- A few times during Sunday's Browns-Lions game, it appeared that winless Cleveland might actually have a chance at getting their first win of the season. But in typical Browns' fashion, one thing led to another, and the win slipped away from Cleveland.
You’re a Browns fan on Sunday and your team, sitting at 0–8, has not won a game in 323 days. And yet … this road game with the Lions is surprisingly tight during the first quarter. Deshone Kizer is making strides. The remade offensive line is pushing the Lions’ highly regarded run defense around. Cleveland has scored on its first two possessions.
Unfortunately, the early success merely activated some time-released curse at the 4:10 mark of the second quarter with the score tied at 10. When the spiral begins, it feels familiar. You will gloss over it the next morning as simply another loss. But consider all of the cosmic forces at play over this three-part breakdown, inevitably leading to a 38–24 Lions win.
4:10, second quarter: Browns tight end Seth DeValve, a 2016 fourth-round pick with no career fumbles over 20 games, runs an out route to the Cleveland sideline and catches a well-timed laser from Kizer. As DeValve turns up field, Lions corner Nevin Lawson is bulled over but keeps his right arm on the ball long enough to jar it from DeValve’s right hand. The ball takes one bounce on the turf, back to a rising Lawson who rumbles 44 yards for the score untouched. The score is now 17-10, Lions.
0:32, second quarter: With no timeouts remaining, Kizer eyes an opening in the pocket and darts through the center of Detroit’s defense, lowering his shoulder into cornerback Quandre Diggs just beyond the end zone. The ball is being placed just outside the two-yard line and Kizer gets the Browns lined up quick enough to spike the football. Detroit does them a massive favor and calls a timeout instead because one of their players is still offsides from the previous run. On the next play, the Browns line up with five wide receivers. An end zone fade to rookie tight end David Njokou is caught out of bounds. Now with 15 seconds remaining, Cleveland lines up in an offset I formation, strong to the right side. Kizer, still more than two full yards away from the end zone, takes the snap and lunges forward in a full on quarterback sneak attempt. He’s wrapped up by five Lions defenders immediately who hold on to him as long as possible. The referee re-spots the ball with two seconds remaining, and the half ends.
Running back Duke Johnson pulls his helmet off at the 10-yard line and spikes it with both hands, drawing a penalty that won’t be enforced until the start of the second half. Head coach Hue Jackson flails his play card in one hand and, with the other, rips his headset off. It appears he’s yelling “F--- me” on the sideline.
0:11, third quarter: The Browns bounce back like you have not seen all season. The first drive of the second half starts at Cleveland’s own 15-yard line, lasts nearly four minutes and culminates in an Isaiah Crowell touchdown. They hold the Lions on the next drive and score again. This time, a 10-play, six-minute drive ends with almost the same quarterback sneak the team botched at the half. The Browns go up seven and, despite giving up a quick touchdown to Detroit on the following possession, seem fit to go score for score. That is, until…
Kizer takes a snap on second-and-11, and Njoku completely misses a beautifully hidden cornerback blitz from Diggs, who hits Kizer at full speed square in the ribs while Kizer is attempting a pass. The quarterback lays on his back and, in an attempt to get up, winces and rolls back over on his stomach. He heads to the locker room. Backup Cody Kessler comes off the bench and is sacked for a loss of two yards. In total, he completes one of three passes, including an overthrow to a wide open Bryce Treggs streaking down the sideline. By the time Kizer bravely returns (he is still noticeably uncomfortable throwing on the sideline before re-entering the game), the Lions have scored 14 unanswered points and there is only 4:28 remaining.
It’s not long enough for a comeback, but it could have provided just enough time for you, Browns fan, to contemplate how exactly this happened.