MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: Lawson makes amends with big TD

Posted Nov 13, 2017

This week's Monday Countdown looks at how Nevin Lawson's touchdown was one of the difference-making plays for the Lions on a day of big plays and weird plays.

Nevin Lawson wanted to make amends, and when he did, it was with a five-part display of athletic ability that could qualify as a cornerback pentathlon.

Lawson didn’t get a spot on the podium for his performance. His reward was a key touchdown for the Detroit Lions in Sunday’s 38-24 victory over the Cleveland Browns at Ford Field. If the Lions are going to get where they want to go, they need players like Lawson to deliver big plays.

This week’s Monday Countdown looks at how Lawson’s touchdown was one of the difference-making plays for the Lions on a day of big plays, weird plays and a strange play selection by the Browns.

There’s also a look at something that shows how this group of Detroit Lions is attracting its own growing following, how the Lions reworked their offensive line Sunday, Matthew Stafford’s two different halves, four things to like and not like about the Lions Sunday and a look at the NFC North.

We start with Lawson:

1. Making amends: Lawson felt like he’d given the Browns their points as they built a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. He gave up a long reception on the first possession that led to a field goal, then missed a tackle on a play that Browns receiver Kenny Britt turned into a 19-yard catch and run for a touchdown.

“I felt like I gave up big plays that put points on the board,” Lawson said after the game.

How to balance the books? By making a big play of his own. 

Late in the second quarter, with the score 10-10, Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer hit tight end Seth DeValve with what would have been a first down near midfield with a run after the catch.

Lawson had other ideas. With his left arm he stopped DeValve’s momentum, then used his right arm to strip the ball. Lawson fell on the ball at the 44 for the recovery, then jumped to his feet and ran 44 yards to the end zone for the touchdown and a 17-10 Lions lead.

Tackle, strip, recovery, jump, run – it all happened in a few seconds.

“I wanted to make a play for my team, and that’s why I tried to do,” Lawson said.

He did not hesitate getting to his feet and running to the end zone. Head coach Jim Caldwell has drilled that reaction into his players.

“One thing I can tell you that Coach Caldwell preaches,” Lawson said. “When you hit the ground, get up like it’s hot. I got up. Make the play.”

2. Lawson’s first: Lawson has played 41 regular-season games with 34 starts for the Lions without an interception. How strange is it to get his first touchdown before his first pick?

“My coach told me, it’s the first of many,” Lawson said, referring to a member of the defensive staff. “It’s coming.”

3. Fan fare: Sunday’s attendance of 64,646 was the largest for a Lions game with a 1 p.m. start time since Ford Field opened in 2002.

Through five games, the Lions have drawn 317,754 – an average of 63,550 and an increase of 23,336 over the first five games of last season.

Whatever issues the television networks are having with ratings do not seem to have impact on fans wanting to watch the Lions in person.

4. Line rotation: Taylor Decker and Corey Robinson both were added to the active roster for the first time Saturday, and both started. 

It was no surprise that Decker started at left tackle. He played every snap there last season as a rookie. Decker rotated with Brian Mihalik, who started the last two games and had one of the key blocks on Ameer Avdullah’s eight-yard run for the Lions’ first TD.

More surprising was Robinson starting at right guard in place of T.J. Lang, who was out with a concussion. Robinson said he had not played guard since high school.

5. Stafford splits: For the game he completed 17 of 26 passes for 249 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating for the game was 118.9.

His production in the two halves could not have been more different.

First half: 6-11, 57 yards, one interception, no TDs, 31.2 passer rating.

Second half: 11-15, 192 yards, three TDs, no picks, 154.86 passer rating.

The maximum rating under the NFL system is 158.3.

6.Four things to like about the Lions: 

Three touchdowns: They came in four possessions to start the second half.

Rookie Kenny Golladay: In his first game in more than a month, he had two catches for 64 yards, with a long reception of 50 yards on a stretch, catch and run down the sideline.

Cornelius Washington: Two of the Lions’ four sacks.

Running game: Averaging 4.7 yards on 19 attempts for 104 yards.

7. Four things not to like about the Lions:

Browns’ lead: It was 10-0 in the first quarter. The scare factor of an upset registered an official 9.78 out of 10.

Browns’ lead again: It was 24-17 lead with 2:23 left in the third quarter. The scare meter had blown two gaskets and was beyond repair.

Browns rushing: They gained 201 yards on the ground.

Special teams flag: One wiped out a long return by Jamal Agnew in the fourth quarter.

8. Browns sneak: Head coach Hue Jackson took the blame for Kizer trying a quarterback sneak with 10 seconds left in the first half, and the Browns out of timeouts. Kizer was stopped, and time ran out before the Lions could run another play. Players in the Browns locker room told the media that Kizer had a choice of two plays to run and chose the sneak. Bad choice.

9. Sizing up the North: No surprise that the Vikings won at Washington to get to 7-2 and keep their lead at two games over the Lions. The Packers staying in a tie with the Lions for second place at 5-4 by winning at Chicago was an upset.

Oh, the Lions winning was not a surprise.

Coming up: Ravens (4-5) at Packers (5-4); Rams (7-2) at Vikings (7-2); Lions (5-4) at Bears (3-6).

10. Early take, Lions-Bears: In terms of momentum, the Lions have it with two straight wins. Losing to the Packers Sunday as home favorites takes away any thought of the Bears mounting a series playoff run.

Lions bonus point: Matthew Stafford is 7-1 against the Bears in the last four seasons.