Lions vs. Browns preview: No time for a letdown
James Hawkins of The Detroit News breaks down Sunday’s Lions-Browns at Ford Field (1 p.m. Fox/760 WJR).
BROWNS TO WATCH
Myles Garrett, DE: A high ankle sprain delayed the No. 1 overall pick’s debut until Week 4 but he’s been every bit as advertised. Garrett has been one of the most productive pass-rushers on the right side and has recorded four sacks in his first three games, becoming just the third rookie since 2004 to reach the mark (Oakland’s Tommy Kelly in 2004, Cleveland’s Barkevious Mingo in 2013).
2017 LIONS SCHEDULE
Duke Johnson, RB: It’s hard to find many bright spots on a winless team but Johnson could be considered one of them. The third-year pro is on pace to record a career-high 1,000 yards from scrimmage and does much of his damage in the passing game. He leads the team with 36 receptions and is averaging nine yards per reception and 5.2 yards per carry.
Jabrill Peppers, S: It’s been a rocky road so far for the former Michigan star and first-round pick. Peppers has underwhelmed in Cleveland’s secondary and is looking for a breakout game in his homecoming. Before missing the past two games with a toe injury, he has tallied 26 tackles with a pass defensed in addition to averaging 6.4 yards on punt returns and 21.1 yards on kickoffs.
■ Rock the rookie: First-year quarterback DeShone Kizer had a rough go of it over the first half of the season. He’s completed just 52.1 percent of his passes for 1,144 yards and has coughed the ball up a lot, throwing 11 interceptions and losing two fumbles. That bodes well for a Lions’ defense that is tied for third in the league with 16 takeaways.
■ Attack the soft spots: On defense, the Browns play their safeties deep to keep everything in front of them and have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 68.8 percent of their passes. That means Matthews Stafford should be able to feast on intermediate throws and tight end Eric Ebron could be in for a big game considering Cleveland has allowed the most receptions (61) and second-most touchdowns (six) to opposing tight ends this season.
■ Tough sledding: The Browns’ defense has been stingy against the run, which means the Lions could be in for another rough rushing performance. Cleveland ranks fourth in the league in run defense (84.3 yards) and is allowing a mere 2.9 yards per carry. To make matters worse, the Lions will likely be without guard T.J. Lang (concussion).
■ Throw out the record: Despite reaching the midway point with an 0-8 mark, the Browns haven’t been blown out of every game. In fact, every other loss this season has been by three points, including one in overtime. Meanwhile, the Lions haven’t exactly been dominant at Ford Field, dropping their past three home games by 12 total points.
FACTS AND FIGURES
■ Matthew Stafford has thrown for 784 yards the past two games (361 at Green Bay, 423 vs. Pittsburgh), his fourth-highest two-game total of his career.
■ The Browns rank last in the league in third-down offense efficiency (29 percent), giveaways (21) and defensive red-zone efficiency (73.9 percent).
■ The Lions have won six of the past seven meetings, including the last three.
■ Dating back to the 2015 season, the Browns have one win in their last 27 games.
■ Theo Riddick is the third Lions running back to record at least 200 career receptions, along with Hall-of-Famer Barry Sanders (352) and James Jones (285).
■ Golden Tate (50 catches in 2017, 55 in 2014) and Herman Moore (55 in 1995, 59 in 1996, 57 in 1997) are the only players in franchise history to have 50-plus receptions through eight games.