Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  By DAVE DYE  |  Last updated 10/13/13
It is all or nothing for Joseph Fauria. He had the unofficial football version of a hat trick -- three targets, three catches, three touchdowns -- to help the Detroit Lions rally in the second half for a 31-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. Fauria, an undrafted rookie tight end out of UCLA, showed off some more of his familiar end-zone dancing moves after two of his scores and even added an impressive windmill dunk over the crossbar on the other one. Hes quickly turned into a 6-foot-7, 255-pound matchup nightmare for opposing defenses in the red zone. Calvin (Johnson) had a lot to do with that, Lions coach Jim Schwartz said during his postgame radio show. Calvin gets a lot of attention in the red zone and Joe ends up being singled up. But Joe took some contact when he made some of those catches. He was very, very strong with his hands. Hes got some giraffe-type look to him because hes so tall and his legs are so long, but dont underestimate how strong he is. He can make catches in traffic and he did in this game. In his first six NFL games, Fauria has seven receptions -- five of them for touchdowns. Hes the nephew of Christian Fauria, who played in the NFL for 13 years. The scoring plays Sunday came on 1-, 23- and 10-yard passes from quarterback Matthew Stafford. The three touchdowns are a club record for a tight end. It felt awesome to be out there, Fauria said during the postgame radio show. I got three targets, three touchdowns, but the rest of the game was all my team -- all the offense, all facets, defense, special teams, DeAndre Levy -- everybody just playing their butts off for a big win for us. Fauria is making the most of his opportunities. He caught everyones attention with his size and ability to catch the ball soon after being signed as a free agent when, much to his surprise, nobody picked him in the NFL Draft last April. A season-ending injury during the preseason to Michael Williams, a tight end who was drafted in the seventh round, helped open the door for Fauria. A concussion last week suffered by Tony Scheffler, another tight end, only created more potential playing time. You understand how it works, Fauria said. When one guy goes down, the other guy gets to come up, and thats me. I knew I was going to be in there a little more. I wanted to do well with my opportunities. I think I did so. His knack in the red zone has helped push the Lions (4-2) back into a first-place tie with the Chicago Bears in the NFC North. It didnt look so good at halftime, though. The Lions trailed, 17-7, and it was only natural to wonder at that point where this team was headed. A second straight loss would have dropped them back to .500, bringing back a lot of questions and doubts. They had been unable to generate a run game, were dropping passes left and right, and even surprisingly failed to put any pressure on Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden in the first half. We were playing dumb, Levy said. We were playing without any energy. Middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch made a passionate speech and called out some teammates during the halftime, according to Levy. Our team came out second half and we played the way were capable of playing, Schwartz added. We played a really good half of football and we needed to. I think the defense really came out and played well, didnt allow a first down for most of that second half. Stafford then made the play -- both physically and emotionally -- that brought the offense back to life. It might not have seemed like the smartest move at the time because he got called for a delay-of-game penalty, but Staffords reaction after scrambling for a first down showed a much-needed sense of urgency. He had just picked up seven crucial yards in a game-turning third-and-six situation. One play later, Reggie Bush scampered for 39 yards and Lions were energized and on their way. They scored on that drive and continued to dominate the rest of the way. On a day when Johnson, their superstar receiver, was limited because of an ailing right knee, the Lions found some other heroes. While Fauria was finishing the job, receiver Kris Durham, Staffords former college teammate at Georgia, helped put them in that position. Durham came through with eight catches for 83 yards. Levy, meanwhile, was the star on defense. He made two acrobatic interceptions, the last one sealing the victory with 4:36 remaining. For the second half, the Lions really did put it all together, leaving them in a very favorable spot after six weeks. Theyre 2-0 at home, 2-2 on the road, and they play their next two games at Ford Field (against Cincinnati and Dallas) before getting a bye. In reality, the Lions couldnt ask for much more right now. It is starting to look like this could be a very interesting season. EXTRA POINTS Johnson, who was a game-day decision after sitting out last week, finished with three receptions for 25 yards. He also had a couple of drops. Johnson didn't play nearly as much as he normally does. Stafford's four touchdowns gives him nine in two games against Cleveland in his career. X-rays on running back Joique Bell's rib injury were negative. Cornerback Rashean Mathis suffered a groin injury in the second quarter and didn't return.
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