CLEVELAND (AP)—He silenced the boos with his arm, legs and every trick in his playbook. And as his new fans cheered wildly, Jeff Garcia strutted off the field a victorious and validated quarterback.
For Garcia, revenge couldn’t have been sweeter—or come in a better place.
Garcia, released by the Browns in February, came back and got some payback by running for a touchdown while leading the injury-ravaged Detroit Lions to a 13-10 win Sunday over the careless Browns.
“It was a great feeling to be back, and to be able to do it in Cleveland made it extra nice,” Garcia said. “I’m not going to hold anything back. I play the game with a certain passion.”
Garcia, making his first start this season in place of Joey Harrington, scored on a 1-yard keeper in the first half, Jason Hanson kicked two field goals—the second a 50-yarder in the fourth quarter—and the Lions (3-3) overcame some key injuries to stay atop the NFC North.
Detroit’s defense intercepted three of Trent Dilfer’s passes, sacked him four times and held the Browns to 174 total yards.
“We just fell apart,” said Browns running back Reuben Droughns, who ran for 100 yards.
After missing Detroit’s first five games with a broken left leg, Garcia returned to practice this week and got the starting nod from Lions coach Steve Mariucci, who has run out of patience with an ineffective Harrington.
Mariucci made it clear after the game that he’ll stick with Garcia.
“If he feels good tomorrow and is healthy enough to practice this week,” Mariucci said. “He’s our QB.”
Harrington, who had started 37 consecutive games, isn’t happy with the demotion.
“I’m disappointed,” he said. “This is a different position for me, but it won’t beat me.”
Garcia’s one season in Cleveland was marred by inconsistent play, a feud with offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie and personal issues, including a trial involving his Playboy playmate girlfriend, who had a bar fight with another woman over the QB.
But the 35-year-old was able to put it all behind him, dancing his way out of trouble and making just enough plays to get the Lions to .500. Garcia finished 22-of-34 for 210 yards, didn’t turn the ball over and wasn’t sacked.
His biggest play came late in the fourth, when he stepped away from a possible safety and completed a 10-yard pass to Scottie Vines, one of the Lions’ backup wide receivers, for a first down.
Because of injuries, Detroit was down to its Nos. 4 and 5 receivers, but Garcia was able to buy himself time to throw in the pocket and made completions when it appeared he had nowhere to go.
“He made some plays when it looked like we had him,” Browns linebacker Andra Davis said. “That’s what he does.”
The same can’t be said of Browns quarterback Trent Dilfer, who was 10-of-19 for 73 yards and threw three interceptions.
The Browns (2-4) didn’t get their first first down in the second half until only 9:52 remained. They had their chances, too, but wide receiver Antonio Bryant dropped a key third-down pass in the fourth.
“It was just one mistake of many,” said Dilfer, who has eight turnovers in the past three games. “We all took our turn making mistakes.”
Cleveland’s only touchdown came on rookie Joshua Cribbs’ 90-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.
Browns cornerback Daylon McCutcheon, one of only two players on Cleveland’s roster since 1999, is tired of the losing.
“In 1999 and 2000 we just weren’t good enough. We didn’t have the talent,” he said. “We’ve got the talent now. We just don’t play smart, that’s it.”
“Let’s go out and take care of business,” Garcia shouted.
But the Browns took control early as Droughns ran for 67 yards in the first quarter and Phil Dawson kicked a 30-yard field goal to put the Browns up 3-0.
But Dre Bly, who later left the game with a dislocated wrist, picked off Dilfer and the Lions drove to the 1, where Mariucci decided to go for it on fourth and goal. Garcia faked an inside handoff, and after surveying the line for a second, sprinted right and dived in untouched.
The play was designed to be a pass, but when no one got open, Garcia made something happen himself.
“You keep your fingers crossed when he’s running around out there,” Mariucci said. “But he makes plays.
Lions WR Kevin Johnson ruptured his Achilles’ and is out for the season. … Browns DB Gary Baxter strained a pectoral muscle in the first quarter and did not return. … WR/KR Dennis Northcutt (1,570 yards) became the Browns career leader in punt return yardage. He passed Gerald “Ice Cube” McNeil, who had 1,545 yards from 1986-89. … Lions DE Shaun Rogers injured a ligament in his right knee in the first half. Mariucci said he will re-evaluated Monday. … After missing two games with an arm infection, Browns rookie WR Braylon Edwards had three catches for 30 yards.