The Detroit Lions had a very sloppy first half of play on Friday night against the Cleveland Browns and trailed at halftime by a score of 21-13 as a result. The second half included quite a bit of sloppiness as well, but the Lions' reserves rallied the team back from a 15-point deficit and helped Detroit win, 30-28.
This game started with a three and out by the Browns, but they didn't go without the ball for long. Jahvid Best fumbled the ball away to Cleveland on the third play of Detroit's drive, and he actually left the game and never returned after that. He was taken to the locker room for further observation, and there was some speculation that the trainers were checking to see if Best had a concussion. Right now there's no word on what was wrong, but Best didn't play again after the first drive.
The Browns turned Best's fumble into a touchdown with a six-play drive that was capped off by a two-yard pass from Colt McCoy to Evan Moore. McCoy and Moore hooked up again in the second quarter for a 21-yard touchdown after once again receiving great field position. The Lions had a delay of game penalty before a punt, and Nick Harris only kicked the ball 35 yards. The punt was returned for 20 yards down to the Lions' 21-yard line, and Cleveland quickly scored to go up by a score of 14-10.
Before the second McCoy to Moore touchdown the Lions scored on the second Matthew Stafford to Nate Burleson connection in as many weeks. Just like his touchdown grab a week ago, Burleson made an outstanding catch in the end zone and somehow got two feet down inbounds. The four-yard touchdown capped off an eight-play, 75-yard drive for the Lions.
Detroit added a 25-yard field goal by Jason Hanson on their next possession. The drive nearly came to an end before the Lions got into field goal range, but Stafford hooked up with Burleson for a 30-yard completion. The drive stalled after that, but the Lions were able to add three points with the field goal.
Before half time each team scored again. The Lions added another field goal -- this time a 49-yarder by Hanson -- and the Browns added another touchdown pass by McCoy. This time he found Greg Little from 13 yards out, and when halftime came the Lions were down 21-13. Jim Schwartz seemed very upset with how things went, as the Lions committed a number of bad penalties and in general just played some really sloppy football.
In the second half the Browns were the ones playing sloppy football, but not until after Armond Smith ran for 81 yards and a touchdown on Cleveland's first play of the third quarter. The Lions had a breakdown on defense and suddenly found themselves down 15 points.
Detroit failed to get any points on its next drive when Drew Stanton came into the game, but things changed after Ricardo Silva forced a fumble that was recovered by Erik Coleman on the Cleveland 20. Stanton found Maurice Stovall in the end zone from seven yards out on only the fourth play of the drive, making this a one possession game.
After trading punts to end the third quarter the Lions forced and recovered another fumble at the Cleveland 20-yard line. This time Stanton only needed one play to find the end zone, and he connected with Joe Jon Finley for the touchdown. The Lions decided to kick the extra point, cutting the lead down to one point.
After forcing a punt Zac Robinson came into the game for the Lions and led them down to the Cleveland 30. Dave Rayner converted a 48-yard field goal after the drive stalled, putting the Lions on top for the first time in this game. The 30-28 score remained unchanged throughout the remainder of the game, as neither team added any more points. As a result, the Lions were able to leave the field with their second win of the preseason.
Although the comeback was nice and it's always good to win, the Lions definitely have some things to work on next week. The Lions need to cut down on all of the penalties they are taking (they had 14 for 125 yards on Friday), and the defense also needs to play better after struggling a bit against McCoy. Granted, they were given a short field to work with on the Browns' first two TD drives, but there is room for improvement. There is also room for improvement with the running game, which struggled quite a bit at times.
With the New England Patriots coming to town next week for a nationally televised game, it will be very interesting to see how the Lions perform. Typically the third preseason game is when the starters get the most work, and this will be the Lions' biggest test by far with how well the Pats have played in the first two weeks of the preseason. Although the Lions could still be down some starters, the Patriots game could be a very good indication of where the Lions stand talent-wise heading into the regular season.
Kickoff for the Patriots game is set for 8 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27. Lions president Tom Lewand said during the Browns game that the Patriots game is "awfully close" to being a sellout, so it's possible this will be one of the rare preseason sellouts for Detroit.