nd-and-goal. Josh Gordon is circled in the slot.

    Brandon Weeden does a playaction fake to Chris Ogbonnaya, and Gordon sells like he is blocking. You can see all three defenders in the circle inch up.

    As soon as the three defenders in that circle recognize that it was a fake, they all magically gravitate toward Gordon as if he is a magnet. With the triple team and someone obviously blowing the coverage on Ogbonnaya, Weeden easily finds him for the game-tying touchdown.

  6. Missing the Flying Benjamin: With the game tied at 7-7 in the second quarter, you may recall Brandon Weeden overthrowing Travis Benjamin on a deep route. Let's take a look at that play.

    Pretty much all of the receivers are going deep here. Benjamin is at the top of the screen.

    There isn't a fake here; Benjamin just finds the opening between the cornerback and the safety. Weeden needs to drill this ball in that small window. Benjamin might take a shot, but the play is there to be made. Instead, Weeden goes for the bomb, as it this is a one-on-one track meet. I drew the arrow above because the ball lands out of this picture's range; it'll fall three yards beyond midfield.

    Here is another angle, with the ball coming down. Benjamin comes up about two yards short of the pass. If the pass was in stride, Benjamin is so fast that he might have actually been able to blow pass the safety's would-be blow, but the point is Weeden missed this opportunity.

  7. Success With Moving Pocket, First Down: I'm often not a big fan of cutting the field in half for a quarterback, but it did work twice on this drive for Brandon Weeden.

    This is a 3rd-and-1, a few plays after Weeden missed Benjamin. There is one safety deep, and Jordan Cameron just came in motion. Cameron is going to run the short out route, while Josh Gordon runs the deeper out route. Everybody else is in pass protection. The cornerback over Gordon sees Cameron and bites up on him.

    With the cornerback up, that leaves the safety as the only guy behind Gordon. Weeden has one defender coming free on him, but he quickly makes a strong and accurate throw to the sideline.

    Bang. First down, and a pretty big play on 3rd-and-1 for 16 yards.

  8. Weeden's First Interception on the Wheel: When I first saw Brandon Weeden's first interception in the second quarter on third down, I thought to myself, "that's fine; it was third down and out of field goal range, I don't mind him taking a shot to someone." Did I feel the same after watching the All-22? Not quite.

    I outlined the routes above. In a perfect world, maybe Brandon Weeden is thinking that the little route by the wide receiver at the bottom will act as a pick on linebacker DeAndre Levy, who is supposed to cover Chris Ogbonnaya. If the pick is there, Ogbonnaya has the wheel route. If not, though, we've seen the disasters between Weeden and Ogbonnaya on long passes before.

    Weeden is looking right the whole time, and Levy is right on Ogbonnaya. I wouldn't even think of throwing this; take a shot elsewhere. With only one safety, Josh Gordon has one-on-one coverage at the top of the screen. Wide receiver Davone Bess is double teamed over the middle, but he's about to break back to the outside and will have a step on both guys.

    Weeden is now in the process of throwing the ball to Ogbonnaya. If he darts this to Ogbonnaya, kind of like a back shoulder pass, maybe the linebacker doesn't have a chance to make a play on the ball. He floats it as if it's still a wheel, though, and it gets intercepted. You can see Bess breaking open. As a side note, I also circled Jordan Cameron here, because the defender is holding him about 8-10 yards down the field. I don't want to do a whole rant on the officials in this game, but this is one of the calls they blew. Still, it doesn't excuse Weeden's poor decision.

  9. Mixing in the Read-Option: The Browns got back into a groove on their next offensive drive in the second quarter, thanks to a pass interference call on the Lions and a nice completion to Josh Gordon. That is when the Browns busted out the read-option play with MarQueis Gray at quarterback again.

    Here is the formation, with Bobby Rainey to Gray's left and Greg Little to his right. It's interesting that Rainey has been paired with Gray both times this play has been run.

    This is pretty standard read-option I believe, but you can see how everyone executes in the diagram above. Gray keeps this ball, presumably seeing the defender on the right rushing in for Rainey. The blocking up the middle seems to be setting up well.

    There's the seam. Gray keeps it and picks up ten yards on first down to move the chains again.

  10. Success With Moving Pocket, TD: Facing a 2nd-and-goal from the two yard line, the Browns did another moving pocket in which they really only have two receivers going out again.

    Josh Gordon is on the outside, and Greg Little is in the slot.

    We've been wanting Brandon Weeden to make quicker decisions, and this moving pocket kind of forces him to do that. It pays off here: there is tight coverage on Greg Little, but Weeden makes a strong throw on the rollout for a go-ahead touchdown.

  11. Corner Blitz Pays Off Again: Before the first half ended, we saw another corner blitz dialed up by Ray Horton.

    This is about the third straight game I've seen a variation of the corner blitz brought on third down, and it seems to work in our favor each time. Joe Haden is showing the blitz at the last second at the bottom of the screen, and we're going to have both him and Quentin Groves coming at running back Joique Bell (the blocker). Tashaun Gipson is going to sprint over to the sideline to cover Calvin Johnson, while T.J. Ward drops back to center field.

    There goes the blitz. Maybe the Browns don't try this if Johnson is 100%, but he's not. You can see Groves and Haden coming at Matthew Stafford.

    The running back actually does a fantastic job giving Stafford some time here. He chips Groves enough and then upends Haden as he jumps. I couldn't get a good screenshot to show it, but he makes Haden go 180-360 degrees in the air and possibly land on his head. The pass gets to Johnson, but he drops it as both safeties close in on him.

  12. Missing Little Before the Half: The Browns put together a nice two-minute drill to get into field goal range, but they missed some opportunities to go up 21-7 instead of 17-7.

    Disclaimer: the Browns were flagged for illegal shifting on this play, with two men moving at the same time. I couldn't find it, but the cameras cut to the line late, so I'm sure something happened pre-snap. Regardless, it's one of those things that really doesn't screw over the defense, so you still want to see your team execute. In the picture above, Greg Little is at the bottom of the screen. He does a fake at the 20 yard line, and Brandon Weeden delivers a pump fake.

    The cornerback bit for the fake badly, and Little is now wide open. Weeden overthrows him in the end zone. Not good.

  13. Missing Gordon Before the Half: A few plays later, Brandon Weeden missed a near-touchdown to Josh Gordon, although this one was certainly a more difficult throw to make.

    Here is a diagram of the routes, with Josh Gordon at the top of the screen.

    You can see that opening that Gordon has, but Weeden throws it a little too much to the sideline and it barely grazes off Gordon's fingers; he wouldn't have been able to stay in bounds anyway, looking at his feet on replay. Cleveland still got a field goal, but you hate to see all of these misses.

  14. Losing Containment on Stafford: Flashforward to the second half -- Cleveland has a 17-7 lead, but go three-and-out on their first possession (a false start set the Browns back). If the defense steps up, though, the Browns can maintain a two-possession lead mid-way through the third quarter.

    This is a 3rd-and-7 play, and Armonty Bryant is lined up over the right guard.

    Bryant breaks free and will get a hand on Matthew Stafford, but not enough to bring him down. This is one of the few plays in this game in which Stafford abandons the pass and decides to scramble right away. Paul Kruger is the key guy here who needs to slow Stafford down.

    Kruger shoots to the left, and Stafford cuts back. He needs seven yards for the first down, and he ends up just barely getting them. Who knows how differently this game ends up if we stop Stafford short and force a punt. Why am I saying that? Because look what happens on the very next play...

  15. Follow-Up Run by Reggie Bush: Two weeks ago, it happened against C.J. Spiller for a touchdown (a big run). This week, it happened against Reggie Bush for 39 yards (a big run). Both times, the play went to Barkevious Mingo's side.

    Here is the pre-snap alignment. The Lions continue their misdirection post-snap, with Stafford first showing as if the run is going to the other side before pulling off the quick counter.

    Right away, Barkevious Mingo goes to cut out a blocker. That leaves both of our inside linebackers to make a play, and Tashaun Gipson as the safety valve deep.

    Well, this doesn't look good.

    Bush gets a nice block on the outside and takes advantage of it for some big-time yardage. I hate to place blame on Mingo here, but I'll just say this: I think Jabaal Sheard can be such a difference maker against the run that he helps disrupt this play better.

  16. Touchdown Screen to Tie the Game: A few plays later, the Lions continued their nice misdirection/screen type plays, this time for a touchdown.

    Reggie Bush lines up in the slot to Matthew Stafford's left.

    In the circle, the three offensive linemen are about to release Desmond Bryant and Ahtyba Rubin.

    ...and there you go. Three blockers, one runner, and only two defenders. You do the numbers. Great play calling by the Lions throughout this game to counter our strengths to a tee.

  17. Intentional Grounding to Kill a Drive: With the Browns later down 21-17 in the fourth quarter, Brandon Weeden was flagged for intentional grounding on a first down play. Let's see what happened.

    I believe Josh Gordon is wide left, Travis Benjamin is slot right, and Jordan Cameron is wide right.

    Weeden has a good amount of time to throw here, and he is looking at Benjamin the whole way I believe. Gordon is getting double teamed. Cameron might be going into an underneath defender.

    Bang, throw it! Come on! Benjamin starts coming back to Weeden and has the middle of the field open. One of our offensive linemen start losing their guy, and Weeden catches a glimpse of this and fires the ball high and deep to the right sideline, where no eligible receiver is in sight.

  18. Weeden's Disastrous Interception: On the next drive, Brandon Weeden has just completed a quick slant for a first down to Josh Gordon. We were past midfield with still about five minutes to play. We could afford to be aggressive, but didn't want any stupid decisions. Cue the stupid decision.

    Josh Gordon is at the bottom of the screen, running the route that he and Weeden often connect on with success.

    Weeden pump fakes it to Chris Ogbonnaya. OK, that's not a bad thing, as we've seen that defenders do follow his fakes. Sure enough, the two circled defenders start racing up to Ogbonnaya, which leaves Josh Gordon wide open.

    From this angle, you can tell that Weeden does in fact see Gordon open. However, after doing one fake, he sees a defender closing in on him and doesn't trust that he'll be able to make a strong throw to the middle of the field, given how his feet are set. He thinks about throwing, but pulls it down.

    Weeden just wants to eat the play now without fumbling. How about just sailing a pass out of bounds? Or, just take the five-yard sack and make it 2nd-and-15. Instead, he does a high shuffle pass to the sideline. There is a time to do that -- when you're already close to the sideline. This wasn't that time.

    It was a spontaneous decision, and I'm sure Weeden knew it was a stupid one the second it left his hand. That doesn't offer any comfort to the fans or the rest of the team that had to go through this, though.

  19. Final Assessments: I have praised Brandon Weeden in most of his starts, despite the lack of points being put on the board. He did some nice things this week against the Lions, but he missed too many opportunities. What's funny is I actually don't really blame the lack of offense in the third quarter on him; it was just one of those things where circumstance (false start, stuffed runs) forced us into several three-and-outs in a row.

    I am more upset about the missed throws downfield. When you compare the level of quarterback play we saw from Matthew Stafford, who was working with street-signing receivers, Weeden's decision making skills don't even come close. Stafford actually could have had a much bigger day had his receivers not dropped so many passes. Stafford even challenged Joe Haden on that high leaping catch that Kris Durham made down the sideline for about 20 or so yards; there was nothing Haden could do about it.

    Also, as much as I like Willis McGahee, I really miss a running back with some speed, and that has nothing to do with Trent Richardson (I am thinking more of a Dion Lewis). We had some run plays that could have been cut to the outside this week, but our guys don't have the quickness for those types of plays.

    Defensively, we just need to regroup and move on. Ray Horton's defense in Arizona got torched sometimes. Week 6 was our torching, but they'll get things together again, starting with Jabaal Sheard's return against the Packers, who are depleted at the receiver position as well.

  20. Special Teams Tackles: There were four special teams tackles by the Browns with one tackle each from RB Chris Ogbonnaya, LB Tank Carder, LB Brandon Magee, and CB Johnson Bademosi. There were two assists, with one each from LB Tank Carder and LB Paul Hazel.

  21. Snap Counts on Offense & Defense: If you missed them, here are the links to our snap count trackers for offense (link) and defense (link). On offense, WR Greg Little appears to be back in the starting lineup based on the number of snaps he saw. On defense, the return of outside linebacker Quentin Groves changed the rep distribution at the position that we've seen.

  22. Brownies: The first offensive play of the preseason that the Lions ran was an end around, and the first offensive play of this game was a fake end around, handoff to the running back. ... I still think WR Greg Little made a catch on 2nd-and-25 in the fourth quarter, but based on the poor camera angles, I understand now why the call wasn't overturned. ... The roughing the passer call on OLB Quentin Groves was awful, but one we've seen officials make a mistake on before when a defender's helmet is anywhere near the quarterback.

    WR Calvin Johnson played 51% of the snaps for the Lions. ... The MVP for the Lions was LB DeAndre Levy, who had 7 tackles, 2 interceptions, and was the guy who chased down Travis Benjamin on his 45 yard gain. ... Benjamin had 3 punt returns for -10 yards. ... The Lions converted 8-of-14 third downs (57%), while the Browns converted 5-of-14 third downs (37%). ... I never want to hear Heath Evans' voice again.

Up next, the Browns take on the Green Bay Packers. Can Cleveland take advantage of the Packers being without several key playmakers on both sides of the ball?