The Cincinnati Bengals beat the Detroit Lions 27-24 off a game-winning field goal by Bengals Mike Nugent.
With two teams this evenly matched the unexpected is bound to be an x-factor. Today the kicking game killed the Lions.
It was not quarterback Matthew Stafford’s fault for the loss. Stafford missed on a few too many throws but finished the day with 351 passing yards and three touchdowns. He notched his highest total QBR of the season at 81.9. Stafford did all of this against a Bengals defense that had not allowed a quarterback to throw for 300 yards in 20 straight regular season games, the longest active streak in the NFL.
Nor was it wide receiver Calvin Johnson’s burden to bare. Megatron broke Herman Moore’s record of 34 100-yard receiving games. Johnson already has surpassed his touchdown total of last year with six touchdowns in his first seven games. None of these scores were more impressive than his 50-yard reception over three Bengal defenders. Johnson disappointed last week while still recovering from a knee injury. Have no fear Megatron is back.
The defense was poor, but it did its job when it mattered most. Ndamukong Suh’s sack got the unit off the field for what should have been its last stand of the 4th quarter.
No, the bulk of the blame goes to the special teams: the blocked field goal on David Akers, the botched punt by Sam Martin and the game-winner from Bengals kicker Mike Nugent.
One of these three small mistakes don’t happen, and the Lions have a great chance to win.
But at the end of the day I should have stuck with my original pick. The Lions are not elite yet. Far from it but this game was a dog-fight that either team could have pulled away with. This time the Bengals got the breaks (special team follies). Hopefully one day luck won’t matter for the Lions . Elite-level teams don’t need it.
The Lions stay home against the injury-riddled Dallas Cowboys next week at 1PM Sunday.