CLEVELAND — It was not a good performance. In fact, it may have been one of their worst of the year.
But when you're .500 and looking for any signs of hope, you can't picky.
The Browns overcame sloppy play on all fronts Sunday to survive the winless Detroit Lions 13-10. Despite turnovers, penalties, and even loud boos from the FirstEnergy Stadium crowd, Cleveland improved to 6-5 and is still firmly in the AFC playoff race.
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If there was a bright spot from this ugly affair, it was Nick Chubb, who returned from a COVID-19 diagnosis to tally 144 total yards and a receiving touchdown. That score gave the Browns a 13-0 halftime lead, and it appeared they would cruise to an easy win.
That changed late in the third quarter, when the Lions' De'Andre Swift broke free for a 57-yard score to cut the lead to six. Early in the fourth, Baker Mayfield threw his second interception of the afternoon, leading to a field goal that made it 13-10 with just over nine minutes left.
Clearly playing hurt, Mayfield struggled all afternoon, going just 15-of-29 for 176 yards and a TD to go with those two picks. In addition, his passer rating of 53.2 was his worst of the season, and he and the offense were booed multiple times by the home crowd.
Luckily for Cleveland, Detroit's quarterback play was even worse, as normal starter Jared Goff was injured and replaced by Tim Boyle. The 27-year-old had only 77 yards and a pair of interceptions of his own, and could not take advantage of multiple late opportunities to take the lead.
His last opportunity turned out to come with minutes to play, and he did hit T.J. Hockenson on a 24-yard catch-and-run to get to the Lions 40. But the Browns' defense held and forced a punt, despite Detroit having all three of its timeouts left, Chubb tallied 36 yards on five carries to burn the remaining 2:29 and clinch the victory.
With their first win over the Lions since 2001, the Browns could potentially move up to third in the AFC North standings if the Cincinnati Bengals lose to the Las Vegas Raiders later Sunday. From here on out, Cleveland's schedule will get a lot tougher, starting with a road showdown next week on NBC's "Sunday Night Football" against the first-place Baltimore Ravens.
What follows is a comprehensive, drive-by-drive recap of today's action, with the most recent plays and updates closest to the top. Stay tuned for analysis throughout the afternoon on both 3News and WKYC.com.
0:00: With 36 yards on five tough carries, Nick Chubb puts the Browns on his back to seal an ugly but much-needed win.
2:29: Despite an early T.J. Hockenson reception for a big gain, the Browns are able to contain Detroit's runs and screens to force another Jack Fox punt. It sails into the end zone, and Cleveland will have a chance to burn more time.
5:16: The Browns manage to burn a little bit of clock, but Baker Mayfield continues to struggle and misses David Njoku on a third-and-8. Jamie Gillan punts it to the Lions 16.
9:07 - Browns 13, Lions 10: Luckily, the Browns' defensive line is able to stop De'Andre Swift on third-and-short, and the Lions settle for a 43-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas.
11:06: A Wyatt Teller penalty wipes out a long Nick Chubb run, and two plays later a clearly hobbled Baker Mayfield is picked off again, this time by A.J. Parker on a tipped ball. The Lions have the ball at the Browns 34 down six points.
12:54: After a De'Andre Swift penalty appeared to put the Lions in Cleveland territory, but an unsportsmanlike conduct flag against guard Jonah Jackson makes it first-and-25 at their own 43. Three plays later, Jack Fox punts, and the Browns get the ball back at their own 15.
Some bad news, however: Jarvis Landry has suffered a knee injury and is questionable to return.
1:15: The Browns follow up Detroit's score with three Baker Mayfield incompletions, and Jamie Gillan again as to punt. Kalif Raymond returns the kick 22 yards, and the Lions will start at their own 40 with a chance to take the lead.
1:55 - Browns 13, Lions 7: Just like that, the Lions are back in it, as D'Andre Swift finds a hole and sprints 57 yards for a touchdown.
4:19: A holding penalty knocks the Browns out of possible field goal or "go for it" range, and on third-and-11 Baker Mayfield is sacked back at his own 40. Jamie Gillan boots another short punt, and Detroit takes over at its own 22.
7:26: Just two plays into the drive, Tim Boyle attempts to go deep, but Denzel Ward snatches the pass away from Josh Reynolds. The Nordonia alum's second interception of the year gives the Browns the ball right back at their own 20.
8:15: The Browns are able to move the ball, but a holding penalty wipes out what would've been a first-down pass on third-and-long. It helps lead to a Jamie Gillan punt, which travels just 33 yards to the Detroit 26.
12:40: Tim Boyle continues to struggle as the Lions have to punt again. Jack Fox's kick goes into the end zone, and the Browns will start at their own 20.
0:00: The Lions are able to drive into Browns territory, but the clock runs out after T.J. Hockenson is tackled in bounds at the 40-yard line, and we head into halftime.
1:10 - Browns 13, Lions 0: Detroit aids the Browns with several penalties on third and fourth downs, and Baker Mayfield caps the drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Nick Chubb. However, Chase McLaughlin's extra point attempt is blocked, his second missed kick of the day.
8:15: Despite a Browns offsides, the Lions go three-and-out again thanks to a stout performance by the Cleveland defensive line. Demetric Felton returns Jack Fox's punt to his own 24.
10:09: A promising Browns drive stalls out at the Lions 28, and Chase McLaughlin subsequently pushes a 46-yard field goal attempt wide right. Detroit gets it back hoping to tie the game.
13:55: The Lions go three-and-out, leading to another Jack Fox punt. Demetric Felton muffs the kick, but manages to recover at the Browns 35.
14:52 - Browns 7, Lions 0: Nick Chubb and the tight ends help lead the Browns deep into Lions territory, but then a called wildcat pass from Jarvis Landry appears to go awry. Fortunately, "Juice" decided to use his legs, hitting the hole and running it in for a 16-yard touchdown.
4:46: The Lions get into field-goal range, but Tim Boyle throws it behind D'Andre Swift and gets intercepted by Malcolm Smith. After the Browns return the favor, they'll take over at their own 15.
8:08: Baker Mayfield air-mails a wide-open Jarvis Landry, and is pass is picked off by Amani Oruwariye, and after a penalty on the return, the Lions take over at midfield.
8:19: Unlike last week in Foxborough, the Browns' defense is able to get off the field on third down, with Greedy Williams breaking up a pass before Anthony Walker stuffs a draw play. Jack Fox punts, and pins Cleveland at their own 13.
12:08: The Browns cross midfield with two quick first downs and appear to pick up a third, but Austin Hooper drops the ball. Baker Mayfield throws it away on third down, forcing a Jamie Gillan punt that puts the Lions at their own 19-yard line.
12:30 p.m.: Although Nick Chubb and Demetric Felton are back, the Browns will be without Donovan Peoples-Jones today, as the second-year receiver reaggravated a groin injury he originally suffered five weeks ago. Cornerback Troy Hill is also out after spraining his neck last Sunday.
Other inactives include:
- WR Anthony Schwartz
- CB A.J. Green
- DE Takkarist McKinley
- DE Ifeadi Odenigbo
- DT Sheldon Day
For the Lions, Tim Boyle will start at quarterback for the injured Jared Goff. Boyle has attempted just four career passes.