FOUR DOWNS: Fauria factor; making the right adjustments; Akers' kick and Megatron's impact

Posted Oct 13, 2013

Senior writer Tim Twentyman breaks down four key aspects of Sunday's game in Cleveland



What makes Joe Fauria so effective on a football field?

That question was posed to Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz after Sunday’s 31-17 win in Cleveland.

"Well first of all he is tall as hell," Schwartz said.

The 6-foot-8 Fauria made three catches in Sunday's victory and all three went for touchdowns -- 1, 23 and 10 yards.

He’s the first tight end in the history of the organization to have three touchdowns in a single game and the first pass catcher to do it since Calvin Johnson in 2010.

The impressive thing about Fauria’s three catches is that none of them were easy. They were either over a defender or turning back shoulder.

"I think the thing that separates Joe and allows him to make those plays is that he is really strong," Schwartz said. "He has really strong hands. We saw that early on in training camp, he made some plays where there were collisions or had to leave his feet to make catches and he held it he landed on the ground or when he took a hit."

Fauria now has seven catches of the season and five have gone for touchdowns.

Fauria credited playing alongside Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush for his early success and the opportunities he gets, but the truth is, Fauria is making the most of his opportunities because he has terrific hands, he’s a big target and he catches everything thrown his way.

He's a mismatch and coaches and quarterbacks love mismatches.

"Size," quarterback Matthew Stafford said of Fauria. "He’s a guy that’s got great hands, he’s a guy that can play in-line tight end, can split out, play a little outside. He and (Brandon) Pettigrew are the two most versatile tight ends in the league in my opinion. Those guys are great players and I’m happy to have them on my team."

Fauria is certainly building chemistry with Stafford and Sunday’s three-touchdown performance should only strengthen that.

"Being a rookie, being young, you have to work your way up and earn that trust," Fauria said. "I just talked to the quarterbacks this past week and they are finally getting use to how I run routes cause you know I am a little longer guy … I stride out a little bit.

"Earning that trust with Mathew is tremendous and that’s the reason why it happened today."



The Detroit Lions made all the right adjustments on both side of the football at halftime.

Offensively, the one big adjustment was recognizing the vast majority of man coverage being played by the Browns defense in the first half and determination that running back Reggie Bush had a huge mismatch with Browns linebacker Craig Robertson.

"We got him matched up with No. 53 (Robertson) and he made him miss quite a few times and got open," Stafford said of the second-half adjustment. "His big run (39 yards in the third quarter) sprung us, put a lot of air in the balloon too."

Bush said that after talking to offensive coordinator Scott Linehan at halftime, he knew he was set up for a big second half.

"We felt like that was an area we could take advantage of," Bush said. "It’s something we needed to exploit."

The Browns showed the Lions a lot of zone defense on film, but came out in a lot of man on Sunday. They also stacked the box and limited the Lions to just 26 rushing yards in the first half.

Bush didn’t have a single target in the passing game in the first half.

He was thrown to six times in the second half and caught five for 57 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown on the team first possession of the second half that helped spearhead the comeback.

"If they were going to play us man-to-man with me and a linebacker, we feel that’s an area we can win and we definitely took advantage of it," Bush said.

"We made the adjustment in the second half and started to throw the ball a little more. If they were going to stack the box on us, we have to throw them out of it. We did that. That’s why you saw us put some good drives together."

Give Linehan credit for recognizing the mismatch and making the adjustment in the second half.



One of the more important plays of the second half that might have flown a bit under the radar was the David Akers' 51-yard field goal with 6:04 left in the game.

The kick gave the Lions a seven-point lead following a Cleveland punt.

"He is a quality field goal kick and once we were inside the range we were ready to go get that seven point lead," Schwartz said.

If Akers misses that kick, the Browns get the ball at their own 41-yard line and a touchdown gives them the lead.

The whole complexion of that game might change if Akers misses that kick.

Instead, he booted right down the middle, with room to spare, the Lions defense forced an interception on the following Browns possession and the Lions scored again off of it to put the game away.



Calvin Johnson played just 12 snaps the entire first half for the Lions.

But when they needed a defining drive to open the second half, Johnson was on the field for the seven of the eight plays that resulted in a touchdown and spearheaded a Lions comeback.

"We knew that if he was going to have a certain number of snaps, we would rather have them in the second half, so we limited his snaps a little bit in the first half," Schwartz said. "He was feeling good and made some contributions."

Johnson had just three catches for 25 yards on eight targets, but he impacted the game.

"He affected the game, particularly that second half," Schwartz said. "I think some of Reggie’s (Bush) big plays that came out had a lot to do with Calvin. I think (Joseph) Fauria getting singled up in the red zone had a lot to do with Calvin also."

Even Johnson at 80 percent, or whatever he was, makes an impact.