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Published September 12, 2015
Marvin Lewis had already mapped out how far the Cincinnati Bengals needed to go to move into field-goal range in the final seconds.
"I wrote 36 on my sheet at the beginning of the game," the Cincinnati coach said, referring the yard line the ball would need to be snapped from.
That's exactly where the Bengals were when Mike Nugent kicked a 54-yard field goal as time expired to give Cincinnati a 27-24 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday. It looked like the Bengals would have to hold on just to force overtime, but they were able to stop the Lions in the final minute, and Detroit's Sam Martin had a 28-yard punt that gave Cincinnati the ball near midfield with 26 seconds left.
"You can tell you hit a bad punt right when you hit a bad punt," Martin said. "That kick came down to that play at the end of the game. That's what you see and that's the immediate thought. I don't think anyone's ever been wrong for thinking that. I should have hit a better punt."
Lewis said Nugent could have attempted a game-winning kick from about 58 yards, but his pregame sheet said reaching the 36-yard line would put the Bengals in range.
Andy Dalton, who had three touchdown passes, threw two short passes to gain 15 yards and called the team's last timeout to set up the winning field goal.
Cincinnati (5-2) has won three straight, the last two by identical scores on kicks by Nugent.
The Lions (4-3) rallied from an 11-point third-quarter deficit, but not even two touchdowns by Calvin Johnson could help them pull this game out.
Here are five reasons Cincinnati came away with the win on the road:
SPECIAL TEAMS: It wasn't just the winning field goal or Martin's poor punt that loomed large at the end.
Cincinnati's Kevin Huber gave his team a lift with a punt that pinned the Lions at their own 6 with 1:43 to play, and the Bengals blocked a field goal earlier in the game.
MATCHING MEGATRON: Johnson was spectacular, especially when he leaped to catch a 50-yard touchdown pass while surrounded by three Bengals, tying the game at 24 in the fourth.
But while Johnson finished with nine catches for 155 yards, Cincinnati's A.J. Green caught six passes for 155 yards, including an 82-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
"A.J. had a big day today, but a bunch of guys were making big catches that are getting us conversions, getting us downfield, and changing the field position," Dalton said. "It was a big win."
OVERCOMING INJURIES: Cincinnati lost cornerback Leon Hall early on with an Achilles tendon injury that Lewis called "significant" — and defensive tackle Devon Still hurt his elbow.
Detroit dealt with problems on its offensive line. Tackle Riley Reiff hurt his hamstring but was able to return, and tackle Corey Hilliard went down with a knee injury.
DEFENSIVE TOUGHNESS: The Lions went 13 of 19 on third down and controlled the ball for 34:31, but the Cincinnati defense didn't wilt.
In fact, the Bengals were tough when they needed to be, preventing Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford from getting anything going on the Lions' final possession, before Martin's errant punt.
"The defense makes a big third-down stop there at the end, when we haven't stopped them much all day," Lewis said. "We get a good chance at a punt return, he has a bad punt, we're able to get the ball up and down twice on offense, call timeout and kick the field goal. So we wrote a pretty good script there at the end."
SECONDARY STRUGGLES: Lions cornerback Rashean Mathis hurt his groin, and cornerback Chris Houston was upset with himself after Dalton threw for 372 yards.
It was Houston who was beaten on Green's long touchdown, and at one point the Detroit veteran was benched.
"That was probably my worst half of football I ever played," Houston said. "I put this loss on me. Nobody else. I put it on me. I will be better but this total loss is on me."
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org