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.