- The Browns nearly ran away with a victory Sunday because of the best performance, by far, from a rushing attack that entered the season with high hopes.
Cleveland rode its two running backs and DeShone Kizer to 201 rushing yards in Sunday's 38-24 loss to the Lions. The bulk of the production came in the third quarter, when the Browns rattled off back-to-back touchdowns thanks to a running attack that was picking up double-digit yardage more often than not.
"In the second quarter, we knew we could run the ball," running back Duke Johnson Jr. said. "We started off running well. We just didn't get away from it. This was one of the first times all year we were able to stay with it and it helped us."
A lot of that had to do with the margin. Cleveland held the lead or trailed by a touchdown or less for the majority of Sunday's game. When the Browns fell behind by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Lions pinned their ears back and forced Cody Kessler, who was filling in for an injured Kizer, to beat them with his arm.
Even with the Browns throwing most snaps in the fourth quarter, they still finished with their most rushing yardage since last season's finale in Pittsburgh.
"We did what we felt we had to do," Browns coach Hue Jackson said. "Obviously, we didn't get it done. But I thought we ran the ball well in some spots and there's some things we can still do better. We're just going to keep working at it."
Isaiah Crowell led the way with 90 yards and what was a game-tying touchdown in the third quarter. Johnson had 54 yards to go along with his 34 receiving and Kizer ran for a season-high 57 and a touchdown. It marked the first time since 1974 the Browns have had three runners clear 50 yards in a game.
- The Browns defense was without one of its best players for most of Sunday's game and could be without him in the near future, too.
Linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. made one of the Cleveland defense's biggest plays of the game when he intercepted Matthew Stafford in the first quarter. It was ultimately his last, as he went down with a knee injury and was unable to return. Jackson said Collins was dealing with an MCL injury and was unsure when he'd be able to return.
James Burgess Jr. filled Collins' spot for the majority of the game. He, too, walked off the field with trainers but was able to return from his injury.
"It's extremely tough when you lose one of your playmakers and leaders on defense, but we say 'next man up,'" safety Jabrill Peppers said. "It sucks, but injuries are a part of this game. You've got to work through all of the injuries. The next man up has to be ready to go, right then and there. It shouldn't be any dropoff."
Right tackle Shon Coleman left in the second half and didn't return because of a concussion. Zach Banner, making his NFL debut, filled the spot, giving Cleveland backups at both the left and right tackle positions.
- What made the Browns' rushing performance to start the second half so impressive was that it followed an unfortunate end to the first half.
The Browns had the ball on Detroit's 2-yard line with 15 seconds to play in the first half but came away with nothing. Kizer attempted a quarterback sneak but came up short and was unable to run another play before the time expired.
"We've got to work to get better in the red zone," Kizer said. "I'm out there calling shots as a quarterback, so I got to do whatever I can to get better in the red zone."
The Browns scored touchdowns on back-to-back possessions to start the second half, turning a seven-point deficit into a seven-point lead. It ultimately wasn't enough, of course, but showed the kind of resiliency Jackson likes from the team.
"I knew we would (respond)," Jackson said. "We came back and did what I thought we should've been doing all along. We started churning out these drives, guys making plays, running the ball, finishing blocks, finishing runs. That's who we are. And then all of a sudden it stopped."