CLEVELAND - Brandon Weeden sure has a strange way of trying to play it safe.
In what was one of the more bizarre plays you'll see in any game, the Browns quarterback attempted to backhand the ball out of bounds to avoid a sack on a critical fourth-quarter drive against the Detroit Lions. While the intention was good, the result wasn't, leaving Browns coach Rob Chudzinski wondering what will happen next in his search for consistency.
Weeden's pass was intercepted by DeAndre Levy at the Browns' 49. Seven plays later quarterback Matthew Stafford threw his third touchdown pass of the day to tight end Joseph Fauria to seal the Lions' 31-17 win Sunday at First Energy Stadium.
Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (90) sacks Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden (3) in the third quarter of Sunday’s game in Cleveland. The Browns were plagued by turnovers and a non-existent offense in the second half against the Lions.
The reaction of most of the 71,513 fans in attendance can't be printed in this space. Weeden found it hard to disagree with the opinion that he made a poor choice of decisions.
"It was just a bone-headed play," Weeden said. "I was trying to make a play and trying to avoid a sack."
The Browns trailed 24-17 at the time but had moved from their 16 to the Lions' 44, including passes covering 15 and 18 yards to Josh Gordon. Flushed out of the pocket on first down and with about four and a half minutes to play, Weeden, scrambling to his left, was in an awkward position as he was about to be sacked. Instead of taking the sack, he tried to flip the ball about 20 yards over the head of running back Chris Ogbonnaya.
"In that situation you don't want to hurt your team by taking that 8- to 10-yard sack, but I tried to flip it as hard as I could," Weeden said. "Any time you try to underhand stuff, bad things happen."
The loss evened the Browns' record at 3-3 and ended a three-game winning streak. The Lions improved to 4-2.
The defeat was deflating because the Browns had a 17-7 lead at halftime and had accumulated 250 yards of offense.
To say that Lions coach Jim Schwartz made better halftime adjustments is an understatement. The Browns totaled just 145 yards of offense in the second half, most coming on a meaningless drive late in the fourth quarter. Their initial first down of the second half wasn't achieved until Weeden completed a 14-yard pass to Gordon with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Weeden, who played fairly well in completing 12-of-20 passes for 135 yards in the first half, wasn't as decisive in the second half. The ground game, which generated 115 yards in the first 30 minutes, had a mere 11 in the second half.
"When you don't convert third-down plays and when you're going into third down and you're not getting them (first downs), you just don't have a lot of plays," Chudzinski said. "By the time of the fourth quarter we were obviously trying to play catch up."
At the same time the Browns' defense, which was stout in the first half after allowing a 1-yard touchdown pass to Fauria, looked overmatched by a talented Lions' offense. Running back Reggie Bush used his speed effectively in both the running and passing games, and Stafford played like an elite quarterback, finishing 25-of-43 for 248 yards and four touchdowns.
"I think we made the proper adjustment," Bush said. "We felt like they were stacking the box early in the first half. They were obviously prepared to stop the run. We made the adjustment in the second half and felt like there were some one-on-one opportunities we could take advantage of. One was me against the linebacker (Craig Robertson), and we made it work."
Robertson struggled in coverage. On one key fourth-quarter possession he missed a tackle of tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who was able to pick up a first down.
"They made more plays," Robertson said. "I did a bad job, myself, of making plays on our side of the ball. We pride ourselves on the defensive side of the ball. To give up that many rushing yards (118) is a shot. It hurts us."
Robertson wasn't the only defender to struggle. He along with safety T.J. Ward and safety Johnson Bademosi each were beaten in man coverage of the 6-7 Fauria.
"Craig is a great player," Ward said. "He had a bad day, just like the rest of the defense. They came out and played better than us in the second half."
Ogbonnaya caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Weeden in the second quarter to even the score at 7-7. Receiver Travis Benjamin went 45 yards on a reverse on the first play of the drive.
The Browns took a 14-7 lead later in the period on a 2-yard pass from Weeden to Greg Little. Weeden rolled to his right and made a perfect throw to Little, who had barely crossed the goal line.
Billy Cundiff kicked a 40-yard field goal with eight seconds remaining in the second quarter to give the Browns a 10-point lead.
Bush scored on an 18-yard middle screen on the first possession of the third quarter. A 23-yard scoring reception by Fauria was followed by a 51-yard field goal by David Akers. Fauria then beat Ward on a 10-yard touchdown pass.
"He's as tall as heck, but there are a lot of tall football players," Schwartz said of Fauria. "The thing that separates Joe and has allowed him to make big plays is he's really strong."
The Browns are at Green Bay Sunday.