The Detroit Lions had a chance to beat a very good Cincinnati Bengals team at home on Sunday. They came up short, though, as the Bengals connected on a last-second field goal to give them a 27-24 victory. The Lions simply made too many mistakes in the end, and they fell to 4-3 on the season thanks to the loss.
By now, you know the drill for the start of Lions games. Detroit took the ball to open the game after winning the coin toss, and they again failed to score any points. They at least didn't go three-and-out, but it was a single first down and then a punt.
A 65-yard punt by Sam Martin flipped the field, but it didn't end up mattering thanks to A.J. Green and Chris Houston. Following a free first down on third-and-2 thanks to an offside penalty on Willie Young, Green burned Houston and went 82 yards for a touchdown. Houston got turned around by a double move, and he proceeded to miss a tackle as well, allowing Green to score the TD.
The Lions offense responded with an impressive 16-play drive that went 80 yards and took nearly 8 minutes off the clock. The Lions went 4 for 4 on third downs on this drive. They moved the chains on third down with an 11-yard pass to Reggie Bush, a 13-yard run by Joique Bell, an 8-yard pass to Kris Durham and a 3-yard pass to Brandon Pettigrew in the end zone for a touchdown.
Following a Bengals three-and-out that included another Ziggy Ansah strip-sack negated by an offside penalty (Ndamukong Suh recovered the fumble for a touchdown, too), the Lions put together another lengthy drive. This one went 13 plays and covered 75 yards over a span of 5:27. Unfortunately, there was no touchdown at the end of this drive, as the Lions were stopped on third-and-8. Matthew Stafford went for big plays to Durham and Joseph Fauria toward the end of this drive, but neither pass connected, leading to a 36-yard David Akers field goal.
The Bengals looked poised to match the Lions' field goal with one of their own on the next possession. Cincinnati had the ball moving on passes of 13 and 27 yards to Green, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Jermaine Gresham killed the drive. It backed Cincinnati up 15 yards and led to a 47-yard field goal attempt by Mike Nugent. The kick sailed wide left, meaning the Lions were still up 10-7.
The Lions put together a 12-play drive over the next 5 minutes of action, but again, there was no touchdown at the end of this lengthy possession. Stafford narrowly missed a few times on passes that could have gone for big gains or even touchdowns, and the Lions were forced to settle for a 34-yard field goal attempt. The kick was blocked, and the Bengals returned the ball all the way to the Detroit 40. Only seven plays later, Dalton found Marvin Jones in the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown over Houston, who got beat yet again.
Rather than try to make use of the final 41 seconds of the half, the Lions ran the ball twice. As a result, they were booed off the field for their lack of aggressiveness, and they took a 14-10 deficit into halftime.
The Lions' deficit grew to 21-10 as the second half opened thanks to a 32-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to Tyler Eifert. The Bengals went down the field with ease, and Eifert made a great catch despite Rashean Mathis being right on him in coverage.
The Lions bounced back with a touchdown drive of their own. The drive was made possible by a perfect pass to Kevin Ogletree on third-and-20. It looked like the drive was going nowhere, but Ogletree caught the pass in stride for a gain of 43 yards. The Lions followed this up with a 19-yard pass to Calvin Johnson and then a 27-yard pass to Johnson. The 27-yarder came on third down and went for a touchdown that cut the lead down to 21-17.
On the next Bengals drive, the Lions had an early chance for a stop on third-and-7, but a pass to Jones went for 11 yards and moved the chains. Dalton followed this up with a 30-yard pass to an open Gresham as the Lions' pass defense continued to get shredded. Luckily, the defense put the clamps down after this, and they held Cincinnati to a 48-yard field goal. The kick was good, putting the Bengals up by a score of 24-17.
A quick Lions three-and-out led to the Bengals taking over as the third quarter neared its end. The Bengals actually went three-and-out as well, but only after a great challenge by the Lions. Dalton slid on a scramble and originally had enough for a first down. However, upon further review, it was clear he started his slide short of the first down, and the Lions got the ball back after a punt as a result.
The Lions responded to the big stop by the defense with a 6-play touchdown drive that tied up the game. The drive got going with a 27-yard pass to Bush on third-and-1, and the touchdown was scored on an amazing play on third-and-18. The Lions had to rush an injured Riley Reiff (he got hurt in the first half) back into the game right before the play because Corey Hilliard got hurt. LaAdrian Waddle shifted over from left to right tackle, and Stafford ran around before heaving a desperation pass to the end zone. Despite having three defenders on him, Johnson went up and brought down the pass, which Stafford got off just before taking a big hit. The amazing catch showed exactly why Johnson is called Megatron, and it made this a 24-24 game.
After Johnson's ridiculous touchdown, the defense forced a three-and-out thanks in part to offensive interference on Green and a great play by Glover Quin. The punt gave the Lions the ball at their own 28, and they got down to the Cincinnati 46 before the drive stalled. A rush for a loss on first down and an incompletion on second down made it third-and-long, and a pass to Bell was ruled incomplete after a challenge. Offensive interference would have negated it anyway, and the Bengals took over at their own 11.
The Bengals were on the move and needed only a yard to keep the drive going on third down at the Detroit 38. That turned into 6 yards to go after a false start penalty, though, and a sack by Suh resulted in a loss of 8 yards. Cincinnati went from possible field goal range to being pushed back into their own territory quite quickly thanks to the penalty and sack.
An excellent punt pinned the Lions deep, and they were only able to move the chains once. This led to a punt with 26 seconds left, and Martin picked an awful time for a bad one. His punt went only 28 yards, giving the Bengals the ball basically at midfield. Two completions later and the Bengals had a shot at a game-winning field goal. Following a Lions timeout to make him think about it, Nugent drilled the kick from 54 yards out, giving the Bengals a 27-24 victory.
This is the kind of game that you really can't afford to lose if you want to win your division or even make the playoffs. The Lions had a chance to beat a good team at home, and because of various mistakes throughout the course of the game, they weren't able to get the job done. Much like the loss in Arizona earlier in the year, this feels like the type of game that could come back to bite the Lions at the end of the season.
In any case, the Lions desperately need a win next week over the Dallas Cowboys at Ford Field. A win would put them at 5-3 going into their bye week, whereas a loss would drop them to a disappointing 4-4.