Here is a drive-by-drive look at how the Bengals beat the by a score of 23-13 on Sunday.
- The Lions got off to a good start when Kevin Smith ran for 12 yards on the first play of the game, but that was the only good thing to happen on the opening drive. Smith lost 2 yards on the next play, and following an incompletion, Matthew Stafford scrambled for only 4 yards on 3rd and 12. Detroit had to punt and Quan Cosby returned it 25 yards to the Cincinnati 41.
- Carson Palmer completed a pass for a gain of 11 yards, but similar to the Lions, that was all the Bengals really did on their first drive. Palmer threw a pair of incompletions in Chad Ochocinco's direction, and in between Cedric Benson lost 4 yards.
- Thanks to runs of 7 and 5 yards by Kevin Smith and a 14-yard completion to Calvin Johnson, the Lions were on the move, getting into Bengals territory. Detroit tried a flea flicker on their first play in Cincinnati territory, but the Bengals' defense wasn't faked out at all and forced an incompletion. That set up 3rd and 5, and the Lions thought they were going to pick up an automatic first down thanks to an illegal contact penalty. Problem is Derrick Williams was flagged for an illegal formation penalty, meaning the Lions had to redo third down. This time around Dennis Northcutt made a catch for a gain of 4 yards. I was hoping Detroit would go for it since it was only 4th and 1, but the Lions took a delay of game and punted the ball away. Cosby had another good return to bring the ball back to the 34, meaning the punt only netted 11 yards.
- Cincinnati quickly got the ball moving with a pair of conversions on 3rd and short. After that the Bengals completely fell part, though. Ochocinco moved and was flagged for a false start, and then the Bengals were called for holding. That made it 1st and 22 (it was a spot foul), which was actually irrelevant after the next play. There was a miscommunication of some sort between Carson Palmer and Laveranues Coles, and the pass ended up going right to Will James, who made the catch for an interception.
- The Lions wasted little time in capitalizing on the turnover, going for it all on the very next play of the game. Matthew Stafford threw a rocket downfield for an open Calvin Johnson, who made the catch and ran into the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown. Calvin simply ran through the Bengals' secondary and Stafford hit him in stride to give the Lions a surprising 7-0 lead.
- Following a three and out by Cincinnati, the Lions suddenly had a chance to take a multiple-possession lead. As the first quarter came to an end, the Lions were on their 27-yard line, facing 3rd and 4.
- Matthew Stafford found Calvin Johnson for just enough yards to move the chains, and then Kevin Smith proceeded to run for 8 and 3 yards. It looked like the drive was about to stall when Stafford was sacked for a loss of 11, but Dhani Jones was flagged for a face mask penalty, basically negating the sack and giving the Lions an automatic first down. Even with the penalty the drive still came to an ugly end, unfortunately. In fact, a punt would have been a good ending. I say that because on 3rd and 11, Stafford tried to throw a screen to Aaron Brown. The pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage, though, and Jonathan Fanene caught it and ran 45 yards for a touchdown. Suddenly the Lions' lead vanished and all of their momentum was gone.
- Detroit followed up the turnover by going three and out, and Cincinnati went right down the field when it got the ball back. Cedric Benson got the ball on six straight plays, with five of them being runs. He ran for 11, 9, 3, 0, and 3 yards, and he picked up 10 on a pass from Carson Palmer. It looked like the Lions finally were going to make a stand when Julian Peterson tackled Quan Cosby for a loss of 2 yards on an end around, but Jason Hunter got flagged for taunting. Cincinnati went for it all on the next play and Chad Ochocinco made a catch in the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown. He was wide open despite the fact that there were quite a few Lions in the area around him. He basically got in the middle of all of them to make the catch.
- The Lions sort of got something going thanks to a 42-yard kick return by Aaron Brown, but the offense went three and out. Detroit faced 4th and 2 at the Cincinnati 37 after an incompletion on third down, and once again I wanted the offense to stay on the field to go for it. Instead Jason Hanson came out to attempt a 55-yard field goal and came up just short, as the ball clanked off the crossbar. Going for it definitely seemed like the better option before Hanson missed the kick, and looking back it definitely would have been a better choice, though Hanson did come close to making the kick.
- The defense made a stop after the Bengals only picked up a single first down, which was important considering how great their field position was. Detroit actually managed to move the chains when it got the ball back, but that only happened once before Nick Harris had to punt again.
- The Bengals had 1:08 to do something and 1 timeout left, and Detroit ended up saving them quite a bit of time after Carson Palmer was sacked on the first play of the drive. Jim Schwartz called a timeout because the Lions had all of them. He hoped the defense could make a stop and give the offense a chance to do something before halftime. Well, that backfired, because Palmer completed passes that went for 14 and 22 yards on the next two plays, and then he ran for 8 yards to put the Bengals in position for an easy field goal. A delay of game penalty made it a bit tougher, but Shayne Graham still nailed the kick from 44 yards away, which put Cincinnati on top 17-7 at halftime.
- The Bengals opened the second half by establishing their running game. Cedric Benson ran the ball on the first five plays of the drive, going for a total of 21 yards. Carson Palmer then took over the action for a few plays, running for 2 yards on 3rd and short and then completing passes to Chad Ochocinco for gains of 16, 21, and 6 yards. Benson got the ball back on the next two plays and ran for 3 and -2 yards. The last run came on 3rd and 1, and Larry Foote and Grady Jackson made a nice play to finally bring this drive to an end. Shayne Graham made a field goal from 39 yards out, but that was much better than giving up a touchdown after being on the field for nearly 7 minutes.
- The offense didn't do the defense any favors by quickly going three and out, meaning the defense had very little time to rest after being on the field for so long.
- The Bengals started their next drive in Lions territory and appeared to be well on their way to another score, but Phillip Buchanon nailed Carson Palmer from behind and forced a fumble. Dewayne White recovered the ball and took it to midfield, giving the offense a golden opportunity to make this a game.
- In typical Lions fashion, the offense went three and out, giving the ball back to Cincinnati after being on the field for less than a minute. Also in typical Lions fashion, DeAngelo Smith downed the punt inside the 5 but was flagged for his second illegal touching penalty of the game on a punt. He ran out of bounds and was the first person to make a tackle and/or touch the ball, which is against the rules. That gave the Bengals a touchback instead of awful field position.
- It would be a long, long time until the Lions' offense saw the field again, because Cincinnati went into ball control mode. It ran the final 3 minutes of the third quarter off the clock despite only moving the ball 14 yards, and this was only the beginning of an extremely lengthy drive.
- Cincinnati continued to slowly move the ball down the field by mainly handing the ball off to Cedric Benson and then throwing a pass every once in a while. Eventually the Bengals made it down to the 6-yard line, which is where the drive finally stalled. Cincinnati had to settle for another field goal, which capped off the 17-play, 10-minute-long drive.
- The defense needed a rest after spending so much time on the field, but the Lions' offense once again did nothing to help them. The drive got off to a good start with a 9-yard pass to Casey FitzSimmons and a 17-yard run by Kevin Smith, but Matthew Stafford was picked off on the next play, giving the ball back to the Bengals.
- The defense made a play of its own to get off the field after only three plays. Anthony Henry made a leaping interception on a bad pass by Carson Palmer to give Detroit the ball near midfield. Although this game was completely dominated by Cincinnati in the second and third quarters, the Lions had good field position, only trailed by 16 points, and had 6 minutes to do something.
- Stafford got things going by hitting Kevin Smith for a gain of 17, and then Smith ran for 5 yards. Stafford was sacked for a loss of 9 on the next play, though, making it 3rd and 14. Maurice Morris picked up 11 on a catch to make it 4th and 3, but Stafford's pass to Dennis Northcutt on fourth down was incomplete. To make matters worse, Stafford got lit up on the play and was in even more pain than before. It was already obvious that his left shoulder was bothering him, but after this last play he was really hurt.
- Daunte Culpepper came into the game to take over for Stafford following a three and out by Cincinnati, and after finding Will Heller for 11 yards and running for 7 yards, he threw a prayer up for Calvin Johnson downfield. Megatron somehow hauled in the pass, which was more like a punt than anything. That put the Lions on the 2-yard line, and Kevin Smith ran for a touchdown on the next play. Suddenly the Lions had a chance to make things interesting, but Culpepper threw a terrible pass over Calvin's head on a fade, resulting in a failed 2-point conversion attempt.
- The Lions failed to recover an onside kick, allowing Carson Palmer to take a knee and run out the clock. Cincinnati won 23-13 in what was a one-sided game that was nowhere near as close as the score made it seem because the Lions' offense was nowhere to be found for most of Sunday.
I have to give a lot of credit to the defense for how they played in this game. It picked off Carson Palmer twice and recovered a fumble during the course of the game, which set up one touchdown and should have resulted in more points if the offense hadn't sucked so much. Actually, that's being a little too broad. Kevin Smith had an exceptional game, rushing for 75 yards on 16 attempts (4.7 yards a carry) and gaining 29 yards on 2 catches. Calvin Johnson was also great, picking up 123 yards and a touchdown on 6 catches. The real problem was Matthew Stafford, who went 11/26 and threw 2 interceptions. He really struggled. Sometimes it was a case of the offensive line not giving him enough protection, but at some point he just has to start making better throws. I don't doubt that his injury isn't helping the matter, but he was just inaccurate on Sunday. For the Lions to win another game this season he is going to have to stop throwing interceptions and start making more accurate passes. It's not often that the defense plays quite this well, so it would have been nice if the offense didn't stink it up so much on Sunday.