Rushing offense: D+
After averaging 163.5 yards the previous two games, the Bengals only managed 57 yards on 18 carries for a paltry 3.2 average against a Lions defense that came into the game ranked 29th in the league against the run. But because of what the Bengals had done against New England and Buffalo, Detroit loaded up against the run and dared Andy Dalton to beat them with his arm, which he did. So give the run game a few points for being a solid decoy.
Passing offense: A
Andy Dalton threw for 372 yards, which was the third-highest total of his career, but there was no question this was his best performance yet. And that’s backed up by his career-high 135.9 passer rating. Dalton completed passes to seven different receivers and was 11-of-13 for 272 of his 372 yards — and all three touchdowns — on throws of 10 yards or more. He also was 4-of-5 for 76 yards and a TD when the Lions blitzed. And he perfectly orchestrated the final two passes in the final seconds to get the Bengals into range for Mike Nugent’s game-winning field goal. Marvin Jones caught a TD pass for the second week in a row, and Tyler Eifert made a nice adjustment on his leaping score, the first of his career.
Rushing defense: B+
The Bengals held the Lions to 77 yards on 25 carries (3.1) and never let the explosive Reggie Bush get loose for anything longer than a 7-yard gain. While the 77-yard output was the second lowest Cincinnati has allowed this season, Detroit was able to convert 3-of-4 short-yardage situations into first downs, including one play where Joique Bell ripped off a 13-yard gain on third-and-1.
Passing defense: C-
Matthew Stafford repeatedly converted third downs by finding wide-open receivers and finished with 357 yards, snapping the Bengals’ streak of 21 consecutive games without allowing a 300-yard passer. All three of the Lions’ touchdowns came on third down. But Dre Kirkpatrick had good coverage on Calvin Johnson’s first TD, and the second one was basically a Hail Mary on third-and-18. Megatron might be the only receiver in the game who would have caught that ball, so it’s hard to dock the Bengals for that one. They did fail to record a sack, but they got several solid shots on Stafford and were enough of a threat to cause some early overthrows that otherwise would have been touchdowns.
Special teams: B+
Almost as big as Mike Nugent’s game-winning 54-yard field goal was Carlos Dunlap’s block of a David Akers field goal attempt late in the first half. The block and subsequent 25-yard return by the combination of Reggie Nelson and Kirkpatrick set up a touchdown pass from Dalton to Jones for what was a 10-point swing. Punter Kevin Huber had an excellent day with his directional kicks, and he also delivered a clutch 45-yarder that long snapper Clark Harris downed at the Detroit 6-yard line with 1:43 left in a tie game, setting up the final series of events that led to Nugent’s game-winner. The only negatives were a 47-yard miss by Nugent and Adam Jones fielding a punt on his own 2 instead of letting it bounce into the end zone for a touchback.
Marvin Lewis won two key replay challenges to stay perfect (4-for- 4) on the year, and he also made a bold decision to call a timeout when Detroit had the ball inside of two minutes with a chance to drive for the game-winning score. When the Lions ran the ball for a modest 4-yard gain on first down, Lewis gambled that his team would get the ball back, which it did with 26 seconds left. The timeout, which could have backfired had the Lions converted a few first downs, saved the Bengals at least 30 seconds, setting the stage for Nugent’s heroics. The defensive staff also did admirable job after the Leon Hall injury by settling down the emotional, rattled defensive backs and adjusting coverages on the fly.