It was a game of missed opportunities for the Detroit Lions in this one as they lose to the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 27-24. While I’m sure plenty of Lions fans have their opinions on who’s to blame for this loss. I feel there is plenty of blame to go around varying from the offense, to the defense and special teams.
I will start with the offense. When it came the passing game, Lions played exactly the way I wanted them to. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson was amazing, making his nickname “Megatron” known when he caught a touchdown pass between three defenders in the end zone. Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw the ball for 357 yards and three touchdowns and what I love most of all was the way the rest of the receiving core stepped up. Everyone from wide receivers Kevin Ogletree, Ryan Broyles, Kris Durham to the tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria stepped up and made their presence known. Running back Reggie Bush also made some big plays in the passing game. This was the Lions passing game almost at it’s best and I hope this won’t be the last time we see the Lions passing game at this level.
However as good as the passing game was in this game, there were a few missed opportunities in this game mainly by quarterback Matthew Stafford. Late in the second quarter, Lions had an opportunity to increase their 14-10 lead but Stafford over threw almost three guaranteed touchdown passes. I mean he literally over threw them, while he did make up for it later, it just makes you wonder if he had been able to complete on of those three end-zone passes, Lions could have had a bigger lead for the Bengals to chase. Then for the Lions last drive in the game, the offensive line who had played well in this game had a complete collapse allowing Stafford to be pressured which gave him no time to throw and forced a quick three and out, causing the Lions to give the Bengals back the ball with 40 seconds left in the game. The running game was also a non-factor in this game, while it’s not a surprise, it still was upsetting to see the Lions not be able count on the run game in the clutch moments.
Let’s move on to the Lions defense, now just like the offense, they had good and bad moments. Let’s start with the good, Lions defense did a pretty solid job of slowing down the Bengals run game. Running backs Giovani Bernard and Benjarvus Green-Ellis were held to just 51 rushing yards in this game which says a lot if you think of what both have done this season. The defense did an excellent job of keeping the Lions offense in this game by getting multiple key stops in the fourth quarter. While this defense had its bad moments no one can deny they gave the Lions offense a chance to win this game.
Nonetheless, there is still blame to go on the Lions defense. While the defensive line had some clutch moments in the fourth quarter, early on in the game, they weren’t able to create consistent pressure on quarterback Andy Dalton, giving him plenty of time in the pocket and opportunities to make plays. The Lions secondary and linebackers were also very exposed in this game which is not a surprise. I have constantly said if the Lions defensive line can’t create consistent pressure on quarterbacks, Lions pass coverage will be exposed, they just aren’t consistent enough. Lions just don’t have a consistent secondary to compete with quality passing teams. Dalton had his way with the Lions secondary throwing for 372 passing yards and three touchdowns, everyone from Chris Houston to Rashean Mathis were burned at some point in this game. The secondary didn’t do good job of limiting wide receiver AJ Green seeing that he finished with 155 receiving yards and a touchdown. Lions linebackers were also exposed in this game, mainly because the Lions linebackers can’t handle covering quality tight ends. Bengals tight ends Tyler Efiert and Jermaine Gresham combined for 7 receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown. As I have said many times before you need more than a good defensive line because at some point the defensive line won’t always be able to create pressure and in those moments you should be able to count on your linebackers and secondary in coverage.
Lastly, I can’t forget about special teams, who also had a huge part in this Detroit Lions loss. As I mentioned earlier, Stafford was unable to connect with his receivers in the end-zone during a late drive in the second quarter but he was at least able to put the Lions in field goal position. However, it didn’t mean much since the offensive line allowed Lions kicker David Akers field goal to be blocked. Not only did the Lions lose a chance to add three points to the scoreboard but that blocked kick switched momentum to the Bengals and put them in a great position to take the lead which they did before entering halftime. Then to add insult to injury, in the fourth quarter after the Lions were unable to establish a game winning drive they were forced to punt it back to the Bengals but leave it Lions punter Sam Martin to produce one of the worst punts, nearly putting the Bengals at midfield. So in simpler terms due to his horrible punt, the Bengals offense only had to execute a couple of simple plays to get in field goal position which they were able to do and Bengals kicker Mike Nugent sealed the deal with a clutch 54 yard field goal.
So there you have it, the good and bad of this game. As I said at the beginning, this was a game of missed opportunities and there is plenty of blame to go around from the offense, to the defense and special teams. The only complaint I don’t have is the coaching. For once they actually didn’t piss me off with poor play calling or decision-making. Well, I take that back, the defensive play calling bothered me somewhat but coaching still was solid for the Lions. Actually head coach Jim Schwartz, made a crucial decision when he challenged a play which worked in the Lions favor and I must say the Lions also did a solid job of limiting penalties in this game as well.
So while I’m sure there are plenty of Lion fans upset out there and for good reason, just try to remember the good and bad of this game because there was plenty. As for the Lions, there is no need to sit around crying or feeling sorry for themselves, they should take responsibility for this loss, learn from it, get healthy and get ready for next Sunday because next week they face America’s team the Dallas Cowboys.
Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
Listen to LBeasley’s Radio Show, “Sports Talk with L-Beasley” every Mon, Wed & Fri from 6-8pm (ET) on LBeasley.com