It should come as no surprise that the Lions defeated the Browns on Saturday as Cleveland was missing many of its top players. What may be surprising to some is just how one-sided this Lions victory was as Detroit dominated Cleveland en route to a 26-6 win.
To open the game, the Lions came out running a 2-minute drill. Yes, the game had just started, but preseason games are used as a way to prepare for various scenarios that will come about in the regular season, so that is why Detroit elected to start the game in their 2-minute offense.
Jon Kitna played very well out of the shotgun as he was able to hit many different targets to move the ball down the field. The best target for picking up yards was Roy Williams. Roy started the game with an 11-yard catch and then really propelled the drive forward by making an amazing catch that got the Lions 29 yards. Kitna was forced to scramble away from a pass rush and threw the ball in Williams' direction. Williams came back to the ball as it was underthrown and somehow managed to make the catch.
The Lions' promising drive would stall eventually, but Dave Rayner nailed a 30-yard field goal to put Detroit on top 3-0 early on. Cleveland probably would have killed for a drive that good as nothing came easy for the Browns during this game. That was evident from the get-go as Brady Quinn really struggled, partly because of the Lions' great pass rush. The Browns' opening drive went nowhere and they gave the ball back to the Lions. Detroit again moved the ball pretty easily, but their drive again stalled. Rayner came back in and kicked a 38-yard field goal, so at least the Lions got another 3 points on the board.
Following back-to-back-to-back three and outs by both teams, the Lions' running game finally produced an exciting play. Kevin Smith got the handoff and tried to run up the middle. The key word there is "tried." Smith had nowhere to go so he bounced off the pile and started to cut back to the left side. There he was met by a Browns defender, but that defender was no match for Smith, who just ran right by him.
With lots of open field in front of him, Smith started running north-south and then quickly cut back to the left again. He then started charging down the field straight ahead and picked up a key block from quarterback Dan Orlovsky. Orlovsky opened up just enough room for Smith with the block and by getting in the way of Cleveland defenders to allow Smith to do a stutter step before diving into the end zone for a touchdown. Smith showed his great speed, moves, and field vision on this play. Again it was a play that could have gone nowhere, but Smith created his own room to work with and then got an assist from Orlovsky to get into the end zone. All in all the play went for a gain of 35 yards and put Detroit ahead 13-0.
The Browns were able to answer back from the Smith TD run by putting some points on the board. It wasn't what they were hoping for as they only got a 39-yard Phil Dawson field goal, but it was better than nothing. Then again, the Browns did manage to go from 1st and goal on the 8 to 4th and goal on the 21 thanks to a few mistakes, so maybe it wasn't better than nothing.
Either way, Cleveland did get 3 points and actually got within a touchdown after Orlovsky threw an interception on the proceeding drive. Orlovsky was under pressure and had to get rid of the ball, and unfortunately for him his attempted pass to Shaun McDonald was overthrown and got picked off. The Browns moved into field goal range and Dawson again kicked the ball through the uprights (this time from 53 yards out) for 3 points. That made the score 13-6.
Before the first half came to a close, Dan Orlovsky was able to manufacture another scoring drive. This scoring drive only produced another Dave Rayner field goal, but the Lions were very close to finding the end zone instead. Orlovsky threw a pass down the sideline and John Standeford almost made a jaw-dropping catch. Standeford was able to haul in the ball with only a single hand and would have put the Lions on the 1-yard line. Unfortunately for Standeford and the Lions, he only got one foot down, meaning the amazing catch didn't count. What did count, though, was Rayner's 47-yard field goal, putting the Lions on top 16-6 heading into halftime.
In Brady Quinn's final drive of the game, he came out of the locker room and got the ball moving. At first Cleveland had little trouble picking up yards as the Lions' defensive backups came into the game as a group for the first time. Quinn was hitting his receivers and Jason Wright picked up 15 yards on a solid run. As good as the Browns were playing, just as we had seen before, their offense came out of sync and their drive came to a screeching halt. Cleveland was faced with a 4th and 2 and decided to go for it, and Quinn threw a pass over the head of his intended receiver, giving the ball back to the Lions.
Detroit came out after the defensive stop with a combination of Brian Calhoun and John Standeford. Calhoun finally had some success running the ball, and Standeford continued his outstanding play this preseason by catching 3 passes on this drive that totaled 41 yards. The solid play of Calhoun and Standeford didn't get Detroit into the end zone, but once again, Dave Rayner nailed a field goal, this time from 26 yards out.
After an abysmal Browns drive where Cleveland actually had 2nd and 31 at one point, the Lions put away the game when they got the ball back. Calhoun again showed how great he sometimes can be as he broke a tackle and took off for a gain of 40 yards. I don't want to be too negative as that was a great play, but Calhoun did get caught from behind by a Cleveland defender. I figured he would easily take the ball to the house, but he put the Lions inside the Browns' 10-yard line instead, so it still was a great play.
Two plays after Calhoun's big run Dan Orlovsky found Brandon Middleton in traffic for a 7-yard touchdown. Middleton seemed to sneak by defenders and by the time they got to him he already was in the end zone. The Middleton TD gave the Lions a 26-6 advantage, and that is what the game's final score would read. Cleveland did put together a great drive toward the end of the game, but they just couldn't get into the end zone. The Lions' defense rose to the occasion and stopped the Browns on 4th down, allowing Dan Orlovsky to hand the ball off to Artose Pinner and throw a short pass to Casey FitzSimmons to run out the clock.
With the impressive victory the Lions improved their preseason record to 3-0. It is only the preseason and that record will mean nothing come September, but it's still nice to see the Lions win because who knows how often it'll happen during the regular season. Detroit has a chance to finish the preseason undefeated on Thursday when they head to Buffalo to battle the Bills. That game will likely feature very few starters as the Lions don't want to risk an injury at this point. It is more about giving the guys on the bubble a shot at earning a spot on the roster.
Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. ET, and as I have already said, don't expect any live updates. I will be moving to Ann Arbor that day, so I probably will be too busy getting everything in order. Regardless, look for a recap of the game to be up by Friday morning as we start to prepare for the final round of cuts on Saturday.