Commitment to the run: The Browns came out determined to establish the run, and largely succeeded. Paying attention either to criticism or statistics, the Browns realized that their strength is on the ground. The results showed in the box score, as Reuben Droughns rolled to 67 yards in his first eight carries, and finished with 100 yards for the game. It should be noted that the Browns were ineffective running in the second half, as the team's inept passing game allowed the Lions to load up within ten yards of the line of scrimmage and stop the run.
Cribbs-show: Joshua Cribbs showed the pure athleticism that got so many Browns fans excited earlier this year after Bernie's Insiders reported on his signing last April. Blasting upfield for 90 yards in twelve seconds, Cribbs put his stamp on the Browns kick return job, and didn't give his blockers time to create the return-nullifying penalty.
Chasing and Charging: It was tough to notice amidst a Browns defense that failed to make many big plays, but outside linebacker Chaun Thompson had a fairly good day. We've maintained for a while that Thompson's destiny is as a dedicated pass rusher, and he showed that potential at several points today. Also of note were Matt Stewart ripping the ball out of Mike Williams' hands to force a fumble, and two critical tackles by safety Brian Russell.
Pressure Yields Little: The Lions have been susceptible to the blitz all year long, but the Browns weren't able to take advantage via sacking Garcia. While the Lions new QB was often confused and was forced to roll out frequently, the Browns weren't able to put Garcia on the ground. This inability led to one of the Lions' biggest plays of the game, a 49-yard pass from a scrambling Garcia to big WR Mike Williams. It also allowed Garcia to get the Lions out of a difficult situation on his own three-yard line.
Unreliable Richardson: It was fairly predictable that the Browns punting game would suffer after the team let steady punter Chris Gardocki go after the 2003 season. It had looked like Phil Savage had saved the team's punting situation with the off-season signing of Kyle Richardson. Richardson, however, has not been the reliable presence the Browns might have wanted this year. Prone to shanking the ball (particularly early in the game), Richardson was at his worst against the Lions. A shank on his second punt, sandwiched in between two unimpressive kicks, left Richardson with a 28.3 punting average after his first three punts.
Too Much Time for the Defense: Due primarily to ineffectiveness in the passing game, the Browns have placed too much of a burden on the team's defense. Todd Grantham's unit has played far more effectively than the team's more experienced offense, but is being asked to stay on the field far too long. The Lions held onto the ball for over 37 minutes, creating a time of possession differential of fifteen minutes – roughly one quarter of the football game.
Northcutt Goes South: On a day when a punt return would have stood had he gone the distance, Dennis Northcutt had to have made some observers scratch their heads with a questionable decision on a first-half punt. Standing at the seven yard line, Northcutt signaled for a fair catch on a returnable ball. Of the three options Northcutt had available: returning the kick, fair catching the ball, or allowing it to bounce past him, the Browns talented returner selected the worst option by far.
Shades of Spergon: It's somewhat ironic that the Browns were facing Jeff Garcia today, as the ex-Browns QB once managed to get a zero passing rating for the Browns in 2004. Garcia's replacement, Trent Dilfer, did his best to match Garcia's feat. Dilfer was once again stunningly ineffective, particularly when passing the ball more than 15 yards. A tendency to hold onto the ball too long, and inaccuracy beyond 15 yards downfield are the major culprits. With the Browns unable to stretch the field or maintain a credible long-ball threat, it becomes much easier for teams to load up inside of ten yards of the line of scrimmage and limit the damage that the Browns running attack can do. While the fans aren't chanting for Charlie Frye yet, one won't be able to easily dismiss fans or media commentators for asking for a change.
Anyone Study Garcia? Before the Lions fourth down play on the Browns goal line, anyone who had seen much of Jeff Garcia had to be thinking about the possibility of a naked bootleg play. The Browns, however, completely bought into Garcia's fake handoff to Kevin Jones. With no one in to shadow Garcia, the Lions QB simply hid the ball behind his hip and ran unhindered into the Browns end zone. The question in the Bernie's Insiders chat room was certainly on the minds of many Browns fans: "If we knew that was coming, why didn't the Browns?".
Third Down Futility: Again due primarily to weakness in the passing game, the Browns were unable to keep the Lions defense on the field in third-down situations. The Browns were 0-for-8 on third downs today - a horrible statistic against a mediocre defense that should have the Browns coaching staff asking themselves some very hard questions.
No Clutch Catch: With the Browns needing a first down with slightly over seven minutes remaining in the game, Dilfer managed to drill a pass into the waiting arms of Antonio Bryant. For reasons inexplicable to any observer, the ball bounced out of Bryants hands and the team was forced to punt. Bryant finished with one reception on the day, but will rarely get a bigger opportunity to make a difference in a game.