AFC North: 2013 Week 6 DET at CLE

Offensive second half led to loss

October, 13, 2013
10/13/13
9:47
PM ET
A lot of factors went into the Cleveland Browns blowing a 17-7 halftime lead in a 31-17 loss to the Detroit Lions.

Brandon Weeden had a Benny Hill moment, and the Browns' defense did not adjust to Detroit’s adjustment.

But the offense contributed as well, gaining all of 6 yards in the third quarter and totaling one first down the first 24 minutes of the second half.

[+] EnlargeWillis McGahee
Ron Schwane/USA TODAY SportsBrowns running back Willis McGahee had just two carries in the second half against the Lions.
Cleveland’s third-quarter drives went this way:

  • Three plays, 9 yards and punt.
  • Three plays, 6 yards (5 on a Detroit penalty) and punt.
  • Three plays with a sack to end the quarter, and a punt on the first play of the fourth.

The final 15 minutes were not a lot prettier. When the Browns followed their first first down of the half with an intentional grounding penalty, Weeden made a nice throw to the sidelines to Greg Little, who came very close to making a leaping catch but was ruled out of bounds. Coach Rob Chudzinski challenged the call, but referee Walt Coleman did not overrule.

Detroit drove for the go-ahead touchdown after the Browns punt, and the Browns' next possession went from the Cleveland 16 to the Detroit 44 before Weeden threw the backhand flip heard 'round Northeast Ohio.

“Our energy wasn’t there,” said tight end Jordan Cameron. “It was just one of those things where we were flat the second half.”

Interesting.

The Browns also had some interesting play calling in the second half. They ran once on each of the first three possessions, and did not call a run in the fourth quarter until there was just 1:17 left in the game.

Down 21-17, the Browns called four passes in a row.

Down 24-17, they called five passes in a row.

The argument could be made that the Browns did not have a running game to rely on, but down four and down seven are not panic situations. Cleveland ran for 115 yards on 16 carries in the first half -- 45 on a reverse by Travis Benjamin -- but ran just five times for 11 yards in the second half.

The Browns weren’t getting much of anything done offensively, so that may explain some of the numbers. But the Browns combined a scoreless, 145-yard second half effort with a defense that gave up 24 points and 257 yards. Little wonder the score was what it was.
A lot of Cleveland Browns players said they didn't see Brandon Weeden's backhand, underhand flip that resulted in a fourth-quarter interception.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden
Tony Dejak/AP PhotoCleveland Browns QB Brandon Weeden walks off the field looking dejected following a 31-17 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
They might want to prepare, because the next time they see it outside the team’s film room it will play to the tune of “Yakety Sax.”

Ya-da, da-da-da-da ...

In a game in which Weeden could have made a forward move to reclaim his spot as the Browns quarterback now and in the future, he wound up with a play for the lowlight reel. For years to come.

“It was a boneheaded play,” Weeden said.

Credit him for candor.

Not only did it kill the Browns' fourth-quarter drive when they had a chance to tie the game, it raised the semi-dormant questions about field awareness and smarts in clutch performances that have dogged Weeden this season. It was the kind of play that could cause a team to wonder about its quarterback.

“It’s on me,” Weeden said of the high flip that was intercepted by DeAndre Levy at midfield with 4:36 left and the Browns down seven.

Weeden said he was trying to throw the ball away, but it was about as bad a play as any quarterback can make. He had his back to the line of scrimmage, his feet pointed toward the other end zone, his body twisted just outside the hashmark as he tried to flip the ball over the head of Chris Ogbonnaya, who was 12 yards ahead of Weeden standing at the sideline.

As he threw, C.J. Mosley was at Weeden’s ankles. But the guy who had been schooled so much and so hard to avoid a sack did just that -- and in trying to avoid a sack he made a far more foolish play.

“I have no answer for it,” running back Willis McGahee said. “You have to ask him what he was thinking.”

“I would just have to look at the tape,” coach Rob Chudzinski said. “All I saw was kind of the end of the play so I didn’t really see what was developing out there at the time.”

Several other players said they didn’t see it. Maybe they didn’t want to discuss it.

“It all happened so fast,” Weeden said. “Trying to make a play. You want to be smart and don’t take a sack. I just have to fall on it. Take a sack and move on.”

Especially because it was first down. Weeden even had a chance earlier in the play to make a more traditional throw to Ogbonnaya, or to throw the ball away. He moved left, and made it harder.

The play seemed to go in slow motion live, but it took about five seconds for Weeden to take the snap and do the reverse shovel (with a twist). He originally looked to Josh Gordon, then to Cameron. Mosley chased him as he moved left and flipped.

“He tried to make a play,” said safety Louis Delmas. “Obviously the play didn’t turn out to his favor.”

Obviously.

Weeden played a role in the Browns taking a 17-7 lead at halftime, just like he played a role in the offense stumbling through the third and most of the fourth quarter. The Browns tried to rally around him after the game, but that play will not be a pleasant one to watch in front of the rest of the team.

“We’re still behind him,” linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “He’s still the guy.”

“At the end of the day, we’re all in this together.” McGahee said. “You can’t blame it on one person.”

Not the game, but Weeden was clearly singularly responsible for the play that might just go down with Dwayne Rudd’s helmet toss and other infamous Browns boneheaded plays that haunt fans. Instead of one more for the record books, Weeden provided another for the annals.

Rapid Reaction: Cleveland Browns

October, 13, 2013
10/13/13
4:29
PM ET

CLEVELAND -- A few thoughts on the Cleveland Browns' 31-17 loss to the Detroit Lions at FirstEnergy Stadium:

What it means: The feel of a season can change in a hurry. The loss means the Browns drop back to .500 and now face two very tough road games in a row. They also have a ways to go to compete with the good teams in the league, such as Detroit. And it means that one quarter does not make a game -- as the Browns played well in the second quarter but were badly outplayed by the Lions the other three.

Stock watch: Brandon Weeden's stock will drop -- and among the fans in Cleveland, it will drop precipitously. He had some good moments, but even though the defense gave up 24 points in the second half, the offense's struggles during the third and fourth quarters will stand out. Weeden's backhanded lob that was intercepted in the game's final minutes will live for a long time. Weeden had a very good first half, a very bad second half and a very, very bad play that secured the win for the Lions.

Inside issues: The Browns' inside linebackers and safeties had a rough second half. Evidently the Lions noticed something, because they came out in the third and fourth quarters and took advantage of matchups, especially with Reggie Bush and the tight ends against linebackers. Bush had more than 20 touches in the second half, and Joseph Fauria had three touchdown catches, the second in front of the safeties and over inside linebacker Craig Robertson. Give the Lions credit. They obviously noticed something and took advantage to win.

What's next: The Browns face a very tough road test as they travel to Green Bay to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. The trip is the first of two tough away games, as the Browns travel to Kansas City the following week.

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