WATCH: Browns call on Nick Chubb to deliver a necessary victory over Detroit Lions
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb and left guard Joel Bitonio talk about grinding the ball to give the team a 13-10 win over the Detroit Lions.
George M. Thomas, Akron Beacon Journal
CLEVELAND The Browns prevented their 2021 season from taking a catastrophic turn Sunday by doing what they were supposed to doagainst the Detroit Lions.
However, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski and his men barely got the job done.
With an ugly 13-10 victory over the winless Detroit Lions at FirstEnergy Stadium, the Browns kept their playoff hopes flickering in a season of a great expectations.
Two-time Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb was the undisputed herofor the Browns (6-5) in a game as sloppy as the cold, rainy weather on Cleveland's lakefront.
After sitting out last week with a breakthrough COVID-19 case, Chubb rushed 22 times for 130 yards (5.9 average) and caught two passes on two targets for 14 yards and a touchdown against the Lions (0-9-1).
Browns fans chantedChubb's name on the team'sfinal two possessions, and he eventually iced the game.
After the Browns recorded their final defensive stop, they got the ball back at the Cleveland 20-yard line with 2:29 left to play. They rushed seven times to chew up the clock and allow quarterback Baker Mayfield to take a knee twice in victory formation. Of those seven runs, fivewere by Chubb 3, 4, 11, 15 and 3 yards and two were by backup running back D'Ernest Johnson 5 and 3 yards.
With 1:34 remaining, Chubb's 3-yard run on third-and-2 from the Detroit 39 gave the Browns a game-clinching first down. The Browns improved to16-5 when Chubb rushes for at least 100 yards.
The Browns were crushed 45-7 on the road last week by the New England Patriots. Afterward, All-Pro end Myles Garrett publicly lamented a lack of in-game adjustments, giving rise to questions about whether defensive coordinator Joe Woods still has the trust of the locker room.
Browns being tested:Myles Garrett says no 'rift' between him and Joe Woods, knows defense's unity is being tested
The defense held the Lions scoreless in the first half and produced two takeaways.
Chubb's elite productionand a good defensive performance werenecessary becauseMayfield struggled with his accuracy throughout the game.
Playing through a right knee contusion, a sore left heel and an injured left, non-throwing shoulder, Mayfield limped off the field late in the third quarter. Backup quarterback Case Keenum threw passes on the sideline early in the fourth quarter, but Mayfield stayed in the game and took every snap.
Stefanski's explanation after the game was Mayfield had been medically cleared to return. Mayfield did not provide any insight because he declined to conduct a postgame news conference.
Mayfield went 15-of-29 passing (51.7%) on Sunday for 176 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions for a rating of 53.2. He was coming off another abysmal performance against the Patriots (7-4)in which he passed for a career-low 73 yards.
The Browns snapped a four-game losing streak against the Lions, prevailing in the series for the first time since Sept. 23, 2001.
The Lions are the NFL's only winless team this season. Although they tied the Pittsburgh Steelers 16-16 last week, the Lions have a 14-game winless streak, dating to Dec. 6, 2020.
Quarterback Tim Boyle made his first regular-season NFL start with starter Jared Goff (oblique) inactive.
Entering Sunday, Boyle had completed 3-of-4 career passes for 15 yards in 11 appearances with the Green Bay Packers, who signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2018 out of Eastern Kentucky University.
Against the Browns, Boyle went 15-of-23 passing (65.2%) for 77 yards with two interceptions for a rating of 34.1.
Now the Browns have two monumental AFC North games against the first-place Baltimore Ravens (7-3) coming up. The Brownswill visit the Ravens on Sunday night, rest during their Week 13 bye and then host the Ravens on Dec. 12.
It's a safe bet the Browns must play much better than they did Sunday if they hope to beat the Ravens.
Mayfield's disappointing season can be summarized by these basic statistics: Hehas 10 touchdown passes and six interceptions.
On third-and-10 at the Cleveland 15, Mayfield's pass intended for wide receiver Jarvis Landry was deflected by leaping linebacker Alex Anzalone, and cornerback A.J. Parker dived to intercept the ball at the Cleveland 34 with 11:01 left in the fourth quarter.
The Browns defense stepped up and held the Lions without a first down on the ensuing series, but Aldrick Rosas' successful 43-yard field goal trimmed Detroit's deficit to 13-10 with 9:07 left in the fourth quarter.
In large part because of Chubb's clutch performance, the Browns held on to prevail by the same score.
On first-and-10 from the Detroit 36, Boyle threw deep to receiver Josh Reynolds, but Browns cornerback Denzel Ward applied suffocating coverage to Reynolds, jumped and intercepted the pass at the Cleveland 20 with 7:24 left in the third quarter.
But the Browns failed to capitalize on the takeaway.
When the Lions got the ball back, they drew blood with a four-play, 78-yard scoring drive.
On third-and-8, running back D'Andre Swift broke free for a 57-yard rushing touchdown, allowing the Lions to trim the Browns' lead to 13-7 with 1:55 remaining in the third quarter. Safety Grant Delpit had a shot to tackle Swift, but the defender was frozen in his tracks as Swift ran past him.
The Browns squandered a chance to go ahead 10-0 when kicker Chase McLaughlin missed a 46-yard field goal wide right with 10:09 left in the second quarter at the Dawg Pound end of the stadium.
The defenseresponded with a three-and-out, and the Lions helped the Browns cash in during their next possession.
With 4:08 left in the second quarter, Stefanski decided to go for it on fourth-and-2 from the Lions 49.
Mayfield's pass intended for Landry fell incomplete, but the Lions bailed out the Browns with an illegal use of hands penalty. Cornerback Amani Oruwariye grabbed the face mask of receiver Ja'Marcus Bradley near the line of scrimmage for one of Detroit's three defensive penalties during what became an 11-play, 76-yard drive.
Oruwariye was also flagged for defensive pass interference on third-and-5 from the Detroit 14 while covering receiver Rashard Higgins, the target on an incomplete pass by Mayfield.
On the next play, Mayfield faked a handoff to Chubb and then threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Chubb, who was wide open on the left side of the field. The score gave the Browns a 13-0 advantage with 1:10 left in the second quarter, but McLaughlin's ensuing extra-point kick was blocked by rookie defensive end Levi Onwuzurike. The Browns led by the same score at halftime.
After each team stalled on its first possession, Mayfield and Boyle traded interceptions on back-to-back series.
On first-and-10 from the Cleveland 13, Mayfield had Landry wide open on a play-action pass, but the ball sailed high, over the head of the intended receiver and into the hands of Oruwariye, who returned the interception 10 yards with 8:08 remaining in the first quarter.
Then on third-and-12 from the Cleveland 23, Boyle threw behind Swift, and linebacker Malcolm Smith made a juggling interception and returned it 1 yard to the Cleveland 16 with 4:46 left in the first quarter.
The Browns took advantage of Smith's interception of an errant Boyle pass by producing an eight-play, 84-yard scoring drive.
Some much-needed creativity did the trick, too.
On first-and-10, Mayfield split out wide as a receiver, and Landry moved behind center. Landry took a shotgun snap, scanned the field and rushed up the middle for a 16-yard touchdown. The trick play allowed the Browns to seize a 7-0 lead with 14:52 left in the second quarter.
Like Mayfield, Landry has been pushing through pain. Landry has been playing with an injured left knee, and he was in and out of the game in the second half after experiencing another issue with it.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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