Saturday, August 13, 2011
An encouraging opening night in Detroit
By Kevin Seifert
Reviewing the NFC North’s first game of the 2011 preseason:
Detroit Lions 34, Cincinnati Bengals 3
Preseason record: 1-0
Of interest: The Lions’ first-team offense was done for the night before the first-team defense saw the field. Matthew Stafford's back-shoulder touchdown pass to receiver Calvin Johnson illustrated the connection they now have. Newcomer Rashied Davis made an immediate impact, recovering a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. I loved coach Jim Schwartz’s guilty expression for challenging a play that ultimately got receiver Nate Burleson credit for a 7-yard touchdown pass. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh helped force Chris Houston's interception by slamming into quarterback Andy Dalton on the Bengals' first offensive play. Suh’s personal foul on the subsequent hit wasn’t as bad as the helmet-ripping stunt he pulled against Cleveland’s Jake Delhomme last year, but it will be hard to avoid a penalty when the quarterback’s helmet comes off. The Bengals’ only scoring drive included 30 yards of Lions penalties. Anyone else get a lump in their throat when quarterback Shaun Hill pointed to the sky after his flip over the goal line? Hill’s father died this offseason after falling off a roof he and Shaun were repairing. Overall, a strong first-week performance for the Lions. No turnovers. No pressure on Stafford, whose only incompletion in seven attempts was a dropped pass. Johnson’s bruised left shoulder, suffered on the touchdown catch, is believed to be mild.
Local coverage: All but one of Stafford’s passes came from the shotgun, ensuring his protection, notes Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press. Suh didn’t speak to reporters, but of his penalty, Schwartz said: "He's trying his very best. But that's one of those situations where you have to know that the ball is gone. We kept a couple of drives alive with penalties and we have to do a better job of that, but we don't want to slow the guy down." (Via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.) Schwartz didn’t seem too upset about the penalty, writes Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com. Receiver Derrick Williams, fighting for a roster spot, dropped the first two passes thrown his way but rebounded later for a 32-yard reception, notes Tim Twentyman of the News. The only thing Stafford didn’t do was take a hit, writes Bob Wojnowski of the News. The Lions’ only downer was their running game, notes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Jerome Harrison was first off the bench to replace starter Jahvid Best but managed eight yards on eight carries.
Next: Friday at the Cleveland Browns