DETROIT (AP) — Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson had two goals in his post-game news conference Sunday at Ford Field.
He wasn’t going to let rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer take any of the blame for Cleveland’s 38-24 loss to the Detroit Lions, and he wasn’t going to talk about moral victories.
“We lost the game,” Jackson said. “I came here to turn this franchise around. I didn’t come here for us to play better or to compliment anyone for working hard.
“I came here to win, and we’re 0-9.”
Kizer had his best game as a pro, throwing for 232 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 57 yards and another score.
“We had an NFL quarterback on the field today,” Jackson said. “DeShone made plays with his arm, he made plays with his legs, and he was a leader. He was firing up the offense, the defense and the special teams.
“He’s not perfect, but this is the best version we’ve seen of him.”
Kizer, though, made what appeared to be a major mistake at the end of the first half. Cleveland had the ball on the Detroit 2, trailing 17-10 with 15 seconds left and no timeouts. Kizer appeared to change the call at the line, but his quarterback sneak was swarmed for no gain.
The clock expired before the Browns could get off another player, and Jackson responded with obvious anger on the sideline. After the game, he insisted that anger was solely directed at himself.
“I was mad because that’s a situation where we need to score points and I didn’t make that happen,” he said. “Everything that happened at the end of the half is on me.”
Jackson refused to talk about what play had been called and if Kizer made any changes.
“It doesn’t matter what we called,” he said. “It’s on me.”
Browns tight end Seth DeValve, though, said Kizer did audible into the quarterback dive.
“We had a different play called, and DeShone took it upon himself to sneak it,” DeValve said. “That wasn’t a bad thing to do, but we didn’t get it and that’s unfortunate.”
Whoever was at fault at the end of the half, it was far from the only reason the Browns are still winless. They led 10-0 and 24-17 against a lethargic Lions team, but weren’t able to cement the advantage with timely stops.
The Lions ran for 104 yards and a touchdown — shocking given the weakness of Detroit’s ground game and the strength of Cleveland’s run defense — and DeValve made a major mistake in the second quarter.
He caught a pass along the sideline and powered past Lions cornerback Nevin Lawson, but Lawson was able to reach back, strip the ball and return it 44 yards for the touchdown that put the Lions ahead 17-10.
The Browns responded with three strong possessions: the one that came up empty at the end of the half, two long touchdown drives in the third quarter. That gave them the 24-17 lead, but the Lions tied the game, setting up another bad result for the Browns.
With 11 seconds left in the quarter, someone — Jackson wouldn’t name names — whiffed on a cornerback blitz. That gave Quandre Diggs a free shot at Kizer, who left with rib injuries.
Cody Kessler replaced Kizer and went 1 for 3 for 5 yards and was sacked three times. By the time Kizer returned with 4:28 to play, the Lions led 38-24 and the game was all but over.
“I think the air is going to go out of any NFL team that loses its starting quarterback,” Jackson said. “That’s not a fault on this team. I thought we did some good things out there.
“But we’re not making the money plays yet. That’s how you win games.”
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