August 29, 2014

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Browns notes: Cleveland runs away from running game despite strong first half on the ground

Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden (3) and tackle Mitchell Schwartz (72) during an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013 in Cleveland. Detroit won 31-17. (AP Photo/David Richard)

Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden throws the ball against the Lions Sunday. Cleveland abandoned the running game in the second half. (AP Photo/David Richard)

CLEVELAND — The Browns rushed for a season-high 126 yards and averaged 6.0 yards per carry in Sunday’s 31-17 loss to the Detroit Lions.

Strangely, though, Cleveland offensive coordinator Norv Turner chose to abandon the ground game in the second half as his team failed to score a point.

The Browns logged only five carries for 11 yards after halftime, while Turner called 25 pass plays for quarterback Brandon Weeden over the final 30 minutes.

“They talk about what they want to do when we’re on the sideline, but those guys, you never want to second-guess our coaching staff,” Weeden said. “We’ve got a great staff and I thought Norv called an outstanding game.”

In the first half, Cleveland rushed for 115 yards as wide receiver Travis Benjamin, running back Willis McGahee and Wildcat quarterback MarQueis Gray had double-digit gains.

Benjamin’s lone carry came on an end-around and went for a team season-long 45 yards, helping the Browns to their most productive half on the ground since Oct. 24, 2004.

“If we had gone to the run in the second half, I think we would have had some success,” center Alex Mack said. “But sometimes it requires passing. You have to do both to run a good offense.”

Though Cleveland led 17-14 entering the fourth quarter, Turner didn’t call a running play until there were only 77 seconds left. Fullback Chris Ogbonnaya gained 6 meaningless yards at that point with Detroit ahead 31-17.

McGahee, who finished with a team-high 10 carries for 37 yards, and Ogbonnaya also refused to criticize Turner’s decisions.

“I think there were some things that we did to beat ourselves as an offensive unit,” Ogbonnaya said.

McGahee agreed: “The fact of the matter is (Detroit) wanted it more in the second half and we didn’t show that we did.”

Benjamin led the Browns with 45 rushing yards, while Ogbonnaya and McGahee combined for 61 on 15 carries. Weeden and Gray added 10 yards apiece as Cleveland was more productive on the ground than in the air, where it averaged just 5.98 yards per pass.

Brownie bits

Wide receiver Josh Gordon broke the century mark for the second time this season with a game-high 126 yards on seven receptions. The second-year pro is the first Cleveland player with multiple 100-yard receiving games in a season since Mohamed Massaquoi in 2009.
Gordon and locker neighbor Greg Little both walked out of the locker room — through a group of reporters patiently waiting for them — without answering questions.

* Safety Tashaun Gipson intercepted a pass in the end zone and returned it 35 yards late in the third quarter.
The throw from Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was intended for wide receiver Patrick Edwards, but was tipped at the last second by cornerback Buster
Skrine, allowing Gipson to snatch it out of the air.

“That was a momentum-builder for our team, hopefully killing (Detroit’s) morale, but they just came back stronger and harder,” Gipson said. “I tip my hat to them. They made plays when it counted.”

* Ogbonnaya made a career-best seven catches and was targeted a team-high 12 times by Weeden.

* Tight end Jordan Cameron committed two false start penalties, while linebacker Paul Hazel was flagged for running into Lions punter Sam Martin. Safety Johnson Bademosi and linebacker Quentin Groves also picked up 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

“We made a lot of mental errors, and I was a big part of that,” Cameron said. “After a game like this, all you can do is go to bed and get some sleep. You also need to have a short memory span.”

The Browns held the lead at halftime for the sixth straight game to start the season.

Lion tales

Detroit tight end Joseph Fauria — a rookie from UCLA — caught three passes for 34 yards, but all resulted in touchdowns.

The nephew of longtime NFL tight end Christian Fauria beat Cleveland safety Johnson Bademosi on his first TD, linebacker Craig Robertson on his second and safety T.J. Ward on his third.

“I was targeted for a few touchdowns, but the rest of the game was all my team,” said Fauria, who caught four passes in his first five professional games. “It felt awesome to be out there.”

* Wide receiver Calvin Johnson (right knee soreness) returned to the lineup after sitting out one week, but wasn’t much of a factor. “Megatron” had three catches for 25 yards, significantly below his career averages of 5.2 receptions and 84.9 yards per game.

“We knew Calvin wasn’t going to play every snap, but what he was able to give us was enough to help us win,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said.
* Oft-fined defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh bowled over Browns guard Shawn Lauvao after jumping offsides, but the collision wasn’t as violent as it appeared.

“I was just trying to play the victim,” Lauvao said. “That’s what I was trying to do.”

* Stafford passed for four touchdowns, giving him nine scores in two career games against Cleveland.

* Running back Reggie Bush gained 135 yards from scrimmage on 22 touches, victimizing Robertson on most of his five receptions.

Injury update

Browns linebacker Jabaal Sheard (left knee sprain), defensive end Billy Winn (quadriceps), tight end Keavon Milton, wide receiver Charles Johnson, center Patrick Lewis, tackle Martin Wallace and guard Garrett Gilkey were inactive. Johnson was signed off the Packers practice squad one day earlier.

First-round pick Barkevious Mingo made his second straight start on the outside in place of Sheard.

Safety T.J. Ward (right shoulder) had his upper arm and shoulder encased in an ice wrap in the locker room, but Chudzinski did not report him as being injured.

* Not in uniform for the Lions were wide receiver Nate Burleson (broken left forearm), tight end Tony Scheffler (concussion), running back Theo Riddick (concussion), tackle Jason Fox (knee), quarterback Kellen Moore, cornerback Jonte Green and guard Leroy Harris.

Running back Joique Bell (bruised ribs) and cornerback Rashean Mathis (groin) were hurt during the game and did not return. They are listed as day-to-day.

Extra points

McGahee was the final Browns player introduced to the crowd during the pregame. Weeden was third to last — sparing fans the opportunity to boo him — while Ogbonnaya preceded McGahee.

* A sellout crowd of 71,513 was in attendance, including a significant number of people wearing Honolulu blue Lions jerseys.

* The kickoff conditions were 66 degrees under cloudy skies. Cleveland wore its brown tops and white pants, while Detroit sported white tops and gray pants.

* The Lions lead the all-time series 15-4, including 6-3 in Cleveland and 2-1 at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns have only beaten Detroit once since 1987.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.