rookie Joseph Fauria
now has seven catches ... and five touchdowns. (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
As the Lions lined up for a 1st-and-10 from Cleveland's 23 in the fourth quarter Sunday, Detroit safety Glover Quin, wired for sound by the team, had a premonition:
"Fauria down the seam," said Quin, predicting a pass from Matthew Stafford to tight end Joseph Fauria. "That's a touchdown, Fauria down the seam. That's a touchdown."
An instant later, Stafford and Fauria proved Quin prophetic, connecting for a TD -- Fauria's second of three in the game.
"I called that one!" Quin exclaimed. "I knew that was a touchdown, soon as he lined up I said, 'That's touchdown, Fauria down the seam.'"
Prior to that play, Fauria had just five career NFL receptions (though three of those went for touchdowns) and only one of longer than 20 yards. So how did Quin know that the undrafted tight end out of UCLA was about to beat the Browns for a big play downfield?
BURKE: Fauria's TD dance highlight reels continues to grow
It started, as Quin said, when the Lions lined up. Fauria (yellow box in the photo below) was in the slot to Matthew Stafford's right, with WR Kris Durham outside of him. Stafford set up in the shotgun, next to Reggie Bush. To his left, Calvin Johnson (white) flanked TE Brandon Pettigrew.
The Browns showed blitz, with five at the line, leaving a single-high safety (Tashaun Gipson). He was left with the entire field to cover -- and Johnson, arguably the most dangerous wide receiver in the entire league, by the sideline to his right.
Meanwhile, Fauria, an athletic 6-foot-7 option, had 6-1 linebacker Craig Robertson in front of him, as the Browns showed man-to-man coverage. As incredible as Megatron is on a game-to-game basis and as solid as Durham was Sunday (eight catches for 83 yards), the best matchup for Detroit was right there with Fauria. A hobbled Johnson had Cleveland's top corner, Joe Haden, in press coverage on him; Durham faced off against Buster Skrine, who provided about a 10-yard cushion.
Before the Lions even snapped the ball, Stafford had to know that Fauria could get a step on Robertson -- more than enough of a window for a well-thrown ball, given Fauria's catch radius.
Stafford then briefly held Gipson in his deep-center location, first with an inside play-fake to Bush and then by shifting his eyes, for the briefest of seconds, toward Johnson.
It does not take much for the best quarterbacks in the league to move defenders around with their eyes -- watch Drew Brees in any given game to see one of the prime examples. Here, Stafford turned left to play-fake to Bush, held his gaze left to freeze Gipson, who was mindful of helping over the top on Johnson, then came back to Fauria on the right.
A better shot of Stafford's misdirection:
Gipson failed to get back over to help Robertson against Fauria, and Skrine could not come off his coverage of Durham to help either. Which left this ...
Had Robertson turned around, he might have been able to knock the ball down. But Stafford let go of the pass as soon as Fauria had a slight step on Cleveland's linebacker, and he whistled it in with strong velocity. Fauria turned and caught the pass over Robertson's shoulder, then fell into the end zone while absorbing a hit by Skrine.
It was textbook work by the Lions all the way around ... and Quin knew it was about to happen.