Here is a drive-by-drive look at how the Lions beat the by a score of 38-37 on Sunday.
- Everybody's worst fears happened on the first drive of the game -- that the Lions' defense would make the dismal Browns' offense look competent. It was really only a sign of things to come. Cleveland torched Detroit and moved the ball down the field quickly and ended up with a 44-yard Phil Dawson field goal. That was the best result of a Browns drive in the first quarter for the Lions, sadly, as things were about to get even worse defensively.
- Matthew Stafford faked a handoff to Kevin Smith and then threw it to him for what turned into a gain of 63 yards. The play worked so well because it looked like Stafford was going to roll out to the right side, but he looked back to his left and passed the ball to Smith, who had lots of open field in front of him. The drive unfortunately stalled after the big play, but Jason Hanson made a 31-yard field goal to tie the game at 3.
- The Browns quickly regained the lead after only one play when Brady Quinn found a wide-open Mohamed Massaquoi for a 59-yard touchdown. Quinn faked the handoff and Massaquoi simply ran right by Phillip Buchanon, and the safety help of Ko Simpson didn't arrive in time, allowing the Browns to take a 10-3 lead.
- Following a three and out by the Lions, the Browns again scored on a big play. This time they moved the ball downfield a bit first, picking up a gain of 13 on 3rd and 11 and a gain of 16 on the next play. Joshua Cribbs then came into the game and ran for 6 yards, and after a loss of 2 by Chris Jennings it was 3rd and 6 for the Browns. Quinn pump-faked right after the snap and then immediately lobbed the ball downfield for a wide-open Chansi Stuckey, who made the catch for a 40-yard touchdown. Will James was the one behind the poor coverage this time, and suddenly the Browns were up 17-3.
- Things went from bad to worse on the very next play of the game, because Matthew Stafford threw a pass down the middle of the field into coverage and was picked off by Eric Wright, who returned the interception to the Detroit 13. An unnecessary roughness penalty on Jeff Backus moved the Browns even closer to the end zone, and after a 2-yard run by Jamal Lewis, Quinn found Joshua Cribbs for a touchdown. The Lions were now down 24-3, and to say that everybody was in shock would be an understatement.
- The Lions appeared to start to get things turned around on the proceeding kickoff, as Aaron Brown took it back 34 yards, but a holding penalty on Brandon Pettigrew negated it and put Detroit at its 22-yard line. Pettigrew made up for the penalty on the next play, though, catching a pass and turning it into a gain of 30 thanks to a great run. Kevin Smith then ran for 11 yards on the next play, and Pettigrew picked up 11 more on another reception. Two plays later, Aaron Brown lined up as a receiver, caught a screen, and took it to the house for a 26-yard touchdown. The play was executed perfectly, as Brown had lots of room to run and blockers in front of him leading the charge.
- Cleveland went three and out, and the Lions' offense picked up where it left off on the last drive. Matthew Stafford found Kevin Smith for a gain of 12 and Calvin Johnson for gains of 7 and 14, moving the Lions down to the Cleveland 28. Smith ran the ball for 3 yards, and then Stafford found him in the middle of the field for a great touchdown catch. The Lions now only trailed 24-17, and they were one stop away from having a chance to tie the game.
- The Browns moved the ball into Lions territory and looked to be on the verge of getting at least a field goal, but Detroit's defense put pressure on Brady Quinn that led to an incompletion on 3rd and 6. Cleveland was at the Lions' 37 and downed the punt at the 6-yard line, but that wasn't a big deal for Matthew Stafford and company.
- The Lions faced 3rd and 1 after a 2-yard run by Kevin Smith and a 7-yard pass to Jerome Felton, and Shaun Rogers moved the chains for them. He went offside on third down, and then he did the same thing on the very next play. The second penalty really wasn't too big of a deal, because 5 yards wouldn't have changed what was about to happen. Stafford faked a handoff on the next play, ran to his left, and unleashed an absolute bomb to Calvin Johnson, who was wide open downfield. Calvin made the catch and ran into the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown, and just like that the Lions tied the game up at 24.
- Cleveland got the ball back and took about 5 minutes to go down the field and retake the lead with a 29-yard field goal, but how the Browns ended up with the field goal was just plain bizarre. After moving the ball into Lions territory pretty quickly by running the ball, Cleveland ended up with a 3rd and 16 because Quinn tripped and was sacked for a loss of 6. A draw play on third down resulted in a gain of 12, and the Browns decided to go for it on 4th and 4. That was a good decision, because Quinn found Chansi Stuckey for a gain of 7 to move the chains. A few plays later the Browns faced fourth down again after Chris Jennings dropped a would-be touchdown, and Phil Dawson came out to kick a field goal, or so it seemed. The snap went right to Dawson, who threw the ball to Mike Furrey on the sideline. The pass was enough to move the chains, but Louis Delmas tackled him 11 yards short of the end zone. Eric Mangini was hoping the play would score a touchdown, but since it didn't and since there were only 6 seconds left, the Browns decided to simply kick a field goal from 29 yards out to take a 27-24 lead into halftime.
- The Lions and Browns traded punts to start the half, and Detroit got something going on its second drive of the third quarter. Matthew Stafford completed a 16-yard pass to Bryant Johnson, and Kevin Smith ran for 13. A few plays later it was 3rd and 6, and Stafford connected with Brandon Pettigrew for a gain of 8. It was third down again shortly after, and this time Stafford found Calvin Johnson to move the chains. Stafford went in Calvin's direction again on the next play for a gain of 30, moving the ball down to the 1. Stafford faked a handoff to Smith, rolled to the right, and completed a pass to a wide-open Will Heller for a touchdown. The Lions led for the first time of the game, going up by a score of 31-27.
- Cleveland went three and out but downed the punt at the Lions' 4-yard line. A holding penalty followed up by a false start moved the Lions back to the 1. Kevin Smith got to the 2 on a run, and the Lions moved up to the 5 thanks to a pass interference penalty. On the next play, though, Stafford dropped back into the end zone, was under pressure, and barely got rid of the ball. He was flagged for intentional grounding, resulting in a safety for the Browns.
- The Browns and Lions went three and out to start the fourth quarter, but Cleveland's next drive was a completely different story. The Browns moved the ball down the field by picking up third-down conversions. Three straight times it was 3rd and 1 for the Browns, and each time Cleveland moved the chains. At the end of the drive it was 3rd and goal from the 2, and Brady Quinn was forced to scramble because of good pressure by the Lions. Somehow he found Michael Gaines at the 1, and Gaines ran into the end zone for a touchdown. The Browns were 4/4 on third down on this drive, and they now led 37-31 as a result.
- Cleveland's drive took almost 7 minutes off the clock, making the Lions' next drive very important. Phil Dawson helped the Lions out by kicking the ball out of bounds, allowing Detroit to start its drive at the 40. It looked like the drive might come to an abrupt end, but Matthew Stafford barely picked up a first down on 4th and 1 to move the chains. Stafford then found Brandon Pettigrew for a gain of 11, and things were looking good for Detroit. Stafford changed all of that by throwing into triple-coverage on the next play. He wanted to find Calvin Johnson in the end zone for a touchdown, but three Browns players were there and the pass was picked off for a touchback.
- Cleveland had to run 3:40 off the clock, and after picking up a first down, it looked like they were going to do that or at least leave the Lions with no time to do anything. The defense came up big and made a stop, though, and on third down Brady Quinn threw an incomplete pass, stopping the clock. Had Cleveland just run the ball, the Lions would have had significantly less time to make a comeback since they were out of timeouts, but Detroit ended up with a minute and 46 seconds after the punt was returned to the 12-yard line.
- Matthew Stafford moved the ball quickly, finding Calvin Johnson for 13 yards, Kevin Smith, for 4, and Calvin again for 17. He spiked the ball to stop the clock and then completed a pass to Brandon Pettigrew for 11 yards. After spiking the ball again, a pass to Pettigrew was too high and incomplete, bringing up 3rd and 10. Stafford fired a bullet to Will Heller for a gain of 11 and spiked the ball to stop the clock with 8 seconds left. You all probably know what happened next. Stafford took the snap, scrambled to the left, avoided a defender, scrambled back to the right, and heaved the ball to the end zone right before C.J. Mosley destroyed him. The pass was intercepted in the end zone, but multiple flags were thrown for pass interference. The penalty gave Detroit the ball on the 1 and a chance to tie the game. Stafford hurt his shoulder and was going to have to sit out the last play, but the Browns called a timeout. Stafford was laying down and quickly got up when he heard the timeout announced, and he evaded four team doctors to run out onto the field for the final play. Despite the pain of his injured left shoulder, Stafford fired a pass to Brandon Pettigrew for a touchdown to tie the game at 37. Jason Hanson nailed the extra point, and the Lions won 38-37 in ridiculous, dramatic, and crazy fashion.
I don't mean to rain on anyone's parade, because yesterday's game was simply awesome due to the fact that the Lions won on the last play of the game, but looking ahead to Thursday's game against the Packers, it is going to be important for the defense to take care of its problems. Going down 24-3 to Cleveland is simply unacceptable, especially by allowing wide-open receivers to score touchdowns in the process. Aaron Rodgers is much better than Brady Quinn, and the Packers' receivers are much better than Cleveland's, so if the Lions want to have any shot at winning on Thanksgiving, the defense is going to have to limit the explosion plays and not have any breakdowns in coverage.
Offensively for Detroit, the biggest concern going into Thursday is the health of Matthew Stafford. We will find out soon enough what his status for Thursday is, and if I had to guess, I would say we will see Daunte Culpepper start because there is so little time to recover. If that does happen, then I fear we will see a similar performance to the one in Green Bay where the Lions were shutout. Of course, it helps that Culpepper would have Calvin Johnson this time around, but I still don't have much faith in the veteran compared to the rookie. Yesterday's game exemplified how great and how clutch Stafford can be, so here's to hoping for a Thanksgiving miracle that allows him to play against Green Bay.