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Resilient Lions surge past Browns after early struggles

Associated Press • Nov 12, 2017 at 6:33 PM

DETROIT – It wasn't easy, at least not as easy as it you would have hoped given the opponent, but the Detroit Lions' shook up a sluggish start and surged past the winless Clevleland Browns down the stretch for a 38-24 victory at Ford Field on Sunday.

The Browns jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead in the opening quarter thanks to a pair of defensive breakdowns by cornerback Nevin Lawson.

After taking over across midfield on their opening possession, Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer connected with Sammie Coates for a 38-yard completion down the left sideline over Lawson. The Lions managed to tighten up in the red zone following the catch, limiting the visitors to a 23-yard field goal.

The Lions (5-4) coughed it right back over to the Browns (0-9) three plays into their next possession when quarterback Matthew Stafford, feeling heat in the pocket, threw the ball directly to Browns linebacker Jamie Collins.

Three plays later, from Detroit's 19-yard line, Kizer connected with Kenny Britt on a short completion. The receiver danced around a diving tackle attempt by Lawson and cruised into the end zone to extend the lead to 10, following the extra point.

The Lions stopped the bleeding with a pair of big gains on the ground. Ameer Abdullah, running behind returning left tackle Taylor Decker, exploded into the second level untouched for a gain of 20. Two plays later, taking advantage of misdirection created by Jamal Agnew motioning across the formation from right to left, Theo Riddick popped free around the right edge for 21 yards. That set up a 46-yard field goal by Matt Prater.

On the ensuing possession, the Browns threatened again after converting a fourth down near midfield, but the series was derailed by three consecutive penalties.

After a punt pinned the Lions deep in their own territory, the offense put together an impressive 10-play, 90-yard drive to knot it up. Abdullah and Riddick stated things off with a pair of carries netting 29 yards and Golden Tate snagged a low rocket from Stafford in traffic for a 35-yard chunk. Facing third-and-8 in the red zone, Stafford scrambled and dove for the conversion and Abdullah capped the series with an 8-yard scoring run up the middle.

The two teams traded punts, before Lawson got some redemption for his early blunders. On a first-down play, the cornerback came on a blitz and delivered a big hit on Kizer. Then, on second down, stripped a short completion out of the hands of tight end Seth Devalve, scooped it up and returned it 44 yards for the score.

The Browns had an opportunity to tie it up at the half, but after working it down to the 2-yard line, a completed pass on a fade to tight end David Njoku was ruled out of bounds and a Kizer sneak was stuffed as the clock ran out before the Browns could set up to run another play.

Cleveland made up for the missed opportunity coming out of the locker room to start the third quarter, churning out 70 rushing yards on an eight-play, 85-yard touchdown drive. Running back Isaiah Crowell gained 45 yards on four carries on the series, bouncing around the left edge for a six-yard touchdown.

On their next possession, the Browns drove 80 yards on 10 plays for the go-ahead touchdown. Kizer converted an early third-and-8 by scrambling for 20 yards around the right edge, before finding DeValve for 35 yards between layers in the Lions' zone defense to the 1-yard line. Two plays later, Kizer drove it in on a sneak, putting the Browns up, 24-17.

The Lions wasted little time responding, taking four plays to tie it again. A 50-yard completion to rookie receiver Kenny Golladay, playing in his first game since Week 3, put the Lions into the red zone. Two plays later, Stafford found Riddick, uncovered out of the backfield, for an easy 8-yard score.

The Browns' chances to score their first win of the season faded quickly at the end of the third quarter when Kizer was knocked from the game after taking a massive hit from Quandre Diggs, injuring the rookie quarterback's ribs. Replacement Cody Kessler was sacked on his first snap, leading to the Browns punting the ball back to the Lions.

Stafford connected on third-down throws to Tate and running back Dwayne Washington, steering the Lions back into Browns' territory, and on third-and-3 from the 29, Stafford dropped a perfect pass to Eric Ebron down the left sideline for a go-ahead touchdown with 10:52 remaining.

As Cleveland's offense continued to sputter, the Lions finally put the pesky Browns away.

Set up by a 29-yard punt return by Jamal Agnew, Stafford found Tate on a short throw and the receiver weaved through the traffic 40 yards for a touchdown.

Kizer returned on the Browns final possession and drove the Cleveland offense into the red zone in the closing minutes, but the threat was ended when cornerback Darius Slay intercepted a pass in the end zone.

It was Slay's fourth pick of the season.

Stafford finished 17-of-26 for 250 yards, three touchdowns and the early interception. Tate led all receivers with six catches for 97 yards. And Abdullah paced the Lions with 52 yards on 11 carries.

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