King: The Turning Point

Among many twists and turns, Steve King identifies the play that defined the Browns loss in Detroit. What precise moment was the turning point?

DETROIT – When a team has the ability to close out a game, then it has to do it.

And when the team doesn't do it, it's bad news.

Welcome to the Browns' world.

Indeed, welcome to a 38-37 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field that should not have happened in any way, shape or form.

The Browns seemingly had the game won, leading 37-31 at the two-minute warning and facing a third-and-5 situation at the Cleveland 42. The Lions were out of timeouts, so they couldn't stop the clock.

If the Browns could just get a first down, then the game was over. They could run out the clock.

Even if they didn't get that first down, though, they could still milk a lot of time off the clock by running the ball.

But they decided instead to pass the ball to get the first down. If they had completed it for five yards or more, then it would have been the ballgame and the 43,170 in attendance, most of them Lions fans, would have headed to the exits and began planning for the big annual Thanksgiving Day parade held about two miles away.

But if the pass fell incomplete, then the clock would stop, which is exactly what the Lions wanted. It would be the best of both worlds -- no first down and the clock being killed, saving those precious seconds, which was Detroit's best friend at that point.

Browns quarterback Brady Quinn tried to go to rookie wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi on the left side, but he got pressure up the middle and had to hurry the throw, missing badly. The Browns, as mentioned, needed five yards, and they got it in a sense because the pass was five yards off target.

Reggie Hodges punted 47 yards to the Detroit 11, and former Brown Dennis Northcutt was smothered for just a one-yard gain on the return.

The Lions had no way to stop the clock, and they needed to go 88 yards in 1:46 to score a TD, which, coupled with a Jason Hanson extra point, would have won the game by a point. They had little chance of success, but at least they had a chance.

That chance got enhanced – greatly – when the Browns went into the vaunted prevent defense. Ten plays later, they looked up and it had prevented them from winning as rookie Matthew Stafford, bum left shoulder and all, gutted his way to throwing a one-yard dart to another rookie, tight end Brandon Pettigrew, on an untimed play after the clock had run out. Hanson then booted the game-winner.

The Browns for a long time will lament the play before that, when nickel back Hank Poteat, for some unknown reason, clubbed Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson to the ground at the back of the end zone on a Hail Mary pass and was called for interference, giving Detroit the ball at the 1.

But if they had converted that third-and-5, and/or just used more time while running the ball and letting the clock run, then that last play never would have happened.

The Browns almost won. It was just that their execution – and maybe even their decision-making process -- on the biggest play of the game was, you might say, incomplete and untimely.


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