ReFo: Lions @ Browns, Week 6
It was a tale of two halves for Detroit and Cleveland on Sunday. After 30 minutes the score was 17-7 and the Browns had executed their game plan almost perfectly. Brandon Weeden (-4.2) was throwing in rhythm and pressures were few and far between. On the other hand Matthew Stafford (+3.6) couldn’t get anything going through the air with four dropped balls from his receivers.
That all changed in the second half, however. The pressure increased as Weeden was hurried on 10 drop-backs and converted just one of seven thirds downs through the air. Reggie Bush (+0.6) got going for the Lions and caught five of six balls for 57 yards and a touchdown. Detroit scored 24 unanswered points as the Browns caved in. With the win the Lions stay atop the NFC North at 4-2 and they head home to take on Cincinnati next week. The loss takes Cleveland to 3-3 and they’ll go on the road to take on Green Bay next Sunday.
Detroit — Three Performances of Note
Still Not 100%
With a minor knee injury finally healing up, Calvin Johnson (-1.9) was cleared to play on Sunday. That doesn’t mean he was fully healthy, though, and his performance certainly suggested that he wasn’t. Johnson played just 39 of a possible 76 snaps while he had come out only four total snaps in weeks 1-4. He was targeted seven times (twice over 10 yards down the field), but dropped two of the passes and could have come down with the other two. It was a very un-Megatron performance and hopefully it didn’t jeopardize his health moving forward.
You’d be hard pressed to find a linebacker make as pretty an interception as DeAndre Levy (+1.9) made midway through the second quarter. Levy mirrored Chris Ogbonnaya step for step on a wheel route up the right sideline before going airborne to snag the pass high out of the air. If you took the numbers off the jersey and just watched the catch, you would swear Levy was a wide receiver the way he high-pointed the throw. It was that same speed an athleticism that Levy used later in the game to bait Weeden into thinking that he could dump the ball off to the flat. Despite his deficiencies against the run, Levy has been outstanding against the pass all season. He has allowed 19-29 targets for 191 yards to go along with four interceptions, two passes defended, and a coverage grade of +7.6.
Big Joe Fauria
Three catches, three touchdowns. It doesn’t get much better than that for Joe Fauria (+3.3). The 6-foot-7 rookie played his greatest number of snaps all season (24) and he did not disappoint. The tight end showed better form in his run blocking (+0.5 grade) than I was expecting based on his reputation coming out of UCLA. What really stood out, though, was how tough his catches were. All three of them were contested at the point of catch, but Fauria was athletic enough to get his body in a perfect position and showed strong enough hands to hang on all the way to the ground. With five touchdowns already on the year it looks like the Lions have found the redzone threat opposite Megatron that Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler never quite developed into.
Cleveland — Three Performances of Note
Soft up the Middle
The biggest difference between the first half and the second half for Cleveland’s defense was the play of their middle linebackers. Craig Robertson (-4.0) couldn’t guard the tight ends through the air while D’Qwell Jackson (-2.6) couldn’t get off them on the ground. Robertson was single-handedly responsible for Detroit’s go ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter. First he missed an easy tackle on Pettigrew that ceded a first down on 3rd-and-7. Then on the very next play he let Fauria gain too much ground over the top of him and allowed an easy back-shoulder 23-yard touchdown pass. For the day Robertson yielded 8-10 targets for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Along with Jackson’s 27 yards allowed the two inside linebackers gave up over half of Detroit’s passing yards.
Where’s the Pass Rush
When you dedicate $74.5m and the sixth overall pick in the draft to pass rushers, it builds up high expectations. So far those expectations have been far from reality for Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo. On Sunday, Kruger and Mingo combined for four pressures in 63 snaps for a pass rushing grade of -3.8. The Browns as a whole were able to sack Stafford once for no yards. The defensive line was rarely successful in collapsing the pocket so that even when there was pressure Stafford had an easy escape. The Browns only had two plays where multiple defenders registered a pressure.
Feeling the Heat
Brandon Weeden’s improv skills on Sunday were some of the worst you’ll ever see at the quarterback position. On almost every single occasion where the play broke down and Weeden was asked to make something out of nothing, the results were disastrous. The intentional grounding penalty, the under-handed interception, and the sack/fumble at the end of the game were all glaring examples, but his inability to create on his own didn’t end there. On plays where Weeden took longer than 3 seconds to pass, he threw just two positively graded passes compared to six negatively graded passes. He faced pressure 15 dropbacks and went 3-12 for 23 yards and two picks for a PFF grade of -7.2.
– T.J. Ward (+0.1) could have had a monster game if he just finished all his tackles. The safety was all over the place with 10 tackles, three assists, and an incredible five missed tackles on the day.
– Jordan Cameron (-3.3) had his first negatively-graded game of the season. Two penalties and some poor run and pass blocking did him in.
– Mikel LeShoure (-0.4) played his first two snaps of the season and carried the ball twice for nine yards.
PFF Game Ball
DeAndre Levy made some huge plays, but he played far from a complete game. Joe Fauria, on the other hand, graded positively both through the air and on the ground and his three touchdowns make him worthy of this game ball.
Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner