The scoreboard was lopsided. The stat sheet looked worse.
And after Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford and the rest of the Lions dragged themselves back to the locker room at halftime, there was only one thing to do.
“Press the reset button,” wide receiver Kris Durham said.
Starting fresh after being dominated by Cleveland in the first half, Stafford threw three of his four touchdown passes after halftime, rallying Detroit to a 31-17 win over the Browns on Sunday.
The Lions (4-2) outscored the Browns 24-0 in the second half, sealing their win when Stafford hooked up with rookie tight end Joseph Fauria with 2:01 left. The 6-foot-7 Fauria caught three TD passes for the Lions, who played like a completely different team in the second half after leaving the field down 17-7 and looking listless, lifeless and destined for a second straight loss.
“We weren’t playing our best,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said of his team’s first-half struggles. “The players knew it. We came out in the second half and started to hit on all cylinders.”
The Browns (3-3) had their chances at a comeback end when quarterback Brandon Weeden’s baffling shovel pass with 4:36 left was intercepted by Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy.
“It’s a bone-headed play,” Weeden said.
Lions running back Reggie Bush finished with 135 total yards, 121 in the second half. At halftime, Bush had touched the ball just seven times. But Stafford went to the versatile back whenever he needed a big play and Bush, taking advantage of mismatches against slower Cleveland linebackers, had a 39-yard run in the third and caught an 18-yard TD pass.
“He’s not a dual threat or triple threat, he’s a quadruple threat,” Fauria said of Bush. “He does everything.”
Stafford finished 25 of 43 for 248 yards. He completed eight passes to Durham, who took over as Detroit’s primary target with superstar Calvin Johnson not himself because of a balky right knee. Johnson, who missed last week’s loss at Green Bay, had just three catches for 25 yards, but the Browns were forced to keep a watchful eye on “Megatron” at all times.
Weeden, making his first start since Week 2, finished 26 of 43 for 292 yards, but will be remembered for his ill-advised pass when Cleveland was driving for a possible tying touchdown.
Trailing 24-17 and at Detroit’s 44 with a first down, Weeden was pressured by defensive tackle C.J. Mosley, who had his hand around the quarterback’s left ankle. But instead of throwing the ball away or taking a sack, Weeden tried to pitch the ball over fullback Chris Ogbonnaya’s head but it was picked off by Levy.
It was another poor decision by Weeden, the second-year QB thrust back into the lineup after Brian Hoyer sustained a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 3.
“Anytime you try underhand stuff bad things happen,” Weeden said.
Stafford, on the other hand, made all the right moves in the second half. He was 15 of 21 for 165 yards and the three TDs in the final 30 minutes.
At halftime, Lions coaches had their say and Durham said starting Stephen Tulloch addressed the team.
“He got up in front of us and said a few words that he needed to say like a team leader would,” Durham said. “I think it got us fired up and ready to go for the second half.”
So what did Tulloch say?
“Team stuff,” Durham said.
It was certainly team stuff by the Lions in the second half as their defense stiffened. The Browns, who had piled up 115 yards rushing in the first, were limited to 6 total yards and no first downs in the third quarter.
Cleveland gained 145 total yards after halftime, 72 after the Lions built a 14-point lead.
Fauria’s 23-yard TD in the fourth period gave the Lions a 21-17 lead. Fauria got behind linebacker Craig Robertson and made a leaping catch in traffic before celebrating with a dunk over the goal post. Fauria has seven receptions this season, five for TDs.
“First of all, he’s tall,” Schwartz said of Fauria, an undrafted free agent from UCLA. “But there are a lot of tall guys who aren’t good football players.”
Weeden threw two short TD passes and Billy Cundiff kicked a 40-yard field goal as the Browns, using a balanced attack, scored 17 unanswered points in the second quarter to build their halftime lead.
NOTES: Stafford has 13 games with at least three TD passes, breaking Bobby Layne’s team record. ... Lions CB Rashean Mathis left in the first half with a groin injury and didn’t return. ... Weeden threw an interception in the first half, his first in 111 attempts. ... Cleveland was trying to win four in a row for just the second time since 1999.
The scoreboard was lopsided. The stat sheet looked worse.
Breese closes career with second straight title
Sam Breese now knows how it feels to be perfect.
Breese finished with an undefeated season record of 35-0, with win No. 35 being the sweetest one of all.
The Lakeview senior stared into the face of the pressure that comes with defending a title, and made the Giant Center in Hershey feel like home. Undeniable talent and an incredible determination are the hallmarks of Breese’s approach to wrestling, and for the second straight year, he can call himself a champion.
McLane’s Wheeling comes up short in final
On a night when six wrestlers repeated as PIAA Class AAA champions, Chance Marsteller and Thomas Haines stole the show.
Marsteller, of Kennard-Dale, and Haines, of Solanco, became the 11th and 12th four-time gold-medal winners in Pennsylvania history. Marsteller (166-0) also is the first four-time champion to complete his career without a loss since Cary Kolat (1989-92) and the fourth overall.
Serra outlasts Cardinals
For the second time in as many days a basketball team from Cochranton High School played a private school from the WPIAL, put forth a valiant fight, but ultimately had its heart broken.
On Friday, it was the Cochranton boys team, which fell to Vincentian Academy 95-85.
Breese lone local to reach Class AA finals
A busy and entertaining Day 2 of wrestling at the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships in Hershey came and went, as did the dreams of a gold medal for a handful of local wrestlers.
The one local wrestler that doesn’t apply to is Lakeview’s Sam Breese, who had the Giant Center crowd in aw during his two matches Friday. The two bouts equated to two wins, which means a shot a defending his championship.
Lee, Wheeling survive Day 2 in Hershey
Ehrin Lee’s smile following his quarterfinal win Friday at the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships told the whole story.
Lee has had his eyes on the state championships all season long, and just getting there wasn’t enough. The Titusville 160-pounder has wrestled like one of the best grapplers in the state during the tournament thus far, and his 3-2 overtime win over Northampton’s Bobby Fehr proved that if nothing else, he’s one of the four best wrestlers in his weight class.
Cards can’t slow Vincentian
The starters on the Cochranton boys basketball team probably slept like logs on Friday night.
They left every ounce on the hardwood of Meadville High School’s House of Thrills, going up against the high-intensity attack of Vincentian Academy in the opening round of the PIAA Class A playoffs.
McLane rolls past Neshannock
Sarah Jay has made a habit of presenting her players with in depth scouting reports prior to each and every game.
But the report she handed them on Neshannock, the Lady Lancers’ first round opponent in the PIAA Class AA playoffs, was nothing like they had seen before.
Class AA first round filled with highs, lows for locals
It was a day full of highs and lows for the 11 local Class AA wrestlers on the opening day of the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships in Hershey.
For some, it was business as usual, and for others, the atmosphere of a crowded Giant Center proved to be a little much. By the time the preliminary and Round 1 consolation rounds were finished, eight wrestlers are still alive, with state wrestling experience proving to be invaluable Thursday morning.
Lee, Wheeling stay in hunt for Class AAA state title
A win is a win, and when it comes to the PIAA Individual Wrestling Championships, as long as your score reads higher in the end, it really doesn’t matter how you get there.
During the preliminary round of the tournament Thursday afternoon at the Giant Center in Hershey, the six local qualifiers certainly had mixed results, but in the end, two wrestlers are still in the championship bracket, exactly where they want to be.
Cards look to slow down Vincentian
“The best way to sum it up is,” said Cochranton head coach Scott McCurdy, “it’s like they’re down five and there are 30 seconds to go. Only, they play like that for the entire 32 minutes.”
McCurdy is talking about the Vincentian Academy boys basketball team, which employs a style that’s ... well ... calling it up-tempo just doesn’t seem to suffice.
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