It’s safe to say Calvin Johnson has returned to form. Perhaps even 2011 form. Unforunately, the Detroit Lions played like it was 2012.
Johnson caught nine passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns, and the Lions had myriad opportunities to seize control of the game in the fourth quarter. It looked like they would send the game into overtime, but a shanked punt by Sam Martin helped set up a 54-yard field goal for Bengals kicker Mike Nugent as time expired.
The story in this one, aside from Johnson’s resurgence, is the injuries and poor play in the secondary and the offensive line. Riley Reiff and Corey Hilliard both went down with injuries, which put Matthew Stafford under pressure all day (and he wasn’t pinpoint accurate even when he had time) and helped stifle the running game.
Meanwhile, Andy Dalton had a career afternoon with 24/34 passing, 372 yards and three touchdowns. Most notably, Dalton avoided the bad decisions and turnovers that have plagued the Bengals, mostly because he was given a clean pocket to throw from for most of the game.
This is going to go down as one of those painful games that was winnable in every way, but that they just never took control of. The Bengals executed better late, and they got the win as a result.
Coming out of this game, the Lions are going to have to figure out what the offensive line is going to look like next week with all the injuries, as well as decide what to do with the secondary. Chris Houston was burned repeatedly in the first half for big gains, so much that he ended up benched for rookie Darius Slay by the second half.
It’s a bit too much to say the Lions were “exposed” in this game. The Bengals had a good defensive gameplan, and their domination up front made Stafford throw the ball 51 times, usually under pressure. Still, the Lions definitely have some things to fix before they play Dallas. That Week 9 bye is looking better every week.
The Lions fall to 4-3 and will play Dallas, which improved to 4-3 with a win over Philadelphia. The Bengals improve to 5-2 and will play the New York Jets.