DETROIT (92.3 The Fan) – DeShone Kizer never felt the kind of pain he felt when he got trucked in the closing seconds of the third quarter Sunday afternoon at Ford Field.
The good news is that he is still in one piece.
“It hurt, definitely hurt,” Kizer said. “I mean, I had no idea. I never had a rib injury like that.”
X-rays were negative which allowed Kizer to return late in the fourth quarter with 4:29 remaining in Sunday’s 38-24 loss in Detroit and at least finish what was his most promising performance to date.
Kizer walked with medical personnel to the locker room after he got leveled by Lions cornerback Quadre Diggs in the ribs with 6 seconds remaining in the third and the game tied at 24. It appeared the rookie tight end David Njoku blew a protection assignment on the play. Jackson declined to assess specific blame, but he did confirm it was a protection breakdown that resulted in Kizer being helped off of the field.
“He’s tough, I’ve said that all along,” Jackson said. “I’ve never questioned his toughness or his want-to. DeShone has that.”
Up until that moment Kizer had completed 15 of 24 passes for 178 yards with a touchdown, no interceptions and a 99.0 rating. He also ran 7 times for 57 yards and a TD.
Despite throwing a late interception, Kizer finished the afternoon throwing for 232 yards with a TD on 21 of 37 passing.
“I think every game so far I’ve felt pretty confident that I was getting better,” Kizer said. “I was able to play the whole game, wasn’t benched, wasn’t in a situation in which I was turning the ball over earlier in the game. Got a little rhythm going, so yeah, I think this was my best outing yet.”
“I thought DeShone played probably the best game he has played,” Jackson said.
Back-up quarterback Cody Kessler relieved Kizer on third down and was promptly sacked.
Kessler saw 7 snaps where he went 3-and-out twice and was sacked 3 times. Despite rushing for 197 yards on 32 attempts already early in the fourth quarter, Jackson elected to run just once with Kessler on the field despite being tied or down 7 points.
“It’s not that we got away from it, it’s that we got behind,” Jackson said when asked about going away from the run late. “If the score is saying you need to score a touchdown and all of a sudden we had some players that were missing. We did what we felt we had to do. Obviously, we didn’t get it done. But I thought we ran the ball well in some spots and there’s some things we can still do better.
“I understand that every little thing is magnified that we do because we’re trying to win, I get it. But I saw some really good things and I saw some things that we need to get better at.”
The most controversial moment of the game came in the closing seconds of the first half when Kizer ran a quarterback sneak with 15 seconds left in the half on second down from the 2 that resulted in the clock expiring and the Browns unable to put points on the board before intermission.
After the game, Kizer and Jackson declined to clarify specifically what went wrong with Jackson attempting to shoulder the blame himself.
“Doesn’t matter, that’s on me,” Jackson said. “We don’t need to go into it. I need to do a better job with the offensive unit. It’s that simple. I’m taking the fall on everything. We’re an 0-9 football team right now.”
Several players, including left guard Joel Bitonio and tight end Seth DeValve, said that Kizer audibled and called his own number.
“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.”
After the blown opportunity before half, Kizer and the Browns’ offense responded with a pair of third quarter touchdown drives to start the second half. The first an 8-play, 85-yard march capped by running back Isaiah Crowell’s 6-yard TD run and the second another 80 yards on 10 plays with Kizer doing the scoring honors from a yard out.
“We had a good rhythm going,” Kizer said. I think we all came playing pretty well and we’re all pretty focused and executing our job quite well. I don’t know if there was a drive out there, that first half, where we didn’t feel as if we had the lead and we’re dictating where our offense was going. And I think that we were going to come back with the same mentality and the same confidence and kept that rhythm going.”
Despite the loss, Jackson, who has benched Kizer 4 times this season, felt much better about his rookie QB.
“He has to make plays, whether it’s with his arm or his legs, he did that,” Jackson said. “He was firing up the offense, the defense and the special teams. He was in the game, so the lessons and the conversations that we’ve had, they’re catching on. To me, that’s a good sign. And again, he’s a young player. A young player that’s working at this and trying to get better, but I saw a better version of him today.
“Is it perfect? No. Do we have things we need to continue to work on and fix? Yeah, but I see a guy who is starting to get it and that’s huge.”