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'Minitrons' lift Lions to victory

Posted Oct 13, 2013

The Detroit Lions relied on more than just wide receiver Calvin Johnson in their 31-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns Sunday.

It wasn’t “Megatron” who beat the Browns on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

Instead, it was two "Minitrons" who did the trick for the Detroit Lions.

One was tight end Jeff Fauria. An undrafted rookie who just had four receptions coming into the game, he caught three touchdown passes.

Then there was outside linebacker DeAndre Levy. Overshadowed on defense by big names such as Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Ezekiel Ansah, he had two interceptions, including one with 4:36 remaining that set up Detroit’s insurance touchdown.

Even though “Megatron” -- wide receiver Calvin Johnson -- was limited with a knee problem, being held to just three receptions for 25 yards, the contributions of Fauria and Levy, plus a big second half, were more than enough to allow the Lions to roar to a 31-17 win.

The 6-foot-7 Fauria now has seven catches on the year, five of which have gone for touchdowns. His scores Sunday came from close range (a one-yarder), fairly close range (10-yarder) and longer range (23-yarder). On two of them, he was able to use his height – and his background in basketball and volleyball -- to go up and get the ball. On the other one, he used his big frame to shield the defender frrom the ball.

“First of all, Jeff is tall,” said Lions head coach Jim Schwartz, who served as a scout on Bill Belichick’s Browns staff from 1993-95. “And he has really strong hands.”

But there’s more to it than that, according to Fauria.

“I’ve got a quarterback (Matthew Stafford) who can get the ball to me,” he said. “Being a rookie and young, I’ve had to work my way up and earn the trust of Matt. That’s why it worked like they did today.

“Also, when the other guys are making plays, that opens things up for me.”

His teammates were indeed making plays, especially in the second half as the Lions erased a 17-7 halftime deficit by scoring 24 unanswered points.

“In the first half, we were not playing our best,” Schwartz said. “In the second half, we hit on all cylinders – offense, defense ad special teams.”

Wide receiver Kris Durham led the way with a game-high eight receptions for 83 yards. Running back Reggie Bush contributed five receptions for 57 yards and a touchdown, plus a game-best 87 yards rushing. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew added four grabs for 36 yards.

And as for Johnson, forget his smallish numbers. His mere presence as he returned to the lineup after missing last Sunday’s 22-9 loss to the Green Bay Packers, made a big difference in the offense.

“Calvin had a lot to do with Jeff’s touchdowns because of the attention he was getting,” Schwartz said.

Add it all togerher and it allowed Stafford, who completed 25 of 43 passes for 248 yards and four touchdowns with one interception, to have another big day as he continues to chase Pro Football Hall of Famer Bobby Layne’s team record of 118 career touchdown passes. He now has 92.

But it might have been Stafford’s actions after a scramble early in the third quarter that had as much to do with the win as anything. With the Lions struggling, trailing, 17-7, and facing a third-and-six situation from the Detroit 25, he ran seven yards for a first down and then spiked the ball and screamed at his teammates.

“I was trying to get the guys going,” Stafford said. “It was time for us to go.”

And away the Lions went. They scored on the possession and never looked back.

As the game wound down, Levy made sure the Browns didn’t catch up. With the Lions leading, 24-17, with under five minutes left and the Browns on the move after getting a first down at the Detroit 44, Levy made a leaping interception in front of his bench as quarterback Brandon Weeden tried to flip the ball out of bounds to avoid being sacked.

Seven plays later, the Lions had another score – and the win -- on Stafford’s 10-yard pass to Fauria.

In the second quarter, Levy snuffed out a Browns drive with an interception at the Detroit 17.

Levy now has a team-leading four interceptions.

“DeAndre is a good player who has always had an eye for the ball,” Schwartz said. “But now he’s also an experienced player.”