Notes from Ford Field: Defensive Regression

For every step the Browns offense took forward, the defense took one back. Steve King talks to the players about what happened to a defense that had been making progress...

DETROIT – For losing teams, it's like plugging a dam.

You just get one leak stopped, and another one pops up.

It doesn't really matter that the water is now coming through one crack and not another. The bottom line is the same – the thing isn't fixed.

And so it is for the Browns.

After resuscitating their given-up-for-dead offense, their defense, which had been sturdy for the most part in recent weeks, sprung a leak – actually, a lot of leaks – in a 38-37 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field.

"This was our fault," Browns linebacker David Bowens said of the defense. "If you're going to blame someone, blame me.

"Our offense did a great job today, so this loss is on us (the defense)."

The Browns allowed the Lions roll up 473 total yards, including 416 through the air as rookie Matt Stafford looked like Lions Pro Football Hall of Famer Bobby Layne, completing 26-of-43 passes for 422 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions for a 112.7 quarterback rating. Included in those scores was the game-winner, a one-yarder to rookie tight end Brandon Pettigrew on an untimed play after time had run out. Stafford led the Lions 80 yards in 12 plays in the final 1:46 for the score – when they had no timeouts.

"It doesn't surprise me," said Browns rookie wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, who played with Stafford at Georgia. "I saw him make a lot of plays like that in college."

Massaquoi's teammate, cornerback Eric Wright, would respectfully disagree, though.

"We gave him (Stafford) a lot of easy stuff," he said. "We didn't do our job. We made him look like Peyton Manning.

"It wasn't like Calvin Johnson was leaping over guys to make plays, which he can do. We just gave them easy plays. We can't take a step back like that on our side of the ball.

"We're way better than that. We're way better than that."

The defense let down when it counted the most. We're not talking about just that final drive, but more specifically the final timed play when nickel back Hank Poteat was called for pass interference on Stafford's 32-yard Hail Mary pass into the end zone for wide receiver Calvin Johnson. That gave the Lions the ball at the 1, and they scored on the next play.

Poteat didn't just hit Johnson. He flattened him. He mugged him. Do that on the street and you get five to 10 years.

There was really no question. Two officials saw it and threw their flags at the same time

"It was interference, and it was rightly called," Johnson said.

Explained Poteat, "I tried to force him out of bounds. When the quarterback is out of the pocket, like Stafford was, you can do that."

Maybe, but not when the ball is in the air. That's pass interference.

However you want to exp[lain it and whatever you want to call it, it ruined what would have a winning performance on defense, if not a very good one.

Said Bowens, "Everything was great except for that last play."

When the Browns' chances for a win – which would have been just their second of the year against eight losses -- got watered down.

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