The Detroit Lions had a new quarterback on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, but you would have never known it from the product on the field. The Lions offense remained extremely conservative with Tim Boyle in his first career NFL start, and even with a second-half surge at the hands of D’Andre Swift, the Lions offense managed just 10 points.
A decent defensive performance—including two interceptions of Baker Mayfield—was wasted, because Detroit refused to push the ball down the field and in the rare instances that they did, they couldn’t make the plays necessary to win.
In the end, the Lions fell to 0-9-1 with a 13-10 loss to the Browns. Here’s how it happened.
The Lions won the toss and deferred—same as last week—but unlike last week, they didn’t give up a touchdown on the opening drive. Though Nick Chubb and Baker Mayfield managed to each pick up a first down, the drive stalled at midfield and a third-down blitz forced a throw away.
The Tim Boyle show started off with an aggressive bootleg that resulted in Boyle finding tight end Brock Wright for a 12-yard gain. But they quickly found themselves in a third-and-10, and fell back on last week’s habit with an unsuccessful draw play.
But Detroit quickly got the ball back after Mayfield overshot his receiver and threw it right into the hands of Amani Oruwariye.
The Lions were able to move into field goal range thanks to SUPERBACK Jason Cabinda rushing for 20 yards. Detroit appeared ready to score after Amon-Ra St. Brown had a catch-and-run inside the 10-yard line, but new Lions receiver Josh Reynolds was called for offensive pass interference on the play, pushing the Lions behind the sticks. Facing a third-and-long, Boyle made a critical mistake on a clear miscommunication with D’Andre Swift, and threw it right at a Browns linebacker.
Cleveland responded with an impressive drive, mixing in both rushes and play action passes that had the Lions defense off balance. A play-action pass to David Njoku went for 20 yards and Mayfield followed that up with a screen to Austin Hooper for 21 yards. Cleveland moved into the red zone as the first quarter came to a scoreless end.
On the first play of the second quarter, Browns receiver Jarvis Landry took a direct snap, the scrambled up the middle of an unsuspecting Lions defense for a 16-yard touchdown. 7-0 Browns.
The Lions quickly went three-and-out after a failed screen, 3-yard run and a tipped pass on third-and-7.
After handing the Browns a free first down on a third-and-9 with two penalties on the Lions defense, Detroit managed to hold Cleveland pointless on the drive. Detroit’s defense struggled to bring down Cleveland’s backs, but cornerback Jerry Jacobs had a nice pass breakup on a third-and-7, forcing a 46-yard field goal attempt. Browns kicker Chase McLaughlin missed the kick wide right, though, keeping the score 7-0.
Despite being gifted 5 yards on a first-down offsides on Cleveland, the Lions still went three-and-out. A fullback dive on third-and-1 only went backwards, and Detroit quickly punted back to the Browns.
With four minutes left in the quarter, a critical play flag changed the course of the rest of the quarter. The Browns were facing a fourth-and-3 from midfield, and decided to go for it. Mayfield’s pass was incomplete, but Amani Oruwariye was flagged for an illegal hands to the face penalty, giving Cleveland a first down. A few plays later, Mayfield would find Hooper for 20-yard gain. The Browns drive was extended by another penalty on Oruwariye, who was flagged for pass interference on third-and-5. Baker connected with Chubb on a 3-yard pass on the next play. Hey, but rookie Levi Onwuzurike blocked the extra point! 13-0 Browns.
Detroit had an opportunity to add points before the end of the half with under two minutes remaining. Although they were helped by a roughing the passer penalty on Cleveland, Boyle couldn’t manage to complete a pass beyond a couple yards from the line of scrimmage and time ran out after T.J. Hockenson caught a pass inbounds.
Detroit picked up a first down on a nice run from D’Andre Swift, but Boyle couldn’t find Kalif Raymond on a subsequent third-and-7, forcing a quick punt. But Cleveland gave the ball right back after a holding penalty pushed them behind the sticks.
However, Detroit’s offense still couldn’t find its rhythm. After a 10-yard pass to St. Brown, Boyle went deep to Josh Reynolds, but threw it a little too far outside and Browns corner Denzel Ward picked him off.
Mayfield opened the ensuing drive with a 37-yard bomb over Tracy Walker. But a holding penalty and a third-down sack from the Lions forced another punt from Cleveland.
Swift started the next drive with a 19-yard run, but center Evan Brown suffered an injury on the play—hurting an offensive line that was already missing right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who suffered a concussion in the first half of the game. But regardless, the Lions ran Swift over the right side on a third-and-8, and the young running back burst free for a 57-yard score. 13-7 Browns.
The Lions defense continued to show some life by forcing a three-and-out from Cleveland and giving the offense the ball back at their own 40-yard line. Swift would continue to hammer the Browns defense with runs of 5 and 13 yards to close out the quarter and put Detroit on Cleveland’s side of the field.
The Lions quarter got off to a horrible start, as Jonah Jackson was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty BETWEEN QUARTERS, setting the Lions up first-and-25. Detroit, incapable of throwing the ball, predictably came nowhere close to converting and punted the ball away after a promising start.
But, again, Detroit’s defense gave the Lions a chance. On a third-and-10, Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone dropped into zone coverage and a tipped a Mayfield pass that landed in AJ Parker’s lap.
Detroit failed to capitalize on the turnover, however. A third-and-3 run by Swift came up 2 yards short, leaving the Lions to settle for a 43-yard field goal. Aldrick Rosas was able to make the first field goal of his Lions career to make it 13-10 Browns.
The Browns couldn’t add to their lead after Tracy Walker blew up a screen and Aaron Glenn dialed up a well-timed blitz on third down, forcing Cleveland’s fifth punt of the game.
Boyle connected with Hockenson for 24-yard gain on the first play of the drive, but that was it for Detroit’s offensive drive. A run was stuffed, a screen play blown up, and a third-and-14 draw came up predictable short. With under three minutes remaining, the Lions opted to punt on fourth-and-9, hoping their defense can give them one more chance.
That wouldn’t happen, though, as Nick Chubb would pick up a couple of first downs and end the ball game before Detroit got another chance.