DETROIT – Justin Durant and the rest of Detroit's defense had to wait a little while before finally taking the field in the first preseason game.
The Lions had the ball first, scored a touchdown, then forced a turnover on the ensuing kickoff.
"I didn't think we were going to get a chance to play," Durant said, joking.
Eventually, the defense did get in the game, and it lived up to expectations, intercepting rookie Andy Dalton on Cincinnati's first offensive play and shutting down the Bengals in a 34-3 victory Friday night. The Lions said it was the fewest points allowed by Detroit in the preseason since a 16-0 win over Cincinnati in 1999.
As usual, Ndamukong Suh's presence was felt the most. The second-year defensive tackle knocked Dalton over on Cincinnati's first offensive snap — just after the quarterback released a long pass up the right sideline. The ball was underthrown and intercepted by Chris Houston.
"We wanted to just set the tone for the year, from the defensive line to the linebackers to the secondary," Houston said. "We know that we are going to be a great group this year, but we just want to come together, play together and go out and improve every game."
The defensive line is expected to anchor the Detroit defense, with Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril and Corey Williams. The Lions also drafted defensive tackle Nick Fairley in the first round, but he's recovering from foot surgery.
Cincinnati gave Dalton plenty of playing time, and he went 11 of 15 for 69 yards, but the Bengals could manage only a second-quarter field goal. Suh was a factor in limited playing time. Late in the first quarter, he wrapped up Dalton and threw him down just after the quarterback had gotten rid of the ball. Dalton's helmet came off during the play, and Suh was called for roughing the passer.
"It's unbelievable the ability and the power that he has," Durant said. "To overpower grown men like that — I can't even describe it. It's crazy."
Durant is one of a few additions the Lions made to their defense. He signed as a free agent after four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Detroit also landed free agents Stephen Tulloch, a linebacker from the Tennessee Titans, and Eric Wright, a cornerback from the Cleveland Browns.
Durant and Tulloch combined for three tackles and two assists Friday.
"It was our first game playing together and I think we have a real good group here as far as starters and depth-wise as a unit," Tulloch said. "We are all young, we have something to build on and it's going to be exciting here. I think we are going to keep building as the preseason goes along, but we are on the right course."
Although they kept Cincinnati from scoring much, the Lions did show room for improvement in some areas. In particular, they allowed Cedric Benson to rush for 37 yards on six carries.
"We need to do a little better job stopping the run," coach Jim Schwartz said. "We got gashed a couple times. Good news is defensively we didn't give up the big plays, made teams drive and stop and held them to field goal attempts.
"And you always have a chance when that happens."