DETROIT —** A brief respite from football might've done DeShone Kizer some good.
The Browns rookie quarterback, who used the bye week to refocus and recollect himself after a trying first half of the season, spoke of growth during that time away from the team's Berea facility.
Kizer backed those words up in Sunday's loss to the Lions when he put together what was arguably the best game of his young career. In his eighth start in nine games, Kizer combined for 289 yards and two touchdowns in a game that saw Cleveland trade punches with playoff contender Detroit.
"I think every game so far I've felt confident I've been getting better," Kizer said. "I wasn't in a situation where I was turning the ball over earlier in the game, I got a little rhythm going."
Kizer, a second-round pick from Notre Dame, has demonstrated promise but struggled with turnovers amid what's now an 0-9 start. On this afternoon, however, the youngster seemed poised, confident and ready to handle the many things Jackson expects of his quarterbacks. Kizer also battled through a rib injury that forced him to come late in the third quarter. He returned in an attempt to lift Cleveland past a double-digit deficit.
"I think he's tough, I've said that all along. I've never questioned his toughness or his want-to. DeShone has that. Today I saw a guy who was competing and playing quarterback. I knew what that position looked like today," Jackson said. "For the majority of the game, that's what the quarterback has to do. He has to make plays, whether it's with his arm or his legs, he did that."
Kizer played a pivotal role on a day in which the Browns amassed 413 yards of total offense, their second-highest output this season. Between him, running backs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson Jr., Cleveland also recorded a season-high 201 rushing yards against the league's sixth-best run defense.
But perhaps most of all, Sunday underscored Kizer's ongoing development, a sometimes-painful series of highs and lows that have seen him benched twice at halftime because of turnovers.
This was different.
"He was firing up the offense, the defense and the special teams," Jackson said. "He was in the game, so the lessons and the conversations that we've had, they're catching on. To me, that's a good sign."
Kizer, who intimated the team's unsuccessful trade for Bengals backup quarterback AJ McCarron last week added extra motivation to play better, stressed he wants to prove himself to his teammates.
"This is about not only my confidence but earning the trust and respect of my teammates. I think that, obviously that in that bye week, there was a potential acquisition of another quarterback and that puts a little pressure on me and the relationship with my guys," he said.
"And in order to prove to those guys that I'm the guy and I'm gonna be here for a while, I have to have good play … I think this was an opportunity for me to come out here and prove to those guys that, no matter what happens, this is who I am and this is how I'm going to play."
Of course, while Sunday was an encouraging step forward, Kizer must continue to grow as the Browns search for their first win of the season.
"He's a young player. A young player that's working at this and trying to get better, but I saw a better version of him today," Jackson said.
"Is it perfect? No. Do we have things we need to continue to work on and fix? Yeah, but I see a guy who is starting to get it and that's huge. That's huge."