Detroit Lions: 2013 Week 7 CIN at DET

Lions lose in devastating fashion

October, 20, 2013

DETROIT -- Sam Martin was about to head into the shower. Reporters were waiting and he was going to talk, but at first, the punter wanted a few minutes before he explained what happened, what went wrong.

Then he changed his mind. He walked back to his locker, and for more than two minutes the rookie broke down why his final punt during the Detroit Lions27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals was one of the worst of his short career. Why one half-inch turned a typical Martin punt into a 28-yard shank and one of the many contributing factors into a loss devastating enough for quarterback Matthew Stafford to consider it one of the toughest of his career.

“Had nothing to do with the pressure,” Martin said. “It was the simple fact that I thought they were going to try blocking the punt and I rushed myself. I was trying to put the ball on the sideline to keep it away from the returner and I pulled it.”

A half-inch and a wrong read from everyone involved, from the rookie kicking the ball to decisions made before the play. Cincinnati didn’t rush the punt, so Martin rushed his process for no reason.

He didn’t know about the lack of rush until he stepped off the field, but he knew he hit a bad punt the second he kicked it.

Martin finished his media obligations, sat back in his chair and stared at his locker for a while.

Across the locker room, cornerback Chris Houston was placing all the blame on himself. He was beat badly on double moves, including one on Cincinnati’s opening series leading to an 82-yard touchdown. He was the coverage man on two of the Bengals’ touchdowns Sunday and was pulled to start the second half in favor of rookie Darius Slay. Houston understood the decision and said that to his recollection it was the first time he had ever been benched.

“It was just a wake-up call, man,” Houston said. “That first half was probably my worst football I ever played.”

Houston has seen double moves all season. His aggressiveness, wanting to make a big play, cost him. The long touchdown to Green was all on him. He said he got caught in an out-and-up and couldn’t recover.

He returned to the game later after Rashean Mathis injured his groin, but he said after the game was over “this loss was on me.”

“If I kept playing like that, I would have took myself out and put somebody in there,” Houston said. “Like I said, I felt like I let my team down. My offense, defense, special teams, my coaches.”

It goes beyond one player or two players, though, to understand how this loss happened.

Detroit had a field-goal try late in the first half blocked and Cincinnati went on to score a touchdown, turning what could have been a 13-7 Detroit lead into a 14-10 Cincinnati one at halftime.

The Lions couldn’t get much running room, gaining only 3.1 yards a carry. All of this rolled into a play here, a play there. A drive that couldn’t get started at the end turning a potential game-winning drive into a difficult loss.

"They came in and they finished," receiver Kris Durham said. "And we didn't."

They didn't Sunday, but they have in the past this season. That might be the difference with Detroit this year. The Lions have shown resiliency in the past. They came back to win games already this season against Minnesota and Cleveland. They could still win the NFC North.

Dallas comes in next week, and then the Lions are off. And while there isn’t necessarily pressure there, for Detroit to keep the positive momentum it had over the first six weeks of the season, it would help if the Lions didn’t lose two in a row at home.

“We will bounce back,” center Dominic Raiola said. “I know we will bounce back. We have a bunch of fighters in here. Look who is in this room, look at our quarterback. We have the best wide receiver in the world. We have a bunch of fighters in here.”

The quarterback, Stafford, is in the midst of one of the best seasons of his career. But this loss hurt him. As Martin stared at his locker, Stafford was not far away.

A baseball cap on his head, fully dressed, but he didn’t leave. He sat in silence instead, staring out at the rest of the locker room.

While it is not known what he was thinking, there was one prevailing feeling among the Lions. They had let what could have been a massive victory slip away.

Locker Room Buzz: Detroit Lions

October, 20, 2013
DETROIT -- Observed in the locker room after the Detroit Lions' 27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals:

Silence: After one of the tougher losses Detroit has had in recent seasons -- and certainly its most difficult loss of this season -- it was mostly a silent, beat-up locker room after the game. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush declined to talk with reporters after the game.

Sitting at his locker: Give Sam Martin some credit. He did own up to the shanked punt, explained what happened and answered about two-and-a-half minutes of questions. After, though, he sat and stared at his locker for a while before long-snapper Don Muhlbach started to talk to him.

Watching the scene: After he was done with his media obligations, quarterback Matthew Stafford was one of the last players to leave the Lions' locker room. He sat in a corner and stared out at the rest of his guys. No one was really talking to him, just looking on in complete silence. Stafford, when asked after the game if it was one of the toughest losses he’s been a part of, he answered with one word: “Yep.”

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

October, 20, 2013

DETROIT -- Some thoughts on the Detroit Lions27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals:

What it means: Tough, tough loss for Detroit. It struggled defensively, came back offensively and wasted some big, big plays from Calvin Johnson, as Mike Nugent make a 54-yard field goal at the buzzer to win.

The loss puts some pressure on Detroit. The Lions drop to 4-3 and now have a somewhat critical game against Dallas at home next Sunday to keep some positive momentum going. Perhaps the worst thing for Detroit is the way the loss happened. The Lions' defense finally pressured quarterback Andy Dalton to get the ball back late in the fourth, but the offense stalled with some questionable play calling. Rookie punter Sam Martin, who has been consistent for Detroit, shanked a punt to give Cincinnati a chance.

Stock watch: Rising -- cornerback Darius Slay and receiver Kris Durham. Slay will eventually be a starter. The rookie again entered the game in relief of a starter -- first to replace the benched Chris Houston and then staying in when Rashean Mathis left the game for the second straight week with a groin injury. Durham had his fourth straight game with at least three receptions. He has been big for the Lions since Nate Burleson’s forearm injury.

Falling -- Front-four pressure and Detroit’s pass coverage. Dalton was not sacked once and was barely rushed Sunday by the Lions’ front four in the first 58 minutes. When it mattered, though, the Lions got the pressure they needed as Ndamukong Suh sacked Dalton with less than two minutes left. The Lions' secondary struggled to find A.J. Green, who blew past Houston for one touchdown and could have had a second if not for a fingertip saving play by safety Glover Quin.

Record-setting Calvin: On what might be the play of the year for Detroit, Johnson caught a 50-yard touchdown pass in triple coverage to tie the game at 24. On the play, he went over 100 yards receiving in a game for the 35th time, setting a franchise record. Herman Moore, who was in the press box Sunday, had 34. Johnson also became the third Lions player in history to score 60 touchdowns, joining Moore and Barry Sanders.

What's next: Detroit has its second straight home game, this time against Dallas. Then the team will be off for its bye.
Some halftime thoughts as the Cincinnati Bengals lead the Detroit Lions, 14-10, at the half.

Not finishing drives: Detroit has moved the ball fairly well during the first half, but stalled twice inside the red zone. One resulted in a David Akers field goal. The other was a blocked field-goal attempt by Akers from 34 yards with a little under three minutes left in the first half. Detroit has been good in red zone opportunities this season, scoring touchdowns 61.9 percent of the time entering Sunday. The Lions struggled there in the first half and considering their inability to cover A.J. Green (more on that next), that could be a problem.

Defend A.J. Green better: It might sound silly, but Detroit gave Green a ton of cushion in the first half and it showed. He burnt Lions cornerback Chris Houston on a double move in the first quarter that led to the Bengals’ only touchdown. Green has four catches for 135 yards and a touchdown in the first half and has caught all four of his targets. In the realm of the NFL, none were particularly difficult catches and two of them, including the touchdown, were wide open. Detroit will have to figure out some scheme change there. The Lions have been good against Tyler Eifert, though, as he has no catches and has just been targeted once.

Injuries a concern: Detroit knew it’d be without starting right tackle Jason Fox (he’s been out for a while), but the Lions also lost left tackle Riley Reiff to a hamstring injury in the second quarter. This leaves Detroit without both of its Week 1 starting tackles. Unlike losing Fox and having a veteran like Corey Hilliard backing him up, the Lions are going with undrafted free agent LaAdrian Waddle at left tackle while Reiff is out. It’ll be interesting to see how he holds up as the game progresses. He has been decent in his first real action.