(AP) Stafford’s TD passes lift Lions past Browns 31-17
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
The Lions were lifeless and listless at halftime. Matthew Stafford snapped his teammates out of its strange funk just in time.
Stafford threw three of his four touchdown passes in the second half, rallying Detroit to a 31-17 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
The Lions (4-2) outscored the Browns 24-0 in the second half, sealing their win when Stafford hooked up with tight end Joseph Fauria with 2:01 left. Fauria caught three TD passes for the Lions, who played like a completely different team in the second half after being dominated up front and trailing 17-7 at half.
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 linebacker DeAndre Levy.
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.
Stafford finished 25 of 43 for 248 yards. He completed eight passes to wide receiver Kris Durham, who took over as Detroit’s top target with superstar Calvin Johnson not himself with a balky right knee. Johnson, who missed last week’s loss at Green Bay, had 3 catches for 25 yards.
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. Instead of throwing the ball away or taking the sack to keep the drive going, Weeden tried a pitch to fullback Chris Ogbonnaya near the sideline and was picked off by Levy.
It was another poor decision by Weeden, the second-year QB thrust back into the starting lineup after Brian Hoyer sustained a season-ending knee injury against Buffalo on Oct. 3.
Stafford made all the right moves in the second half. He was 15 of 21 for 165 yards and three TDs in the final 30 minutes.
Detroit’s defense stiffened after halftime and limited the Browns to 6 yards and no first downs in the third quarter.
Fauria’s second TD reception, a 23-yarder early in the fourth quarter, gave the Lions a 21-17 lead. Fauria got behind linebacker Craig Robertson and made a leaping catch in traffic just inside the goal line before celebrating with a dunk over the goal post. Fauria has seven receptions this season, four for TDs.
Stafford’s 18-yard TD pass to Bush had pulled the Lions within 17-14 in the third. Bush’s score capped a 79-yard drive for the Lions, who gained just 109 yards in the first half. The possession began with Bush dropping a short pass, but he more than made up for it with his catch and darting run.
Weeden threw two short TD passes and Billy Cundiff kicked a 40-yard field goal with 8 seconds left as the Browns, using a balanced attack, scored 17 unanswered points in the second quarter to build their 17-7 halftime lead.
Weeden shook off his first interception in 111 passes and threaded a 2-yard scoring pass to Greg Little, giving Cleveland a 14-7 lead. The Lions gave the right ball right back, going three-and-out and taking just 26 seconds off the clock before punting. Weeden’s 36-yard pass to Josh Gordon helped set up Cundiff’s kick.
The Browns racked up 115 yards rushing _ 45 on Travis Benjamin’s end-around _ in the first half as Cleveland’s offensive line surprisingly dominated Detroit’s notorious defensive front.
After falling behind 7-0, the Browns tied it 7-7 on Weeden’s 4-yard pass to Ogbonnaya. Stafford’s 1-yard TD pass to Fauria had given the Lions a 7-0 lead.