Stafford sparks Lions to 31-17 win over Browns
Cleveland • Matthew Stafford's four touchdown passes were impressive. None, though, may have meant as much as the ball he fired into the ground.
With star receiver Calvin Johnson slowed by a knee injury, Stafford spread his passes around and threw three of his TDs in the second half to rally the Detroit Lions to a 31-17 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Down 17-7 at halftime, the Lions (4-2) outscored the Browns 24-0 after halftime to pull out a win that seemed unlikely after the first 30 minutes.
On Detroit's first possession of the third quarter, Stafford scrambled from trouble on a 3rd-and-6 play and picked up seven yards. He popped to his feet after picking up the first down and spiked the ball at his feet, drawing a 5-yard penalty for delay of game.
While out of character, Stafford's outburst ignited the Lions.
"I knew it was going to take something to spark people," Stafford said. "That wasn't false. I was happy to be getting that first down and to be down on the ground safe after a run. I just wanted to get the guys going. It was time to go."
And off the Lions went.
Stafford connected on three touchdown passes with rookie tight end Joseph Fauria, who celebrated each of the scores with familiar flair. On two of the TDS, the 6-foot-7 Fauria broke out some of his awkward, if not comical, dance moves and on the other he dunked the ball over the goal post.
Fauria has seven catches this season, five for TDs. Not bad for an undrafted free agent from UCLA.
"He's tall as heck," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said describing Fauria. "But there are a lot of tall guys that aren't good players."
No one for Detroit stood as tall as Stafford, who completed 25 of 43 passes for 248 yards. In the second half, he went 15 of 21 for 165 yards and made sure he got the ball to Reggie Bush, who finished with 135 total yards.
"Matthew is a tremendous quarterback, football player, guy and teammate," Fauria said. "It's an honor to play with him, help him out and develop that trust."
For the Browns (3-3), the loss stopped a three-game winning streak and raised more questions about their quarterback situation.
Brandon Weeden, back in the starting lineup with Brian Hoyer out for the rest of the year with a torn knee ligament, threw two TD passes. But his ill-advised, backhanded flip in the fourth quarter that was intercepted by Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy ended any chance of a Cleveland comeback.
"Just a bone-headed play," Weeden said.
Here are five more things we learned from the Lions' turnaround victory.
CALVIN HOBBLED: Johnson returned after missing last week's game with a right knee injury but was less than 100 percent.
The man they call "Megatron" had three catches for 25 yards but was slower than normal coming off the line and didn't cut with his usual precision and power. Still, his presence put the Browns' defense on edge and enabled Detroit's other receivers to get open.
"He helped tremendously," Fauria said. "One of the greatest of all time, being lined up next to him is a trip. Having him on top opens things up for guys like me."
SHUTDOWN: The Browns had a season-high 115 yards rushing at halftime.
Cleveland's offensive line pushed Detroit's ferocious front foursome all over the field in the first half. But it was a different story after halftime as the Browns gained just 11 yards on the ground. It didn't help that Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner abandoned the running game, placing more pressure on Weeden.
BUSH PUSH: Almost non-existent in the first half, Bush was a matchup nightmare in the second half for the Browns.
The versatile back picked up 121 total yards in the third and fourth quarters, and it was his 39-yard run in the third on the play after Stafford's scramble and spike that really got the Lions going.
JACKED RABBIT: In his first game after setting Cleveland's team record for punt return yardage, Travis Benjamin got bottled up by the Lions.
Nicknamed "Rabbit," Benjamin was held to minus-10 yards on three punt returns. In Cleveland's Oct. 3 win over Buffalo, Benjamin had a 79-yard TD return and 179 yards, but the Lions did an exquisite job of taking him out of the game.
NO EVIDENCE: The Lions appeared to catch a break when Weeden's long pass on 2nd-and-25 to wide receiver Greg Little down the sideline in the fourth quarter was ruled out of bounds. Browns coach Rob Chudzinski challenged the call, but it was upheld and Cleveland lost a timeout.
"I had a pretty good view of it. I thought he got his second foot down," Chudzinski said. "Obviously, that's why I challenged it, but he didn't. We didn't win the challenge and they didn't reverse it."
AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org