The Browns play the Detroit Lions in the third preseason game of the year for both teams at 5 p.m. today at Ford Field. Both teams are 1-1 in the preseason. The Browns won their opener 27-24 at the Green Bay Packers and suffered a 19-17 loss to the St. Louis Rams last weekend at Cleveland Browns Stadium. In what has become an unofficial tradition in the third preseason game of the year, the starters for both teams are expected to receive a significant amount of playing time tonight.
- Lions 35, Browns 27 -- The Browns' performance Saturday can be summarized with one word: inconsistent. Another stellar performance by starting quarterback Jake Delhomme -- he completed 20-of-25 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown -- was overshadowed by turnovers and defensive letdowns. The Browns lost three fumbles, and the Lions made them pay by scoring 21 points off those turnovers. Jerome Harrison fumbled for the second consecutive week, and he couldn't use slick playing conditions as an excuse this time because Ford Field has a roof. The Browns' defense was shredded by rookie running back Jahvid Best on the Lions' first possession. Best broke off a 51-yard run on Detroit's first offensive play from scrimmage. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford also had his way, completing 13-of-17 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown. Here's another disappointing fact: For the second consecutive week, the Browns failed to record a sack. Meanwhile, Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy continued to struggle. He completed 10-of-14 passes for 74 yards, but he fumbled while he was sacked. He also made a couple of poor decisions during the Browns' final drive: He threw a short pass for a completion when he should have thrown the ball out of bounds to save precious time (this was Browns coach Eric Mangini's postgame analysis of McCoy, not mine), and he also threw the ball out of bounds in the end zone as time expired instead of giving one of his receivers a chance to make a miraculous play (also Mangini's analysis). On the positive side, Browns running back Peyton Hillis continued to play well. He had four catches for 40 yards and seven carries for 26 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown. In the end, the Browns' starting defense proved to be suspect while their offense continued to perform at a high level. Didn't everyone expect the defense to be the stronger of the two units this season? So far, it's been the direct opposite.
- End 1Q: Browns 10, Lions 7 -- 1. Phil Dawson made a 35-yard field goal to give the Browns a 3-0 lead with 7:11 left in the first quarter. Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme completed 7-of-8 passes for 39 yards during the 15-play, 45-yard drive. 2. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford hit wide receiver Bryant Johnson with a 7-yard touchdown pass. Steven Hauschka made the extra-point kick to give Detroit a 7-3 lead with 5:43 left in the first quarter. The Lions completed their opening, 45-yard scoring march in just three plays. Rookie running back Jahvid Best opened the drive with a 51-yard run and then caught a 10-yard pass on the next play. 3. Browns cornerback Eric Wright returned a fumble 44 yards for a touchdown. Browns defensive tackle Brian Schaefering forced Lions running back Kevin Smith to fumble. Kicker Phil Dawson made the extra point to give the Browns a 10-7 lead with five seconds left in the opening quarter.
- End 2Q: Browns 24, Lions 14 -- 1. Delhomme hit fullback Lawrence Vickers with a 5-yard touchdown pass in the right flat. No defenders were near Vickers. Dawson made the extra point to give the Browns a 17-10 lead with 8:09 left in the second quarter. Browns defensive back Nick Sorensen suffered an injury on the ensuing kickoff. He was carted off the field after a six-minute delay. 2. Browns running back Jerome Harrison fumbled, and Lions cornerback Chris Houston recovered and returned 14 yards for a touchdown. The PAT was good, and Detroit trimmed its deficit to 17-14 with 3:40 left in the second quarter. 3. Browns running back Peyton Hillis capped a nine-play, 78-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run off right tackle. Dawson's successful PAT gave the Browns a 24-14 advantage with 24 seconds remaining before halftime.
- End 3Q: Browns 27, Lions 21 -- 1. Lions running back Kevin Smith capped the opening drive of the second half with a 2-yard touchdown run. The Lions hit the PAT, trimming the Browns' lead to 24-21 with 10:39 left in the third quarter. 2. Dawson's 45-yard field goal extends the Browns' lead to 27-21 after they marched 67 yards in 12 plays with backup quarterback Seneca Wallace in the game.
- End 4Q: Lions 35, Browns 27 -- 1. Lions running back Aaron Brown's 4-yard touchdown run capped an 11-play, 70-yard drive with 9:38 left in the fourth quarter. The PAT was good, giving the Lions a 28-27 advantage. 2. Brown scored on another 4-yard touchdown run with 4:55 left in the fourth quarter, capping a 40-yard, seven-play drive. Detroit started the scoring march at the Browns' 40-yard line after rookie quarterback Colt McCoy lost a fumble.
Top storylines: 1. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford torched the Browns' defense last season in a 38-37 regular-season victory for Detroit. Can the Browns' defense stop him? The Browns certainly couldn't stop Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Rams quarterback A.J. Feeley from orchestrating scoring drives in the past two weeks. The Browns' defense needs to show improvement against the Lions, but it won't be easy. Stafford has plenty of weapons at his disposal, including standout wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Pay close attention to the Browns' defensive secondary, especially rookie safety T.J. Ward and rookie cornerback Joe Haden. 2. How will the Browns' offensive line, especially the right side, hold up against a tough Lions defensive front? Browns right guard Shawn Lauvao will be tested by fellow rookie Ndamukong Suh. Also, veteran right tackle Tony Pashos will make his debut with Cleveland after being sidelined for most of training camp with a right shoulder injury. 3. Can Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme and the rest of Cleveland's offense protect the ball after fumbling four times in the first quarter against the Rams? Delhomme had two of those fumbles in the rain last week. Ford Field has a roof, so adverse weather conditions can't be blamed tonight.
Sidelined players: Browns -- DB Coye Francies, RB Montario Hardesty, LB D'Qwell Jackson, OL Joel Reinders, DL Titus Adams, DL C.J. Mosley, OL Floyd Womack, OL John St. Clair, DL Shaun Rogers. Lions -- K Jason Hanson, CB Jonathan Wade, CB Jack Williams, a Kent State University product, safety C.C. Brown, CB Aaron Berry and DE Lawrence Jackson.
Lineup changes: Browns -- As expected, Tony Pashos will start at right tackle instead of John St. Clair, who missed three consecutive days of practice this week because of a personal reason. Lions -- rookie RB Jahvid Best will start instead of Kevin Smith; CB Eric King will start instead of Johnathan Wade; safety Randy Phillips will start instead of C.C. Brown.