Although the Lions did win their first preseason game of 2008, there was a lot of room for improvement. There were a few players that played great in game number one, but it was evident many others needed to shake the rust off. I can say confidentially after watching the Lions play the Bengals last night that the rust is gone as Detroit looked great from top to bottom. There were the usual occurrences that made you shake your head, but all in all, the Lions looked very impressive in their 27-10 victory over Cincinnati. It is only the preseason, so take it for what it's worth, but the Lions did play awfully well.
For the second consecutive game, the Lions elected to receive after winning the opening coin toss. Rod Marinelli obviously wanted his starting offense to get as much time on the field as possible, and that was a good decision as things looked good from the get-go. In fact, on the very first play of the game, Jon Kitna hooked up with Calvin Johnson for a gain of 40 yards, setting the tone for this contest. Kitna simply lobbed the ball downfield and all Johnson had to do was jump up and take it out of the air. Former Michigan Wolverine Leon Hall had no chance at making a play as he simply was not big enough to come anywhere close to the ball.
An offensive interference penalty on Roy Williams would stall this drive, but not before Kevin Smith had his best run of the preseason. The Lions' offensive line opened up a few large holes for Smith to run through, and he did just that for a gain of 16 yards. His next run wasn't as nice as he lost a yard, bringing up fourth down and forcing the Lions to punt the ball away.
Thankfully for Detroit, the defense would quickly get the ball back for the offense. Cornerback Brian Kelly really looked impressive on Cincinnati's first drive of the game as he made two big plays that really turned the tables on the Bengals. First, he swatted a pass away from Chad Johnson to cause an incompletion. And then one-upped himself on the very next play by ripping the ball out of Ocho Cinco's arms to get an interception. Johnson appeared to have made the catch, but Kelly wasn't having any of that.
After the interception, the Lions wasted little time before getting into the endzone. Jon Kitna found Calvin Johnson out-running defenders across the middle of the field, making for an easy touchdown pass from 27 yards out. Johnson had nobody in his face when the pass came in and he simply ran into the endzone untouched, putting the Lions on top 7-0.
Looking for some redemption, Carson Palmer did manufacture a pretty decent drive the second time the Bengals' offense went out onto the field. Unfortunately for Palmer, though, that work went unnoticed on the scoreboard as Dewayne White blocked a 46-yard Shayne Graham field goal attempt. The Lions have had a knack for blocking field goals the last few years, and it's good to see that continue in 2008.
Following a pair of three and outs, the Lions got the ball back and Dan Orlovsky did a nice job at quarterback. He got the Lions into field goal range, but just as we saw with the Bengals, his work produced no results thanks to a failed field goal attempt. Dave Rayner just barely missed his first field goal attempt as a Lion wide left (it was from 47 yards out), keeping the lead at only 7 points.
With neither offense able to do anything on the two drives following the field goal miss, the Bengals did finally get the ball moving. To basically close out the first half, Cincy first picked up yardage on the ground before moving to an air attack. The end result was a shredded Lions defense and 7 points for the Bengals via a 12-yard TD pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Glenn Holt. The Lions could have prevented the halftime score from being 7-7 on a 3rd and 8 during this scoring drive, but Fitzpatrick scrambled away from a pretty bad pass rush and gained 21 yards. That helped set up the eventual TD.
The Lions' defense did its job as it opened the second half by forcing a three and out, and Detroit was able to retake the lead on the proceeding possession. After a Brian Calhoun fumble nearly ended the Lions' drive, Dave Rayner hit a 48-yard field goal, putting the Lions back on top by a score of 10-7.
Cincinnati followed the field goal with hopes of taking the lead for the first time in this game, but the Lions' defense was having none of that. After 6 minutes and 79 yards, the Bengals found themselves at the 1-yard line with 4th and goal and decided to go for it. That is when safety Greg Blue lived up to his hitting ability and tackled DeDe Dorsey for no gain, giving the ball back to the Lions.
Detroit didn't do anything on their next possession. After all, they did start it from the 1-yard line. Either way, Nick Harris managed to boom a punt well into Bengals territory, but he actually outkicked his coverage. That allowed Cincinnati to get a big return and gave them a shot at hitting a field goal when their offense once again went three and out. Shayne Graham connected on a kick from 50 yards away to tie the game at 10-10.
10-10 is what the scoreboard read heading into the fourth quarter, but Dave Rayner changed that around 4 minutes in. Artose Pinner entered into the game and played well again, and he put the Lions in position to kick a 23-yard field goal. Rayner easily made it and put the Lions back on top by a score of 13-10.
After yet another three and out, Drew Stanton came into the game for the first time and quickly got Detroit into the endzone. The Lions would have been nowhere near the endzone if Stanton hadn't scrambled for a first down on 3rd and 8, but he did just that. Stanton avoided pressure and ran out to the right side. It appeared he would not be able to get to the first down marker, but Stanton dove forward past the chains to keep the drive alive. On the very next play, he found Brandon Middleton wide open for a 50-yard TD pass, increasing the lead to 10 points. Stanton's throw was perfect and all Middleton had to do was haul the pass in.
Kenneth Moore did a nice job of returning a Cincinnati punt and gave the Lions awesome field position shortly after the Stanton to Middleton TD. This allowed Detroit to give the ball to Artose Pinner before letting Stanton do his thing on 3rd and 1. Stanton dropped back and faked a handoff that even had the cameraman fooled. Evidently, it fooled the Cincinnati defense as well. Stanton kept the ball on the naked bootleg and only had to make one defender miss as he ran into the endzone for the touchdown. He showed great athleticism on the run as he blew by the only defender in his way and basically sealed the Bengals' fate.
The bootleg is a play we have seen the Lions run quite a bit this preseason, and it works best with Stanton because of his scrambling ability. Kitna has done a nice job passing when running the bootleg and Dan Orlovsky has had no luck at all. He actually tried to run the bootleg three or so times in this game and had a Bengal in his face right after the fake every single time. Stanton's fake kept that from happening, though, and gave the Lions a 27-10 lead. That is what the final score would read as the Lions left Paul Brown Stadium with a 2-0 preseason record.
Detroit's third game of the preseason comes on Saturday when the Cleveland Browns come to town. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. ET, although I don't believe the game will be on TV at that time. It is looking like this game is headed for another blackout, meaning we would have to wait until Saturday night to watch the Lions and Browns meet in their annual preseason game. Regardless of when the game does start on TV, Pride of Detroit will have live updates from the opening kickoff to the final whistle.