Burning questions: What the Detroit Lions did to keep their playoff run rolling on the tracks, surviving the Cleveland Browns' start and their own sluggish start, a turn for Eric Ebron and other issues in the Lions' 38-24 victory at Ford Field on Sunday.
Question: Is there one word that can describe what it meant for the Lions to win and avoid a crushing upset at the hands of the still-winless Browns?
Answer: "Relief" comes to mind. It had to be a relief that they avoided an upset, and everything that would have come with it. And that was a real possibility when the Browns scored on the first possession of the second half to take a 24-17 lead.
At that moment, the "any given Sunday" phrase that head coach Jim Caldwell had used late in the week to describe how upsets happen was a stark possibility. But from that point on, the Lions played like they should – and the Browns played like a team that was 0-8 going into the game and 0-9 heading home.
Q. Style points: Should the Lions feel good about their performance, considering they beat the worst team in the NFL?
A. They can't feel good about the entire performance, and that will be analyzed and corrected – hopefully – in film study and practice in preparation for the next game at Chicago. But they should feel good about winning.
The Lions remained in good shape to make a playoff run because they won. The opposite would have been true if they had played great and lost.
The bottom line: The reason the game turned in the Lions' favor is because both teams showed up in their true character – the Lions, who are pointing for the postseason, and the Browns, who are hoping not to go 0-16.
It also helped the Lions that Browns starting quarterback DeShone Kizer had to leave the game for part of the second half because of a rib injury. His replacement, Cody Kessler, could not move the ball.
** Q. Eric Ebron, game-winner: How unlikely was it that Ebron would make the 29-yard catch for the go-ahead touchdown?
A. In terms of probability, it wasn't likely. But in terms of talent, and how a play was set up for him to make the play, it figured.
He was lined up wide left against rookie safety Jabrill Peppers and got behind him to make the catch and outrun Peppers to the end zone to break the tie and give the Lions a 31-24 lead with a little more than 10 minutes left.
It was an ideal opportunity for the offense to take advantage of Ebron's physical ability, and he made the most of it.
Q. The start: How would you describe the way the game started?
A. If it wasn't disrespectful to the members of the military on Salute to Service Day, I'd call it "rear march." But that's what it was. After receiving the opening kickoff, the Lions went backward. They had losses of four, six and three yards on their first three plays.
The Browns did just the opposite. Their first play after the punt was a 37-yard pass to Sammie Coates to set up a field goal that gave the Browns a 3-0 lead.
Q. Bounce back: Isn't that what the Lions did on the next possession?
A. Not at all. They bounced backward even further. Matthew Stafford had a pass intercepted. Three plays later, the Browns had a touchdown on a 19-yard catch by Kenny Britt and a 10-0 lead.
Q. The mood: What was it like in Ford Field?
A. Worried, bordering on grim – at least for the moment. The worst team in football, and one of the worst teams in any sport, was outplaying the Lions. And by a wide margin.
*Q Fourth and go: The Browns had fourth and one at their 44 in the first quarter and went for it. Right call by the Browns? *
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions Week 10 game vs. Cleveland Browns.
A.** Yes. The Lions weren't stopping them, and with a 10-3 lead the Browns had a chance to add to the lead by keeping the possession going with a first down. Duke Johnson's run was ruled enough for a first down.
Q. Caldwell challenge: Head coach Jim Caldwell threw the challenge flag, claiming that Johnson was down before gaining enough for a first down. After the review, the call on the field was confirmed. Right call by Caldwell to throw the flag?
A. In most cases I'd say wrong call on something that close so early in the game, but the Lions weren't making any plays on defense. Maybe the challenge flag would trip up the Browns.
Q. Browns bag it: The Browns missed a chance to get at least a field goal on their last play of the first half, but Kizer was stopped for no gain on a quarterback sneak from the two-yard line. It was a strange play by the Browns, who did not have a timeout left. How do you explain that decision?
A. There is no rational explanation for a sneak at that point. The ball was snapped with 10 seconds left, and the clock was going to run out if Kizer didn't score.
It was a mental mistake – and one of the many reasons the Browns are 0-9.