The Detroit Lions ended their preseason with a whimper, losing to the Cleveland Browns 20-9. The Lions’ defense had a solid day, forcing two turnovers and earning a safety, but it was another lackluster performance from the reserve players on offense.
There were some curious absences from the lineup—Teez Tabor and Steve Longa, most notably—and Detroit suffered an of injuries of unknown severity (Amani Oruwariye), but otherwise, it was a fairly uneventful game.
Here’s our recap.
The Detroit Lions defense took the field first and it was a nice, short possession for them. A big tackle for loss on third-and-short from Kevin Strong and Eric Lee—both of whom thoroughly beat their guy—got the defense off the field.
It was backup quarterback Tom Savage who would lead the starting offense out on the field for Detroit’s first possession. Unfortunately, things were disastrous for Detroit. Savage was immediately sacked on the first play, the Lions offensive line allowed a huge tackle for loss on second down, then center Luke Bowanko got a personal foul penalty on third down. The concern about the Lions’ offensive line depth was on full display that drive.
The Lions defensive backs took over the next drive. Fifth-round rookie Amani Oruwariye notched two pass breakups on the drive, while Mike Ford added another just a couple plays after getting beat deep (the ball was dropped).
With Savage still in, Travis Fulgham made a huge downfield catch, but it was overturned after review revealed his second heel came down out of bounds. Mark Thompson got the Lions into field goal range, but a sack allowed by Tyrell Crosby pushed them out again, forcing another punt. However, C.J. Moore did a good job pinning the Browns deep at their own 2-yard line.
The two teams would trade more punts, as neither team’s quarterbacks could get anything going early. As the two teams would end the quarter tied 0-0.
The Browns would finally break the stalemate early in the second quarter. After a short punt from Ryan Santoso, all it took was one big run by Dontrell Hilliard, and the Browns were in field goal range. 3-0 Cleveland.
Brandon Powell, fighting for a spot on the Lions’ wide receiver depth, answered with a big 67-yard kick return, easily the biggest special teams play of the entire preseason. Unfortunately, Savage would take yet another sack, and the Lions punted the ball away harmlessly.
But by pinning the Browns deep, the Lions defense had an opportunity to score, and score they did. Thanks to a hold penalty on Cleveland in the end zone, Detroit was awarded a safety. 3-2 Browns.
The Lions’ offensive line continued to struggle, giving Tom Savage no time to throw, and running backs no lanes to run through. Detroit would quickly squander this possession, giving Cleveland a shot at a two-minute drill.
Garrett Gilbert would lead the Browns on a pretty methodical drive. Picking apart the Lions secondary—with no pass rush to help—Gilbert would end up finding running back Dontrell Hilliard for the first touchdown of the night. 10-2 Browns.
Josh Johnson took over in the second half for the Lions offense, but it was more of the same. Though Johnson’s mobility picked up a handful of yards, a third-and-short situation was blown by the Lions’ offensive line. Mark Thompson was taken down three yards short of the line of scrimmage, leading to Detroit’s seventh punt of the night.
But the Lions defense made a big play to get the ball back. Defensive end Jonathan Wynn deflected a pass, causing it to drop right into the arms of Lions cornerback Johnathan Alston, setting the Lions up at the Browns’ 31-yard line.
After Johnson scrambled for a third-down conversion, he targeted Travis Fulgham with a fade pass. Though the ball fell incomplete, Fulgham was clearly interfered with, putting the Lions first-and-goal. From there, Josh Johnson would keep the ball on an option and trot into the end zone. 10-9 Browns.
Josh Johnson with the keeper #DETvsCLE | #OnePride pic.twitter.com/87rAnU4O6l— Detroit Lions (@Lions) August 30, 2019
The defense stepped up again on the Browns subsequent drive as Jamar Summer picked off David Blough early in the drive. But the offense couldn’t take advantage, punting the ball quickly back to Cleveland, but pinning them inside the 10-yard line yet again.
There would be more and more punting, but the Lions got an opportunity early in the fourth quarter to take the lead. Unfortunately, Santoso hooked a 51-yard field goal wide left.
The Browns could extend their lead on a nine-play, 59-yard drive, ending with a 2-yard run from Trayone Gray. 17-9 Browns.
Luis Perez would come in the game for his first series as a Detroit Lion, but it wouldn’t go anywhere. A quick three-and-out was followed by a time-bleeding drive from the Browns that ended in a short field goal. 20-9 Browns.
Josh Johnson would come back in the game to run the two-minute drill, and he worked it nicely. Thanks to a couple plays to Travis Fulgham, including a big 68-yard gain, the Lions would eventually find the end zone. Rookie tight end Isaac Nauta finished the drive with a nice 20-yard score. 20-16 Browns.
Touchdown for our guy, @isaac_nauta! #DETvsCLE | #OnePride pic.twitter.com/hlzfUkXRCv— Detroit Lions (@Lions) August 30, 2019
The Lions went winless in the preseason, which means nothing at all. Now it’s time to see who made their case for the 53-man roster and who will be looking for a new employment opportunity. Cuts are due by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday.
The Detroit Lions wrap up the preseason Thursday night in a bout with the Cleveland Browns. While it will have the overall feel of a meaningless exhibition game, the players on the field will be playing with just as much tenacity as we’ll see during the regular season, maybe a little more.
Jobs are on the line. Playing time is on the line. Hell, chances for the XFL are probably on the line, too.
Preseason Game 4 isn’t for everybody. It really isn’t for me. But for those seeking storylines and drama, there will be plenty of it on the field in Cleveland Thursday night.
So if that interests you, here’s how to watch:
How to watch Lions vs. Browns
Date: Thursday, August 29, 2019
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: FirstEnergy Stadium — Cleveland, OH
TV channel: FOX 2 Detroit
Other local broadcast markets (via 506 sports)
- WNEM (CBS/5 - Saginaw)
- WSYM (FOX/47 - Lansing)
- WXMI (FOX/17 - Grand Rapids)
- WFQX (FOX/32 - Traverse City)
- WUPW (FOX/36 - Toledo, OH)
- WJMN (CBS/3 - Escanaba, MI)
Announcers: Fred McLeod, Chris Spielman, Tori Petry
Online streaming: NFL Game Pass (free seven-day trial)
Local radio: WJR-AM NEWS TALK 760
Radio announcers: Dan Miller, Lomas Brown