The Detroit Lions had avoided coming up small in the clutch in 2013, but as is usually the case, old habits always die the hardest, especially when the Cincinnati Bengals have proven to be a tough team late in games.
Once again, though Detroit attempted to stage an epic second half comeback, those efforts fell short thanks to an inconsistent offense going up against a much better defense. The Lions defense, meanwhile, cracked in the secondary multiple times. When Detroit couldn't sustain a drive, the Bengals benefited from a bungled punt and quickly won the game 27-24 on another late field goal. Quite simply, Cincinnati had the tougher, better coached team. The Hunt Report has some further observations from Detroit's latest failure in the clutch.
The Lions Remain Far Too Aggressive On The Edge. Ziggy Ansah jumped offside again negating a big play for what seemed like the millionth time this season, and Willie Young had a horrible offside call as well. All in all, the Lions are far too aggressive off the edges, and badly need to reign in their overzealous behavior. The pass rush was non-existent Sunday, which helped maximize the problems of a leaky secondary. It's getting downright frustrating to watch these mistakes play out every week from the defensive end spot, and it points to poor coaching technique and a lack of discipline.
Jim Schwartz Should Probably Start Going For It Late In The Second Quarter. Once again, the Lions conservative approach late in the second quarter was silly. Calvin Johnson proved why with his big touchdown grab. Instead, Schwartz called for two straight runs for absolutely no reason at all, and ran out the half. With a jump ball talent like Johnson, why not take a chance at a deep pass? That's a poor approach to coaching, and it sends the wrong message to the team and the fans. The Lions are happy being passive and not going for the big play. Not surprisingly, it continues to bite them.
The Secondary Still Needs A Major Overhaul. Chris Houston, a player the Lions signed in the offseason to a sizeable extension, was benched for horrendous play in the first half. Darius Slay is essentially learning on the job and Rashean Mathis is a slow veteran. In other words, the Lions have some big problems with depth and quality play. Martin Mayhew hasn't properly addressed the secondary, so maybe Sunday's performance (and any subsequent bad ones to come) will help motivate him to find a change eventually. Putting Detroit up against A.J. Green was unfair, as their size and speed of the Bengals burned Detroit all afternoon.
Sam Martin's Choke Was The Biggest. There's no nice way to put it. Early in the season, Martin has been a breath of fresh air for Detroit's special teams, but Sunday, when he needed to boom one punt deep, Martin suffered a horrible case of the shanks. Regardless of what he was feeling at the time, all Martin has to do is boom the football. He couldn't. It's a major team loss, but if Martin boots the ball deep, the Lions could conceivably have lived to fight another day in overtime and perhaps won the game. The rest is now history.
Lions? Calvin Johnson had a big day. Other than that, the Lions had a pretty lousy performance top to bottom.
Lambs? Where to begin. Chris Houston was set ablaze all day long. Sam Martin failed to kick the ball well enough on his last punt of the day. The secondary struggled as a whole, and the coaching staff had a bad afternoon collectively.
Stat Of The Day: 2, the number of blocked field goals the Lions have allowed this season, which has cost them both games. It's been a stunning trend for a team that has looked so vastly improved with specialty teams. This block directly led to the loss, as the Lions fell on a late field goal. The magical fix John Bonamego has applied everywhere else has failed to translate with the blocking assignments. It's always something.
What About The Five Things? Coming into this game, we said it would be important to watch the A.J. Green and Calvin Johnson matchup. It was a virtual wash, as both had outstanding days. The Bengals didn't sack Matthew Stafford, but pressure did play a role all day long. Detroit started a bit better, but finished horribly. The running games didn't do much, and kicking played a huge role, with Mike Nugent stepping up to drill the winner after Martin's shanked punt, while the Lions' David Akers had a kick blocked earlier in the day.
Stalking The Next Prey: The Dallas Cowboys visit Detroit next Sunday afternoon for what figures to be a vital game for positioning in the NFC. The game starts at 1 p.m. and will be broadcast on Fox.
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