Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's assessment of the Cincinnati Bengals performance last night in Detroit is about as positive a spin as one can put on it. The Detroit Lions dominated Cincinnati in every phase of the game en route to a 34-3 victory at Ford Field.
The night began well with Cincinnati winning the opening coin toss, but after deferring, it went downhill fast. Matthew Stafford carved up the Bengals defense, moving the Lions quickly down the field culminating in a 26 yard strike to Calvin Johnson. On the ensuing kickoff, free agent John Griffin, pushed into service because of injuries to Bernard Scott and Quan Cosby, fumbled and the Lions recovered inside the Bengal 20 yard line. The Bengal defense appeared to hold when Nate Burleson was initially ruled out of bounds on an attempted fourth down conversion from the seven. Lion head coach Jim Schwartz threw the challenge flag, however, and the call was overturned. The Lions were up 14-0 before Andy Dalton had even taken his first NFL snap.
Not that his first snap was anything to write home about. Dalton underthrew fellow rookie AJ Green and was intercepted on his first NFL attempt. The Bengal defense held on this occasion, however, and forced a punt. Dalton did recover nicely, finishing his night 11-15 for 69 yards. He appeared much more comfortable on his last two drives, taking the Bengals for a Mike Nugent field goal, and then driving them into field goal range where Nugent missed from 42 yards before the half.
The other positive of the night was Cedric Benson. The Bengals running back carried six times for 37 yards and looked aggressive in hitting the holes and making his cuts. With Scott out, however, there wasn't much behind Benson for the rest of the contest.
Punter Kevin Huber also had a good night, averaging over 50 yards on his five punts. That was the highlight of the special teams evening which saw Nugent's miss along with short kickoffs and several missed tackles. The worst part of the evening was rookie linebacker Dontay Moch being carted off the field after breaking his foot on kickoff coverage.
After the game, head coach Marvin Lewis commented "Now we have a chance to coach off the tape and make corrections off the tape and get after it quickly." If that's the case, then the coaching staff is in for a long Saturday watching film.
The Bengal defense was ineffective all night long. The line generated no pass rush and the secondary, especially Leon Hall, failed in their one on one coverage assignments. Perhaps most disappointing was the play of the linebackers. Both first and second team units performed poorly "in space" and either missed tackles or couldn't cover backs and tight ends. Mike Zimmer has got to be disappointed in the performance of what he thought was the strength of his defense going into Friday night. All four Lions quarterbacks led scoring drives against the Bengals defense.
On the offensive line, Nate Livings was horrible. No other word can describe it. He allowed the Lions defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams to pressure Andy Dalton up the middle on almost every snap. One pressure resulted in the interception, another resulted in Corey Williams sacking Dalton, and yet another would have been a sack had Suh not attempted to rip Dalton's head off in the process, drawing a flag. If that weren't enough, Livings was flagged for holding on a first down conversion to Brian Leonard that would have set the Bengals up first and goal. Instead, Mike Nugent missed the 42 yard field goal and instead of going into the half on a high note possibly down 21-10, the Bengals left for the locker room trailing 24-3.
It's back to the film room and then practice on Sunday for the Bengals as they wind up their stay in Georgetown and prepare to travel to face the New York Jets next Sunday. A lot of issues need to be addressed between now and then. If you're traveling to Georgetown, you might want to keep your kids out of earshot of Mike Zimmer this week.
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