Notes from Ford Field: Offensive Progress

Steve King reports from Detroit, where the Browns offense finally got some traction against the Lions. More on sleeper plays, backs falling out of favor, and high draft picks left on the bench...

By Steve King

DETROIT – In the end, it wasn't enough, but at least it was something.

Something to build on.


The Browns offense did all kinds of good things, playing its best game of the year by far after weeks of titanic struggled. All the group had to show for bit, though, was a stunning 38-37 last-play loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field.

Going into the game, the Browns offense was en route to setting all kinds of records for futility not just for the team, but in the NFL overall. They looked like a different team on Sunday, though.

They were ranked last in the 32-team NFL in scoring, averaging 8.7 points a game. They bettered that by about 27.

They were last as well in total yards per game with an average of 214.3, but got 439.

They were 26th in rushing yards at 98.1, but got 131, with Jamal Lewis leading the way with 75 yards in 24 carries.

They were dead-last in passing yards at 116.2, but got 308. Brady Quinn, making his second straight start at quarterback, had 304 of that on 21-of-33 passing. He threw for four touchdowns – 59 yards to wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, 40 yards to wideout Chansi Stuckey, four yards to wideout Joshua Cribbs and two yards to tight end Michael Gaines with 5:44 left that looked for a long time that it was going to be the game-winner -- and no interceptions for a sizzling 133.1 passer rating.

OK, OK, so it helped more than a little bit that the Browns were going up against the sad-sack Lions defense, ranked No. 31. But when you're like the Browns and struggling to find your way, you don't worry about window dressing – little details – like that.

"It's a process, and we improved today," Quinn said of the offense. "No disrespect to the Lions, but we went in feeling like we could make some plays downfield against this team."

The Browns, who had scored a combined total of 23 points in the four previous games, all losses, exploded out of the gate and had a 24-3 lead with 2:52 left in the first quarter to set a team record for points in the opening quarter. The old mark of 21 was set against the Dallas Cowboys in 1961.

"Yeah, we got ahead early, but we weren't able to make plays when we needed to," Massaquoi said in reference to the fact the offense scored just 11 points the rest of the way (the defense recorded the other two points on a safety).

"Detroit did a good job of stopping us after that."

Stopping the offense and helping stop the Browns from winning, dropping them to 1-9 on the year.


THE BEST: Quinn's 59-yard touchdown pass to Massaquoi is the longest of the quarterback's career and the longest pass play of the year for the Browns. The previous long this season was a 43-yarder from Derek Anderson to Massaquoi.


BETTER WAKE UP, LIONS: The Browns tried the infamous "sleeper" play late in the first half when they lined up for a field goal and direct snapped the ball to right-footed kicker Phil Dawson, who threw left-handed to former Lion Mike Furrey after the wide receiver had slipped in from the sidelines unnoticed and lined up on the right sideline. It was Dawson's first pass in his 11-year career. "We thought it would go for as TD," Browns head coach Eric Mangini. The last time they tried that play was in 1991 at Washington, in Bill Belichick's first year as head coach, when punter Brian Hansen threw 11 yards to wide receiver Webster Slaughter on the right sideline.


MORE ON DAWSON: With his two field goals, from 29 and 44 yards, he now has a career total of 218 and passed Don Cockroft (216) for second place on the team's all-time list behind Lou Groza (234).


OUCH: The 63-yard pass from Matt Stafford to Kevin Smith on the Lions' first play from scrimmage is the longest of the running back's career, and the third-longest pass play for Detroit this year to that point. Also, running back Aaron Brown's 26-yard scoring pass from Stafford was the first TD of any kind in his career, and Stafford's 75-yard TD pass to Calvin Johnson is the Lions' longest play of the year. Stafford had five TD passes on the day, a Lions rookie record. He also set a club rookie mark with 422 passing yards.


OUCH II: Detroit fans roared when former Lions defensive lineman Shaun Rogers was flagged for being offside on two consecutive plays late in the first half.


NO RESPECT: Despite having been the No. 13 overall choice in the 2006 NFL Draft, setting a Browns rookie record for sacks that year and leading the club in sacks this season, the public address announcer in the press box mispronounced outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley's first name all afternoon.


DON'T TUG ON SUPERMAN'S CAPE …: Mangini doesn't like players who speak out. Who knows if it had any bearing on the move, but it sure looks fishy that several days after running back Jerome Harrison made remarks about his stead on the team, he was among the players de-activated before Sunday's game. The move comes after another running back, Lewis, has started losing playing time in favor of CFL refugee Chris Jennings following two sets of critical remarks about the team and how it is being run. In training camp, Mangini got rid of two defensive linemen, Shaun Smith and Louis Leonard, after they had words with one of Mangini's good friends, defensive line coach Bryan Cox. And in the OTAs way back in the spring, Mangini cut rookie defensive back Bryan Williams from the University of Akron after he dogged it on a lap he was ordered to run around the field as punishment for making a mistake during practice.


SAY WHAT?: For the third time this year – and the first since Week 3 at Baltimore – rookie wide receiver Brian Robiskie was among the inactives. Robiskie, taken at the top of the second round of the NFL Draft, at No. 36 overall, has caught just one pass all year, a 23-yarder four games ago at Pittsburgh. The moves comes less than 24 hours after his high school alma mater, Chagrin Falls, advanced to the Division IV semifinals of the state football playoffs with a win over Peninsula Woodridge on Saturday night, and his college alma mater, Ohio State, defeated Michigan about 30 miles away Saturday afternoon to clinch the outright Big Ten championship.


SAY WHAT? II: Another second-round pick in this year's draft, linebacker David Veikune, taken at No. 52, was also made inactive, as was cornerback Coye Francies, selected in the sixth round at No. 191. With all this, you have to wonder why the Browns spent all that time, money and energy to scout players, draft them and sign them, only to have then standing – perfectly healthy – on the sideline in street clothes on Sunday. This team has been headed nowhere fast for a long time. It needs to play its younger players to see what they can do. Playing aging veterans and players picked up off the street in place of draft choices doesn't make any sense at all.


FAMILIAR FACES: Three former Browns – safety Kalvin Pearson, fullback Terrelle Smith and recently-acquired center Melvin Fowler – were among the Lions de-activated.


FAMILIAR FACES II: Inside the press box at Ford Field are photos of the Pro Football Hall players the Lions claim as their own. Among them is center Frank "Gunner" Gatski, who played in 1957 when the club won the NFL championship. Gatski, of course, played his first 11 seasons (1946-56) with the Browns, and the photo of him the Lions use is of his first year in Cleveland. In the frame behind the photo of Gatski is the front page of one of the Detroit newspapers with the headlines of the Lions' 59-14 win over the Browns in the title game that year. Pleaseeee! Gatski is a Browns Hall of Famer, not a Lions Hall of Famer.


FAMILIAR FACES III: There were about 3,000 Browns fans at the game. A good number of them attended a huge Browns Backers event in Detroit on Saturday.


QUOTABLE: "I'm just disappointed, sick, with the way things ended. We had plenty of opportunities to win the game. It's real disappointing for that group of guys in the locker room. It hurts me for them." – Mangini on the loss.

The OBR Top Stories