Detroit Lions look to revive running game, force turnovers after loss to Bengals
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Calvin Johnson was his usual, talented self, and it wasn't enough to stop the Detroit Lions from dropping their first home game of the season.
The Lions' secondary was burned for a deep touchdown, a field goal was blocked and a punting gaffe in the final minute helped Cincinnati quickly get in position for a field goal and a 27-24 victory. The Lions now find themselves 4-3 with a visit this Sunday from Dallas before their bye week.
Coach Jim Schwartz said the reasons for Sunday's loss were simple.
"Lack of takeaways, lack of a consistent running game," he said Monday. "We're at our best when we're doing those things."
The Bengals held the Lions to just 77 yards on the ground in a game dominated by passers Andy Dalton and Matthew Stafford. Neither team turned the ball over.
Detroit has just one takeaway in its three losses this season but has 12 in its four wins.
Cornerback Chris Houston was in coverage on two of Cincinnati's touchdowns, including an 82-yard catch after A.J. Green got behind him, and he was benched in favor of rookie Darius Slay at the start of the second half. He returned to the game after corner Rashean Mathis left the game with an injury, but took the loss hard.
"If I kept playing like that, I would have took myself out and put somebody else in there," Houston said after the game. "I felt that I let my team down — offense, defense, special teams, my coaches."
Schwartz agreed it was hardly a highlight for the veteran corner, but didn't seem concerned that the performance will linger.
"He didn't play his best game, for sure," he said. "Confidence means a lot for corners. He'll get it back."
Johnson, who missed an Oct. 6 loss at Green Bay with a knee injury, had nine catches Sunday for 155 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 50-yarder caught amid three defenders that tied the game at 24 in the fourth quarter.
"He wasn't Calvin Johnson, he was Megatron," Schwartz said. "He did everything he could to help us win the game."
Johnson set new a Lions record for 100-yard receiving games with his 35th, one more than Herman Moore, and extended his record to 11 games with at least two touchdown catches. The two scoring plays gave him 61 career touchdown catches, one shy of matching Moore's team record.
Schwartz did not elaborate on the status of three players knocked out of Sunday's game. Tackles Riley Reiff (hamstring) and Corey Hilliard (knee) left the game, though Reiff returned. Schwartz said it's too soon to tell if the team might have to look for another tackle before Sunday's game.
Mathis did not finish the game due to a groin injury but the coach said he's "no worse for wear."
Running back Theo Riddick and tight end Tony Scheffler each missed the game due to concussions.
The Lions return from their bye week with a Nov. 10 trip to Chicago, whom they defeated 40-32 earlier this season. The Bears likely will be without quarterback Jay Cutler (groin) and linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder). Both players were injured in Sunday's 45-41 loss at Washington.