Detroit — If the Detroit Lions’ goal is to get a little bit better each week during this rebuilding season, they fell well short against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. A toothless offensive effort and a defense susceptible to big plays on third and fourth down culminated in a thorough dismantling in front of the home crowd at Ford Field, 34-11.
For the third time this season, the Lions failed to score a single point in the first half, as penalties, a turnover and poor execution all played a role in the offense’s ineptness.
Taking the opening kickoff, the Lions committed back-to-back infractions when tight end T.J. Hockenson was flagged for an illegal formation and rookie offensive tackle Penei Sewell jumped early, essentially killing the drive before it started.
The Bengals had no such issues after fielding a punt and starting at their own 39-yard line. Following a 14-yard pass to convert third-and-9 and keep the possession alive, quarterback Joe Burrow connected with rookie running back Chris Evans for a 24-yard touchdown.
The Bengals lined up with three receivers to the right ahead of the snap, drawing most of Detroit’s defensive attention, while Evans was wide left, covered by Jalen Reeves-Maybin. The former Michigan running back easily shook the coverage with a stutter step that got the linebacker off balance, coming open for the easy score down the sideline and putting the Bengals up, 7-0.
Those ended up being the only points for either team until the final seconds of the half.
The Lions would go three-and-out on the ensuing possession, but the defense got the ball back when Burrow misfired on a third-down throw to rookie Ja’Marr Chase. The pass defected off the receiver’s hands and was intercepted by cornerback Amani Oruwariye, his third of the season.
But the offense failed to capitalize, quickly turning the ball back over to the Bengals. After quarterback Jared Goff was sacked on first down, the quarterback attempted a pass deep down the middle to receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.
St. Brown appeared to make the catch, only to have it ripped from his grasp while on the ground. That’s how it was ruled on the field, but the Bengals challenged the call and replays confirmed the ball was coming out prior to St. Brown hitting the turf, resulting in an interception by linebacker Logan Wilson.
Again, Detroit’s defense came up with a quick stop, forcing a punt. And after picking up a couple first of downs, offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn drew up a third-down play that saw Hockenson running a wheel route coming out of the backfield. The tight end came wide open behind the Bengals coverage, but Goff sailed his intended target.
The Lions would go for it on fourth down after the misfire, but failed to convert as Sewell got hit with a holding call and Goff threw the ball away.
The two sides would trade punts through the second quarter before the Bengals came up with another big play on third down inside the final minute, a 34-yard completion to Chase into Lions’ territory. That set up a 38-yard Evan McPherson field goal as the clock expired on the half.
Coming out of the locker room, the Bengals quickly extended the advantage, driving 75 yards on eight plays. Running back Joe Mixon both kickstarted the possession with a 14-yard run and capped it with a 40-yard touchdown reception.
Facing fourth-and-1, Burrow rolled to his right as Mixon shot uncovered into the right flat. The quarterback flipped the ball over the pass rush as the back raced down the sideline, where he picked up a late block from Chase to clear the path to the end zone.
Detroit’s offense remained impotent through the third quarter, with both possessions ending in a punt. Meanwhile, the Bengals pushed their lead to 20 with a 40-yard McPherson field goal.
Cincinnati closed the third frame threatening as Chase hauled in a 53-yard bomb on the final play of the quarter. Four plays into the fourth, the Bengals were back in the end zone when Burrow found tight end C.J. Uzomah on a fade over the coverage of safety Dean Marlowe, making it 27-0 after the PAT.
The Lions managed to avoid the shutout with a 35-yard Austin Seibert field goal with 8:35 remaining, but couldn’t recover the onside kick following the make.
With the short field, and aided by two pass interference penalties against the Lions, the Bengals worked their way into the end zone for the third time with four second-half possessions.
Backup quarterback Brandon Allen, who replaced Burrow, effectively executed a play-action rollout pass to receiver Auden Tate for the 11-yard score.
With the game well out of reach, the Lions drove 75 yards for their lone touchdown of the afternoon. Goff, inexplicably still in the game, completed seven passes for 74 yards, including a 15-yarder to Swift down to the 1-yard line. The back finished it off with a 1-yard scoring run and Goff added a 2-point conversion with a throw to St. Brown.
With the loss, the Lions drop to 0-6 on the season. Following the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Sunday morning victory over the Miami Dolphins in London, the Lions are the league’s lone winless team. The Bengals improve to 4-2 with the victory, matching their win total from the previous season.