Lions vs. Browns - Week 7

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Cold and overcast was the weather, but you could feel the warm optimism of the Detroit fans in Michigan 3 hours away. Joey is benched and Jeff Garcia has been given the reins to the impotent Lions’ offense.

Now let’s be honest. We all know that he isn’t the long-term answer. We all realize that Joey has lost his team. The Lions players are the ones for whom this move needs to be made, more than the fans. I heard a radio show this week, and I agree that if the players play better, even if Jeff Garcia is 75%, if he makes them play 25% better, then we win. The team showed more enthusiasm then I have seen all season, and they seemed to have a new hope. Like one popular person connected to the Lions told me, “This move was made for the sake of the players, they wanted and needed a change.”

Mooch showed balls of steel by having the pre-game introduction be the offense. Garcia got the reception that would be expected, but it showed that this was his man and he was ready. The Lions won the toss and took the ball. Mooch wasted no time showing what we have all known, that this was his boy.

Garcia came out for his first Lions series and began at his 18. Garcia and the team got 7 yards on a Jones run, but the Lions dropped Garcia’s 1st 2 passes for a punt. The Browns are led by one of the finest human beings in the NFL: Trent Dilfer. 

Dilfer and his gang faced a highly touted Lions defense. They showed immediately that their intention was to run the ball against the Lions defense. They had some success, and they were definitely helped by the return of Braylon Edwards who had a nice 3rd down catch. Yet, the Browns were kept from the end zone. The field goal was good, however, and with 8:30 left in the 1st quarter it was the Browns 3 and the Lions 0.

Back on the field came Garcia with his rejuvenated offensive teammates. The Lions began at their own 18 once again. The Lions were able to move that ball into Cleveland territory, but a penalty moved them back. Unfortunately however, even though the QB changed, the play calling didn’t. On 2nd and 15 they ran up the middle, and on 3rd and 15 they threw a short screen, both poor choices. The Lions punted and pinned the Browns at their own 8.

The Browns again tried to run at the Lions defense, but they held. Former Lion Reuben Droughns ran well, but they couldn’t get over mid-field. R.W. McQuarters had a nice 18-yard return, and Garcia started at his own 38.

The Lions came out and moved the ball well. Mike Williams had a great catch and run after some superb QB play from Garcia. The 1st quarter ended on the Brown 24.

The Lions had to burn their 2nd time out. Facing their third 3rd down of the day (0-2), the Lions came out with a crucial 3rd and 15 on the Browns 29. Garcia had his offense aligned in a shotgun with 3 receivers and a TE. Garcia threw too high for newly signed Glen Martinez and on the field came Jason Hanson for a 47-yard field goal attempt. It was not good, however, and the Browns had a 1st and 10 on their own 37.

The Browns moved the ball into Lions’ territory, but Dilfer had an open receiver for only a few moments and Dre’ Bly jumped in front of him for the interception. Back came the Lions offense set up beautifully at their own 45. Now was an opportunity for the offense to put to rest one of the biggest frustrations of this defense: the Lions offenses’ inabilities to score after a defensive take away.

Showing a mastery of the system, Garcia worked his magic and moved the Lions down the field with ease. Led with a great balance of passing and precision passing, the Lions punched it in on a Jeff Garcia bootleg with 5:26 left in the 2nd quarter. The PAT was good and the Lions had the lead 7-3. The drive lasted 10 plays over 55 yards for a 6:12 possession time. To Joey’s credit, always the team guy, he ran on the field clapping for Garcia. It was genuine, but it also demonstrated that although his play has not been appreciated, his character and team attitude have been.

The special teams did not let the excitement last however, as they let former Kent State QB Josh Cribbs score on the kickoff return. The PAT was good and the score now was Browns 10 the Lions 7. Garcia and his Lions began the next drive at their own 23.

The Lions had a decent drive, but once again got conservative on play calling. With a 3rd and 9 they went for 7? Once again, Mooch’s conservative offensive style cost the Lions as they had to punt on a 4th and 3 from the Brown 38 with 2 minutes remaining. The Browns now had a 1st and 10 at their own 24. 

The Browns were unable to score, and Dilfer was intercepted by R.W. McQuarters with 57 seconds left at the Browns 48. Mooch and his staff demonstrated that they had absolutely no clue what they were doing. They completely bungled the clock management and Millen should fine them for the complete incompetence of that performance. However, the 2nd quarter ended with the score being Detroit 7 and the Browns 10.

The Browns began the first drive of the 2nd half at their own 30 against a very stingy Detroit defense that had only given up 117 yards in the first half. Richardson shanked his punt and the Lions took possession of the ball at their own 42.

Garcia and the Lions now faced their first series of the second half, looking to build on the slight momentum of the first half. The Lions lined up in a power I 2-receiver set and immediately tried to establish the run with Jones who had gotten 47 yards in the first half. Garcia exercised the precision of this offense that Joey was unable to. Yes, he did throw to a check down receiver, but only as a last resort not a first. He was able to make an audible and work the system to the best of his ability when the staff let him. The Lions found themselves with a critical 3rd and 6 on their own 29. Garcia couldn’t find anyone open, but was able to avoid a sack and an interception, something his predecessor was unable to avoid. In came Hanson and the field goal was good from 47 yards. So with 9:29 left in the 3rd quarter, the Lions and the Browns were tied at 10. 

The Browns began their next drive against the tough Lions defense at their own 24 after a ferocious hit on Cribbs. The Browns were defenseless against the strict Lions defense. Even with Shaun Rogers out for the game with an injured knee, Shaun Cody and Marcus Bell filled in well. After the punt, the Browns felt the boos of the faithful, and the Lions began their next drive at their own 37.

Garcia looked and played energized with each play. He was able to move the Lions down the field but Mike Williams caught a good pass and fumbled it. The Browns took possession at the Lions 48.

Dilfer led the Browns on a decent series but Jared DeVries sacked him on a crucial 3rd down for his second sack of the season, and the great Lions defense rose once again to the occasion. The punt was a touch back and the Lions had the ball at the 20 and the Brown were once again greeted with a chorus of boos from their fans. 

The Lions had a crucial 3rd and 5 (they were 1 for 7 all day at that point) at their 3. Garcia hit Scottie Vines for the 1st to keep the drive alive. On the ensuing 2nd down, the Lions needed 10, and again continued the questionable play calling, sending the ball up the middle. On another crucial 3rd and 6, Garcia scrambled and hit Bryson for a great shuffle pass and a 1st down. The 3rd quarter ended with the score tied at 10, and the Lions driving at the Browns 39 with a 2nd and 9. Facing a 4th and 2 at the Browns 32 brought Hanson back for a 50-yard field goal. It was good. So with 14:07 left in the 4th quarter, the Lions had the lead 13-10 and had already accumulated more net offensive yards than at any time all year.

Dilfer and the Browns tried to make a 4th quarter come back starting at their 32. They quickly surrendered once again when Andre Goodman intercepted him on 3rd down. The Lions had the ball at their own 40. With 11:10 left in the 4th, the Lions had a 3rd and 15 and ran another dumb, conservative run up the gut. Facing 4th and 9 at their own 41, they punted. The Lions were 3 for 11 on 3rd down at this point. The Browns got the ball at their own 30.

The anemic Browns offense needed to put something together as the clock was quickly becoming their enemy. They couldn’t, and the Lions were able to win a critical road game in the NFL. This win brought the Lions to a 3-3 record for the season, unacceptable, but also the lead in the NFC North.

Grades:

Defense: A
Offense: C can get better
Special Teams: B
Coaching: B a road win in the NFL and the balls to make the QB change at Cleveland ! Stones!