Two sources familiar with the call made that clear, and two other Browns players told the media that Kizer called the sneak at the line. Guard Joel Bitonio told several media members that Kizer changed the play to the sneak, and tight end Seth DeValve told The Athletic the same.
On the play, DeValve acted as if a pass were coming. He feigned a block, then crossed right to left as if he were expecting a throw.
Kizer, though, saw something he thought he could take advantage of. Instead, he ran into a Lions front that didn’t let him go anywhere.
The Browns tried to line up to spike the ball and stop the clock, but the Lions also kept the Browns from moving quickly. Instead of scoring, the Browns went to halftime down 17-10.
Jackson slammed his play sheet to the ground and ripped off his headset, and running back Duke Johnson was penalized for taking off his helmet in anger and slamming it to the ground on the field.
Jackson was not offering any specifics on what took place, though.
“It’s on me,” Jackson said. “It doesn’t matter. We don’t need to go into it. I got to do a better job with the offensive unit. It’s that simple.”
The Browns had driven from their 25 to the Lions' 2 with 19 seconds left. A well-thrown, first-down fade to David Njoku was incomplete when Njoku turned against his body and could not get both feet down for the catch.
That led to second down, with the Browns out of timeouts; Jackson had called the last one with 1:17 left. That decision rang odd, as the Browns had second-and-13 from the 27. Kizer had just been sacked, but there was plenty of time and no rush.
On the sneak, Kizer was under center with two backs on the field, which is not a sneak formation. As he called signals, officials stopped the clock to clarify how many timeouts the Lions had left.
Jackson protected his young quarterback, who returned from bruised ribs that sidelined him for part of the third and fourth quarters.
“It’s on me,” Jackson said. “I’m mad at myself. Nobody else. Period.”
“I think coach addressed it in here,” Kizer said. “You know, we got to work to get better in the red zone. I’m out there calling shots as a quarterback, so I got to do whatever I can to get better in the red zone.”
On a day when Kizer had his best game, Jackson did not seem willing to sell out his quarterback -- even with the criticism the coach received on social media when the half ended.
“That’s the least of my worries,” Jackson said. “Twitter can blow up.”
Evidently, Kizer has the freedom to change to a sneak, but if he does, he has to be certain he will score. The Lions did not have a player over center but had a four-man front. Spence was able to knife inside tackle Shon Coleman and wrap up Kizer by the ankles almost immediately after the snap.
“As a quarterback and as the leader of his offense, I have to make sure I’m better down there,” Kizer said.
The Browns did recover to score touchdowns on their first two drives of the second half and take a 24-17 lead. But Kizer left for X-rays on his ribs with the game tied at 24, and when he returned in the fourth quarter, the Browns were down 14.
Kizer finished 21-of-37 for 232 yards with a touchdown and an interception on his last throw when it was desperation time.
“I saw a better version of him today,” Jackson said. “Is it perfect? No. Do we have things we need to continue to work on and fix? Yeah.
“But I see a guy who is starting to get it, and that’s huge.”
Kizer said a flak jacket kept him from breaking ribs on a hit from Quandre Diggs, and he expects to be ready to play Sunday when the Jaguars visit Cleveland.