Burning Questions: An uninspired start by the Detroit Lions, if the performance was meaningful in a "meaningless" game, rating the battle of backup quarterbacks and other issues as the Lions closed out the preseason Thursday night with a 35-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns at Ford Field.
Question: Preseason or not, it was bad for the Lions from the start and stayed that way until a fourth-quarter rally with the game out of reach. What was the worst part of it?
Answer: Not to echo the question, but the worst thing about it was that it was bad from the start and stayed that way until the fourth quarter. Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield started for the Browns and completed a pass for a 41-yard gain on the first play. That was the start of a nine-play, 61-yard drive to a touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
The Browns dominated that possession. They got it rolling with the long pass play on first down and finished it off with Nick Chubb's one-yard run for a touchdown on fourth and one.
And that was just the beginning. It was 25-0 at halftime.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions preseason game against the Cleveland Browns.
Q. But wasn't it really a meaningless game?
A. Yes. It was a meaningless "game." The score didn't mean anything. But the "performance" wasn't meaningless. Both teams used second- and third-stringers almost exclusively. They were competing for roster spots and playing time.
Such a poor performance has to raise some questions about the Lions' depth. That all can change in the regular season when teams are playing their starters and top backups. But that doesn't take away the disappointment of the poor performance by players competing for those jobs.
Q. Backup battle: Jake Rudock and Matt Cassel are competing to be the backup to starting quarterback Matthew Stafford. Did either one get an edge Thursday night?
A. The edge had to go to Cassel, and almost by default – until the fourth quarter.
Rudock played the first four possessions and never got anything going. He didn't provide any kind of spark. In the first half he completed six of 12 passes for 42 yards before Cassel replaced him with 2:09 left in the half.
Rudock completed six of 12 passes for 42 yards, and the offense managed only two first downs. Both of those were on penalties against the Browns when they'd stopped the Lions on third-down plays.
At least Cassel threw the ball downfield when he took over. That was something Rudock seemed reluctant to do.
Cassel completed four of six passes for 64 yards before the half ended. However, he fizzled after that and also had an interception returned 64 yards by Browns defensive end Nate Orchard just before the end of the half that made it 25-0.
It was a fine play by Orchard. He rushed from Cassel's right and jumped as Cassel delivered the ball. The ball stuck in Orchard's hands. He had a clear path to the end zone.
Cassel also failed to complete any of his last five passes after the first six.
Q. Rudock rally: He directed two more fourth-quarter touchdown drives, giving him five in the last three games. Does that count for something?
A. Sure. Scoring points is the offense's job. It could be a tougher call for the No. 2 job that anyone realizes.
Q. Lions' bright spot, offense: What was it?
A. There wasn't a lot to choose from, but Dwayne Washington was somewhat of a running threat. He scored a TD on a one-yard run and caught the ball out of the backfield.
Q. Lions' bright spot, defense: What was it?
A. I'll give it to Eli Harold, the linebacker the Lions acquired in a trade with San Francisco. It was his first game with the Lions, and he had only two days of practice. He lined up at left linebacker and made one good play, stuffing a run to stop the ball carrier for a loss.
Q. Bright spot, overall: What was it?
A. It was the last preseason game. Now we can get on with the real thing—the Lions at home against the Jets on Monday Night TV Sept. 10.
Then we'll have the real questions. The Lions better have the answers.