The Detroit Lions defeated the Cleveland Browns 38-24 Sunday at Ford Field for their second consecutive victory. They are now back to above .500 on the season at 5-4, but are still two games behind the 7-2 Minnesota Vikings for the NFC North lead.
The home crowd set a Ford Field attendance record for a 1:00 game at 64,646, a surprising number for a seemingly lackluster matchup. But the now 0-9 Browns gave Detroit an early scare when they shot out to a 10-0 edge in the first quarter. And when Cleveland still held a 24-17 advantage with two minutes left in the third quarter, fans legitimately feared that the Lions themselves might be the team that prevents the Browns from joining them in the 0-16 club.
But then Detroit did what they do best, scoring three unanswered touchdowns to finish off Cleveland for good. Here are three takeaways from the team’s week 10 win
Week 10 Detroit Lions Takeaways
The Return of Taylor Decker and Kenny Golladay
Sunday’s contest marked the long-anticipated return of left tackle Taylor Decker. The 2016 first-round pick, who proved to be the Lions top offensive lineman last season, has been sidelined all year with a shoulder injury. But against the Browns, the Ohio State product finally made his 2017 debut.
Decker’s presence on the left side of the line made a monumental difference. Even with T.J. Lang out with a concussion, Detroit averaged 5.5 yards/rush against Cleveland for 104 yards. Ameer Abdullah totaled 52 of those yards on 11 carries, while Theo Riddick added 35 yards on four rushes.
The Lions still, however, rank just 29th in the NFL at 3.4 yards per rush. Their 82.6 rushing yards/game also place them 29th. Hopefully, Decker’s entrance back into the lineup helps the team improve upon these numbers.
Another player that made his return to the football field Sunday was receiver Kenny Golladay. Golladay, who turned heads with his two touchdown performance in week one, went quiet for the next couple of weeks before sitting out with a hamstring injury. But now, the 2017 third-round selection out of Northern Illinois is back and healthy for the Lions.
Though he was on the field for just 11 snaps Sunday, Golladay made the most of the playing time he got. The 24-year-old caught two of his three targets for 64 yards- second on the team- including a huge 50-yard reception down the sideline.
Clearly, Golladay has the talent to be a very helpful deep and red zone threat for Detroit- a Calvin Johnson mold if you will. But the Lions have to hope that the 6’4”, 213-pound rookie can remain healthy first.
Against the Green Bay Packers last Monday night, Detroit’s secondary looked impressive. But that was against backup quarterback Brett Hundley, who was taking over for an injured Aaron Rodgers. And although the Browns aren’t that much better, this Sunday was a chance for the Lions defense to prove that they could play the same way against a first team unit. If this was a test, however, Detroit failed.
DeShone Kizer’s stat line won’t drop anyone’s jaw. The rookie out of Notre Dame completed 21 of his 37 passes for 232 yards, a touchdown and a pick. Nevertheless, Cleveland was still able to do pretty much whatever they wanted on offense. Browns receivers were wide open all game. And when they weren’t, Kizer dropped passes with pinpoint accuracy to keep the chains moving anyway.
The biggest struggle the Lions defense had, though, was their inability to contain the Browns rushing attack. Cleveland posted 203 yards on the ground at an insane 6.1 yards/rush clip. Kizer scrambled seven times for 57 yards, Isaiah Crowell totaled 90 yards on 11 carries and Duke Johnson Jr. managed 54 yards on ten rushes of his own.
Once their strong suit, the Lions defensive line has slowly become the weakest link on that side of the football. Even Pro Bowl defensive end Ezekiel Ansah struggled mightily this season before going down with a back injury. So while Detroit may be able to get by a unit like Cleveland, the defensive line has to step up if the team plans on keeping up with the NFL’s better offenses.
Can Matthew Stafford and Golden Tate Keep It Up?
After a tough stretch during the Lions three-game losing skid, Matthew Stafford is back to performing like the elite quarterback he is. The 29-year-old completed 17 of 26 pass attempts Sunday for 249 yards and three touchdowns. His 118.9 passer rating is his second-highest value this year, behind only last week’s rating of 132.4.
Overall, Stafford is on pace to reach around his career averages in virtually every statistic. While some may think that’s not enough for a guy that just signed the richest contract in NFL history, the Lions weren’t really expecting anything more from the former first-round pick.
The days of 5,000 yard seasons and constant downfield bombs are over for the Georgia product. Now, he’s a more conservative quarterback, and Detroit has a far more balanced offensive arsenal. So while the numbers may seem down compared to Stafford’s earlier years, his performance has not dropped off at all.
Meanwhile, Stafford’s favorite target- Golden Tate– has also started to become a force on the offensive end. The nifty receiver, who is currently third in the NFL in yards after catch behind only two running backs, has found his niche as an elite open-field threat.
The best example of Tate’s evasiveness on the football field came with four minutes left in the game, when the Notre Dame alum caught a pass from Stafford and zoomed right past an array of orange for a 40-yard touchdown. That score was one of six catches by Tate Sunday for a total of 97 yards. He is now fifth in the league in receptions and ninth in receiving yards, slowly becoming a household name across the league.
Let’s see if he, and Stafford, can keep it going next Sunday in Chicago.