Cleveland — Yet another play broke down and finally quarterback Matthew Stafford lost it.
The Lions were down 17-7. It was their first drive of the second half. They had just spent the halftime fixing what they thought was broken and there was Stafford, back to pass on third-and-6 and once again he had a bunch of Browns defenders in his face before he could set up to throw.
Stafford somehow eluded the rush and scrambled and fought for seven yards and a first down. Normally calm and collected, Stafford got up and spiked the ball. The delay of game penalty was the best five yards he ever spent.
“That was it,” center Dominic Raiola said. “He spiked that ball and I was like, ‘That’s the quarterback doing this?’ We’ve got to catch up with him. He brought the fire.”
Stafford threw three of his four touchdown passes in the second half and rallied the Lions to a 31-17 win against the Browns.
“I knew it was going to take something to spark people. That wasn’t false,” Stafford said of his angry spike. “I was happy, No. 1, to be getting that first down and, No. 2, to be down on the ground safe after a run.
“I just wanted to get the guys going. It was time to go.”
For Stafford, it was his 13th game of three or more touchdown passes — a franchise record. It was the ninth time he’s led the team to a win with a fourth-quarter comeback.
After his first-down scramble, running back Reggie Bush, who had just 14 yards and wasn’t thrown to at all in the first half, broke off a 39-yard run and then scored on an 18-yard screen.
“We made some adjustments in the second half,” said Bush, who finished with 78 yards rushing and 57 yards receiving. “Coaches talked about what we needed to do and I put in my little two cents worth. There were looks that we saw that I knew we could take advantage of.
“We couldn’t keep giving them a pass.”
The Browns, who normally play zone coverage, surprised the Lions by playing man-to-man. Once the Lions adjusted to that in the second half, Stafford was able to pick them apart.
He was 25 for 43 for 248 yards. Three of his four touchdown passes went to rookie tight end Joseph Fauria, 1, 23 and 10 yards. Receiver Kris Durham had his best day, catching eight passes for 83 yards.
“We just weren’t playing well,” coach Jim Schwartz said when asked about the halftime adjustments. “We dropped a lot of passes (six), defensively we were real close to making a couple plays that we didn’t make, the quarterback got free — we just weren’t playing our best and the players knew it.”
The Lions were stymied in the first half. The Browns had 250 total yards to the Lions’ 110. They averaged 6.9 yards per play. They posted 115 rushing yards, a season high for a full game. They broke off big chunks of yardage — 45-yard run (reverse run by Travis Benjamin), 23-yard pass interference call against Darius Slay and receptions of 16, 18 and 36.
They Lions were lucky to be down just 17-7. Middle linebacker and defensive captain Stephen Tulloch delivered a scorching address to the entire team at halftime.
“We talked about it,” said Tulloch, not revealing the details of his talk. “We weren’t playing good on any three phases. We spoke about it during halftime. If we want to get to where we want to get to, we had to find a way to win this game.
“It took each guy and we went out there and did it.”
The defense wore its big-boy pants in the second half. It allowed the Browns just one first down in their first four defensive possessions of the second half. The defense had pressured quarterback Brandon Weeden some in the first half, but it got to him in the second.
“We started playing Detroit football,” said Willie Young, who had a big sack in the third quarter. “We hit him early, in the first half, on the hip, and I think he was rattled from that point. He got a little happy (feet) and was releasing the ball quicker.”
After Young’s sack, the Lions drove 67 yards in eight plays, capping it with Fauria’s second score and the Lions were up 21-17 with 10:35 left in the game.
David Akers kicked a 51-yard field with 6:04 left to make it a seven-point game.
It was up to the defense to ice the win, and it did. The Browns moved it to the Lions’ 44, but on first down, Weeden, pressured by defensive tackle C.J. Mosley, tried to shuffle a pass to fullback Chris Ogbonnaya.
Linebacker DeAndre Levy swooped in and picked it off. It was his second interception of the game. He has four this season.
“We were playing soft. We were playing dumb,” said Levy, who led the team with seven tackles. “We came out flat, myself included. We made the corrections and we responded. I think that’s a good sign for the defense.”
Technically, All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson was active Sunday. But he’s nowhere near 100 percent. He played only 14 snaps in the first half and even though he was on the field more in the second half, he mostly played as a slot-possession receiver.
He had three catches for 25 yards.
“He affected the game, particularly in the second half,” Schwartz said. “I think some of Reggie’s big plays had a lot to do with Calvin and I think Fauria getting singled-up in the red zone had a lot to do with Calvin, also.”
The Lions, who have now finished half of their road schedule, come home for a couple of weeks with a 4-2 record.
“I’m in favor of it,” Schwartz said of a homecoming.