The Detroit Lions opened the 2011 preseason just like they finished the 2010 regular season -- with a win. The Lions blew out Cincinnati in the first preseason game of the year with a 34-3 victory that included two touchdown passes by Matthew Stafford, a touchdown run by Shaun Hill, a field goal by Jason Hanson, a touchdown pass by Zac Robinson and a field goal by Dave Rayner.
Friday night's game opened with the Lions getting the ball and Stafford leading the offense down the field. It took the Lions only seven plays and 3:31 to go 67 yards and get the scoring started. Fittingly, Stafford connected with Calvin Johnson on a 26-yard pass for his first of two touchdowns. The second one came after the Lions recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Stafford found Nate Burleson on a fade route for a seven-yard touchdown. The TD pass came on 4th and 1 and was only ruled a score after Jim Schwartz challenged the original call of an incompletion.
The Bengals didn't fumble the next kickoff, so Andy Dalton finally got a chance to take his first career snap in the NFL. It didn't go so well, though. Dalton threw a bad pass down the field and was picked off by Chris Houston, who caught the ball like he was a receiver.
The Lions didn't score any points off the turnover with the second-team offense coming in, and they failed to move the ball again after a Cincinnati punt. The punt came after Cedric Benson had quite a bit of success running the ball, but the defense eventually did make a stop.
The defense did something similar the next time on the field. The Bengals moved the ball deep into Lions territory thanks to a late hit by Stephen Tulloch and Ndamukong Suh treating Dalton like Jake Delhomme and ripping his helmet off. The penalties put Cincinnati in position to score, but the defense ultimately made a stop. The Bengals still got points, but only on a 27-yard field goal.
The third time out for the second-team offense was the charm for the Lions. Hill led the team down the field out of the shotgun on all but one play and capped off an 11-play, 76-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown run. He flipped into the end zone to score the TD, and for his celebration he saluted his late father by pointing to the sky. It was a great tribute and a great drive by Hill.
The Bengals put together a good drive of their own the next time they had the ball. It lasted 13 plays and 7:17, but they didn't get any points out of it. The Lions' defense made a stop after having some issues earlier in the drive, and Cincinnati missed a 42-yard field goal.
The Lions took over with 1:55 to go in the half and Drew Stanton in at quarterback for the first time. He was the victim of some drops, but the Lions still were able to get in position to add a 37-yard field goal before time expired. It wasn't easy to get the kick off, though. The clock was running out on the Lions and the field goal team had to hurry onto the field to get the kick off in time. The Lions successfully pulled off the hurry-up drill and Hanson nailed the kick to give Detroit a 24-3 lead.
There wasn't nearly as much action in the second half. The Lions went three and out to start the half, and Cincinnati's first drive of the third quarter didn't produce any points, either. The Bengals did move the ball well again, this time with a 12-play drive that lasted 6:43, but they were unable to move the chains on 4th and 3, giving the ball back to Detroit.
After trading punts to end the third quarter, Zac Robinson came in at quarterback and quickly added another touchdown for the Lions. A 24-yard pass interference penalty on the Bengals helped Detroit out quite a bit, and Robinson made Cincinnati pay for the mistake with a very nice 28-yard touchdown pass to Nate Hughes.
After again trading punts, the Lions got the ball back on an interception by Ricardo Silva. Willie Young pressured Jordan Palmer into the errant throw, and the Lions ended up getting a 44-yard field goal by Dave Rayner out of the turnover. That was the final score of the game for either team, as the Lions forced a three and out and then ran out the clock by taking a knee three times.
Obviously you can never take too much from the preseason, especially against a team that just clearly isn't very good (it's nice saying this about the other team for a change), but it was nice to see the Lions play so well in a 34-3 win. Stafford looked sharp; Jahvid Best ran the ball well despite the offensive line not doing a great job in run blocking; the backup quarterbacks all performed extremely well; and despite struggling at times the defense only gave up three points.
The Lions will get a day off on Saturday to enjoy the victory and then it's back to work. The Lions are headed to Cleveland to play the Browns next Friday, and preparation for that game will begin on Sunday. In the meantime check back in to Pride of Detroit over the weekend for more analysis on this game.