The Cleveland Browns desperately needed a win this week against the Detroit Lions, and they got it. With the rainy and windy conditions, Cleveland controlled much of the game until a late third quarter rally by the Lions. Ultimately, the defense took advantage of a first-time starting quarterback in Tim Boyle en route to a 13-10 victory. The Browns improved to 6-5 on the season, with two big matchups against the Baltimore Ravens to follow. Let’s get to the full recap of how things went down.
The Browns received the opening possession, and it wasn’t long before a handoff to Chubb went for a first down. A few plays later, Cleveland was at midfield when it looked like they had a completion to TE Austin Hooper. However, before they could run the next play, the officials conferred late and ruled it an incomplete pass. QB Baker Mayfield faced pressure on third down and had to throw the ball away as P Jamie Gillan came on to punt.
Boyle began operating the Lions offense from the 18 yard line. After a couple of first downs, their drive also stalled as Cleveland’s run defense stepped up and CB Greedy Williams also helped break up a pass. The field position changed, though, as after the punt, Cleveland was forced to begin their next drive at the 13 yard line.
On first down, Mayfield ran a playaction fake with max protection. He had Landry wide open up the seam, but his throw sailed over his head and right into the arms of the cornerback who was beaten, allowing Detroit to take over at midfield.
The Browns’ defense seemed ready to hold the Lions to a field goal, but then on a 3rd-and-12 play, Boyle’s pass was off target and picked off by LB Malcolm Smith, bailing the offense out and allowing them to begin their next drive at the 15 yard line.
Cleveland got into a better rhythm after that, first with a swing pass to Chubb and then an outside draw run. Mayfield found Hooper on a tight end screen pass, and the catch-and-run went for 20 yards all the way down to the 16 yard line as the final play of the opening quarter. To start the second quarter, the Browns finally utilized the “let’s let WR Jarvis Landry throw the ball” play — although funny enough, he ended up taking off up the middle for 16 yards and the touchdown to give the Browns a 7-0 lead.
The defense got the ball right back for the offense by forcing a three-and-out, as DE Myles Garrett disrupted a first down screen pass and then DT Malik Jackson batted down a third down pass. After the punt, the offense got the ball at the 35 yard line. A few tough runs by RB D’Ernest Johnson helped get Cleveland into long field goal range. The rainy conditions continued to impact the downfield passing game, though, as Mayfield had a shot at Hooper on a flag route but overthrew him for an incompletion. His third down pass for WR Rashard Higgins was contested and knocked away, so K Chase McLaughlin came on for a 46-yard field goal attempt, but it was pushed a bit to the right and no good.
The defense came through with another three-and-out, made even more impressive because there had been a neutral zone infraction prior to first down. On 3rd-and-1, the defense stuffed the upback for a loss. After the punt, the Browns’ offense took over at the 24 yard line. Cleveland got the ball to midfield with a 3rd-and-3, but the quick handoff to RB Demetric Felton was stuffed for no gain. They lined up to go for it on fourth down, tried to draw Detroit offsides, but ultimately called a timeout. After the timeout, they still went for it, and Mayfield’s pass for Landry to the sideline was incomplete. However, Cleveland got a bit of a bailout call as the defender was flagged for illegal use of hands to the face.
A couple plays later, a 20-yard completion to Hooper got the ball into the red zone leading into the two-minute warning. On a 3rd-and-5 play, the Browns got bailed out a bit again as Detroit was flagged for pass interference. On 1st-and-goal from the 5, Mayfield ran a playaction fake. The defenders pursued Mayfield, so he just floated it out to Chubb, who was left open for the touchdown! The extra point was blocked, but the Browns still held a 13-0 lead with 1:10 remaining in the half. They went into the half with that lead too.
The Lions got the ball to begin the third quarter. After one successful run to start things off, the Detroit offense stalled, and Garrett nearly got to Boyle on his third down pass that ended up being incomplete. Detroit’s punt was almost downed at the 1 yard line, but the special teamer was touching the end zone, leading to a touchback.
Cleveland picked up a couple of first downs via Chubb on the ground, but the drive stalled after Mayfield missed another pass to Landry, and then a third down holding penalty on Teller wiped out a possible first down pass to Njoku, leading to a punt. Gillan’s punt only traveled 33 yards, allowing the Lions to begin their next drive at the 26 yard line.
Boyle completed a 10-yard pass on first down, and then on second down, he finally loaded up and tried to go downfield for the first time all game. The pass wasn’t terrible, but it was a pinch overthrown and CB Denzel Ward snagged it for an interception. As far as field position goes, it served as a long punt, as Ward was down at the 20 yard line.
The Browns started the drive with a bang, as Mayfield hit WR Ja’Marcus Bradley up the right sideline for a 37 yard completion. After a 9-yard run on second down by Chubb, Cleveland faced a 3rd-and-1. Mayfield ran a playaction fake and tried to go deep, but RT Blake Hance was flagged for holding. Then, on 3rd-and-11, Mayfield was met by several defenders in the backfield for a sack, leading to another punt by Gillan to allow the Lions to keep hanging around with 4:19 remaining in the third quarter.
And sure enough, Detroit made Cleveland pay for it. Facing a 3rd-and-8, Boyle handed the ball off to RB De’Andre Swift, who cut and sliced through the Browns’ defense before bursting ahead for a 57-yard touchdown. That cut the Browns’ lead to 13-7 with 1:55 remaining in the third quarter.
How did the offense respond? Three passes, three incompletions, and Mayfield looking more and more beat up on each of them. After the punt and return, the Lions had good field position at their own 40 yard line. Swift stayed hot, carrying for 5 and 17 yards, down to the Cleveland 42 yard line, to end the third quarter.
The Browns received a huge bailout call in their advantage, as in between quarters, a Detroit offensive lineman was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Lions couldn’t dig their way out of 1st-and-25 and had to punt, with the Browns taking over at the 15 yard line and 12:54 remaining.
Cleveland’s next drive started going backwards too. It looked like Chubb had a run for a first down, but TE Harrison Bryant was flagged for a hold, making it 1st-and-17. On first down, Mayfield looked to pass, but took off for a gain of 7 yards. Chubb then had a gain of 20 yards, but that was also called back due to an illegal block in the back penalty on Teller. On 2nd-and-10, Mayfield’s pass was tipped and incomplete. The mistakes kept piling up, as Mayfield’s pass was tipped trying to hit Landry and intercepted.
The Lions took over at the 34 yard line. On first down, a swing pass to the receiver went for 6 yards. On second and third down, the defense stopped Swift and 2 and 1 yard, including a nice tackle by Smith. On 4th-and-1, the Lions opted to go for the field goal, which they hit from 43 yards out to cut the Browns’ lead to 13-10 with 9:07 remaining.
Chubb was able to move the chains twice to get near midfield, but the Lions read a second down screen attempt to Njoku, and then Mayfield’s third down pass was incomplete. The Browns punted with just over five minutes to go. Boyle began the next drive with a big 24-yard completion to his tight end, but the Browns’ defense tightened up after that, including stopping a screen pass for a loss of four yards on second down. The Lions punted with just 2:29 remaining, but all three timeouts.
The formula seemed simple for Cleveland: take your shot to win it with the running game. Chubb gained 3 yards on first down, and 4 yards on second down to set up 3rd-and-3 at the two-minute warning (and the Lions now having two timeouts remaining). Could the Browns’ highly-paid offensive line come through in the big moment?
Chubb had back-to-back nice runs, each of which moved the chains, but he got out of bounds on each of them. Johnson then entered the game and ran inside for a gain of 4 yards, forcing Detroit to burn their second timeout. On 2nd-and-6, he ran for 4 more yards to make it 3rd-and-2, and the Lions also burned their final timeout. Chubb got the first down, and sealed the victory.
Next week, Cleveland takes on the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football. Then, they have a bye week before hosting the Ravens for the second straight match-up. Baltimore, for what it’s worth, has to play on the road against Pittsburgh in between those games.
- QB Baker Mayfield: 15-of-29 for 176 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT.
- RB Nick Chubb: 22 carries, 130 yards. 2 catches, 14 yards, 1 TD.