Detroit — There are a lot of reasons the Cleveland Browns are winless, but the team came to town with the NFL’s best run defenses. Through eight games, Browns opponents were averaging just 2.9 yards per carry, a half-yard better than next-best team.
The Lions, on the other hand, entered Sunday with one of the NFL’s least efficient ground games, averaging only 3.2 yards per attempt. Only the Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals were worse.
And while it seemed like a fool’s errand to try to attack a strength with a weakness, the Lions were intent on running the ball against the Browns and did so with surprising success. By the half, the Lions racked up 89 yards on 10 carries, besting the average rushing yards the Browns had been allowing entering the contest.
“When you can run the ball, in any type of game, it makes a lot of things easier,” running back Theo Riddick said. “Play-action, passing, and you obviously can have more control of the game. Obviously, we did that today."
The Lions didn’t get off to a promising start. Starter Ameer Abdullah was dropped for a 6-yard loss on the game’s second snap, and stuffed for no gain on his second carry. But he and Riddick, popped off gains of 20, 21 and 19 their next three touches. That tandem finished with 87 yards on 15 carries, helping set up an effective passing game that put the Browns away in the second half.
“Going against this defense, we knew that they took pride in stopping the run and that they were dominant run stoppers,” wide receiver Golden Tate said. “I think we kind of took it personal. We had a great week of practicing it and we were prepared. On top of having some great runners like Theo, Dwayne (Washington) and Ameer, we just made it happen. We got some guys back this week on offensive line and it made a difference and those holes are opening up.”