Matthew Stafford, Lions quarterback
He started slowly, including an interception, but warmed up and found a rhythm and the weak spots in the Browns defense. He finished 17-for-16 for 249 yards, three touchdowns, an interception and a 118.9 rating.
Stafford is a great passer and made a pair of perfect ones to lead the second-half comeback. He hit receiver Kenny Golladay down the right sideline for a 50-yard completion on the tying touchdown drive in the third quarter. The Lions took the lead for good on a 29-yard stop-and-go route to tight end Eric Ebron, who blew past safety Derrick Kindred down the left sideline.
“We executed a little bit better, obviously,” Stafford said of the turnaround. “They had some new wrinkles, as we thought they would kind of coming out of the bye week. They have a smart defensive coordinator. Our guys did a great job of adjusting, our coaches did some great adjustments at halftime. We came out and executed at a high level and scored points.”
Stafford iced the game by taking advantage of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ aggressiveness. On third-and-6 with 4:36 left in the fourth quarter, Williams brought the blitz off the right side, and Stafford quickly threw a receiver screen to Golden Tate, who took it 40 yards for a 14-point lead.
David Njoku, Browns tight end
He wasn’t able to help quarterback DeShone Kizer, his good friend and fellow rookie. In fact, he hurt him.
Njoku couldn’t get his second foot inbounds in the end zone for what should’ve been a touchdown catch. Kizer audibled to a sneak on the next play, was stuffed and the first half ended without the Browns getting any points on the drive. In the fourth quarter, Njoku dropped a well-thrown ball down the sideline. He finished with a catch for 3 yards on six targets.
“He’s a big target that creates some matchup issues and we’re going to make sure that we try to attack those matchup issues as much as we can,” Kizer said. “That chemistry is still growing, we’re still developing our relationship and those plays will get in and we’ll get over that hump and he’ll continue to grow into one of the better tight ends in this league.”
Njoku might also apologize to Kizer for blowing a protection and allowing cornerback Quandre Diggs to come free off the edge and drill Kizer in the ribs, knocking him from the game for much of the fourth quarter.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Njoku wasn’t the only Cleveland tight end who made a critical mistake.
The Browns and Lions were tied at 10 with 4:08 left in the second quarter after the Lions had rallied from a 10-0 deficit. Kizer threw a short out route to tight end Seth DeValve, who turned upfield and appeared to break the tackle of cornerback Nevin Lawson for a first down. But Lawson knocked the ball loose, recovered and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown.
“I really don’t know (what happened),” DeValve said. “I lowered my shoulder in the first tackle, ball must have got off my rib cage and somebody punched it out.
“That’s a horrible thing to happen.”
STAT OF THE GAME
First downs for the Browns, 10 more than the Lions
QUOTE OF THE GAME
“The Browns probably got better athletes than … 25 out of the 32 teams in the league, probably. They got a lot of first-round draft picks. They got talent, they just haven’t won a bunch of games.” — Lions safety Glover Quin
DeShone Kizer was efficient and productive. The run game finally exploded for 201 yards. The receivers still drop too many balls.
The Lions were able to run and pass, keeping the Browns off-balance after a slow start.
Cleveland’s failed in the fourth quarter despite the offense scoring points and winning the time of possession. Emmanuel Ogbah had two sacks and Trevon Coley batted two passes.
The Lions didn’t really stop the Browns all day, but got a fumble return for a touchdown and a goal-line stop at the end of the half.
Zane Gonzalez made his only field goal attempt, from 23 yards, and three extra points. Jabrill Peppers was back at punt returner and had an 11-yarder.
Jamal Agnew’s 29-yard punt return set up Detroit’s final touchdown.
Hue Jackson’s game plan was on point and his players were ready. But game management continues to haunt him.
Jim Caldwell has the Lions poised for a playoff push.