Detroit — Did you feel daggers pierce your heart when Mike Nugent’s 54-yard field goal fluttered over the uprights and gave the entire city one last cold shower?
Wouldn’t you know it, another Buckeye giving the ziggy to the state of Michigan.
Are you still stinging from the Tigers’ Game 6 elimination against the Red Sox Saturday night? Well the sun did rise on Sunday but so did Nugent’s field goal, and A.J. Green’s vertical, quarterback Andy Dalton’s quarterback rating and Dominic Raiola’s temper.
The Lions (4-3) were on the verge of rising to great heights and staking their claim as a legitimate playoff team. But a shaky punt along with a shaky secondary proved to be their undoing in a devastating 27-24 loss to the Bengals.
The only reason I won’t scream “Same Old Lions” is because the Bengals were the better team and it took some Lions fortune to turn it into a dogfight at the end.
“It was a heavyweight battle. It was a heavyweight fight,” safety Glover Quin said. “We took some punches. They took some punches but they got the last punch in.”
Same old secondary
There was also a high profile knockout. The Bengals used Chris Houston’s aggressiveness against him and popped big plays with double moves. The big blow came on the first series when Green twisted Houston into the ground and scored on an 82-yard touchdown play just four minutes into the game.
He wasn’t the only victim. Rashean Mathis looked pretty foolish when he could not find tight end Tyler Eifert on a 32-yard touchdown pass. And the Lions secondary could not find anybody all day. The Lions made another struggling quarterback look good.
Does anybody remember Matt Flynn, a guy who is bouncing around the league, who got a big contract because of the Lions?
This time it was Andy Dalton’s turn to look like the second coming of Dan Marino. He passed for 372 yards and three touchdowns. Let’s be fair to the secondary. Dalton wasn’t sacked until the final few moments of the game.
He had time to pass and he had time to look over the confused Lions secondary. Yeah, folks are going to come down hard on Houston and Mathis. But where were Willie Young, Nick Fairley and Ziggy Ansah? Ndamukong Suh gets a pass because he did play well in defeat and he got the only sack of the game. Besides, it appears Suh is not allowed to breathe on anyone without drawing a fine from the NFL.
There was one sack and no turnovers. That’s a recipe for disaster for a defense that talks a lot about big plays.
There was also a mixture of emotions afterward. Safety Louis Delmas and Calvin Johnson walked by reporters and refused to speak. They were angry.
Others in the dressing room seemed to be over the loss even as they buttoned up their jackets to face the chilly October afternoon.
Yeah, there were smiles even before fans downed their first pints at The Well and The Dirty Trick.
Johnson keeps it close
Raiola was not smiling.
“We should be upset,” Raiola said. “If you are healing already, you should be hurt. There are no moral victories any more. We are beyond that. We are too good of a team to say we lost a close one. We were a field goal away or in overtime or a couple calls away. It doesn’t matter. We are too good of a football team to do that.”
The Lions could not run between the tackles (25 carries for 77 yards) and it is difficult to run stretch plays against the Bengals. The Lions might have been KO’d earlier if not for Calvin Johnson, who finished with nine catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
He scored a 27-yard touchdown on a 180-degree pirouette catch, a jump ball and finished both plays with crowd pleasing slam dunks over the crossbar. He’s why the Lions are dangerous every time they hit the football field. On the 50-yard jump ball, Bengals safeties George Iloka and Reggie Nelson, along with linebacker Vontaze Burfict, blanketed him on all sides. Johnson, the man who could not jump two weeks ago, soared high into the air and gave the Lions a fighting chance. The play came on a third-and-18 Hail Mary pass from Stafford that tied the game 24-24 with 11:59 left.
“Dang, man that was unbelievable,” said Green, who caught six for 155 yards. “That was the best I’ve ever seen.”
Unfortunately it was not enough because even though Johnson played like a superstar, others did not. And Sam Martin’s shank set up the winning field goal as time expired.
So thus ends a devastating weekend. The sun shall rise again. But there were not many smiling people walking out of Ford Field on Sunday.