The Browns came into Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions with a top-10 rated defense, and more quarterback sacks than 30 other NFL teams. They ranked fourth in yards-per-game allowed and ninth in points allowed, and they were well on their way to padding those numbers heading into the locker room for halftime.
In the first half Detroit was just 2-for-7 in third-down conversions. They had 109 yards of total offense. For comparison sake, the Browns had 115 rushing yards alone. Detroit’s running backs were held to a 2.4 yards-per-carry average and Matthew Stafford had completed less than half his pass attempts. A single touchdown was all the Lions had on the board.
Three times in the first half the Lions went three-and-out. A fourth drive manged a single first down before another punt. In all they punted five times.
Which makes what happened in the second half that much harder to swallow.
After halftime ended, the Lions never punted. They scored three touchdowns and a field goal, and had a ball intercepted in the end zone.
Their big weapon in that second half was running back Reggie Bush. The former USC Trojan had 10 carries for 64 yards rushing and caught five passes for 57 yards and a touchdown, all after the second quarter. The player who he seemed to beat for the majority of those yards was inside linebacker Craig Robertson.
“We pride ourselves on the defensive side of the ball. So, to give up that many rushing yards, of course, that is a shot, it hurts us,” said Robertson. “I felt like it was my fault on a lot of the plays. I mean, letting Reggie Bush out like that. I had him, and he got out sometimes, but I own up to it, and I have to keep battling.”
It was more than just Bush that got the best of Robertson. Rookie tight end Joseph Fauria beat Robertson for a 23-yard touchdown catch. Fauria had three catches on the day, which all went for touchdowns.
To pin the loss completely on Robertson would be unfair however. Outside linebacker Paul Kruger was disappointed in himself for not getting more pressure on Stafford.
“I personally, and the other guys, we have to get to [the quarterback] more,” Kruger admitted. “That’s something I’m focusing on: I have to get home, I have to get those sacks. I thought we had a great gameplan, we just came out slow after halftime.”
WFNY asked Kruger about that pressure and what the Lions did differently in the second half.
“They changed a little bit, just doing some things to get 21 (Reggie Bush) the ball, but it was nothing that we couldn’t defend,” said Kruger. “It was just a matter of us making the plays we had to make. They didn’t throw anything at us that we couldn’t handle. It was a frustrating game. Credit to them for winning the game. I don’t feel like they’re a better team than us. We just kind of shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times.”
This was a sentiment echoed by the Browns’ defensive captain D’Qwell Jackson.
“We had a 17-7 lead at half, it was all on us,” Jackson said, taking the onus for the loss on the defense. “We’re a much better team than that, than we showed today. We have to be ready to finish a game. I’m quite confident that every guy in this locker room will come back with a sense of urgency tomorrow and Wednesday to get back to the gameplan.”
Going through the locker room, one-by-one, the defensive players were all stepping up to take the blame for this one. Even when asked about the lack of offense in the second half.
“We just know that we have to hold our weight up on defense,” said defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin. “If they can’t convert or get points on the board, the pressure is on us to stop them. We put it all on our backs and we’re going to come out this week and make some adjustments to get ready for Green Bay.”
The Browns’ defense could get a shot in the arm next week in Green Bay if Jabaal Sheard is finally able to play. Sheard went through a pregame warm-up but was held out for the third straight game.