The Bengals gave up their fair share of big plays against the Detroit Lions on Thursday night, but they showed great toughness in the red zone and managed to keep Detroit out of the end zone for much of the game.
The Bengals showed toughness in the red zone from the start, as on Detroit’s first drive, the Bengals gave up back-to-back big plays on connections from Matthew Stafford to former Bengal Marvin Jones, one for 32 yards and one for 19. But after those two plays got Detroit all the way down to the 10 yard-line, Cincinnati’s defense looked completely different. Jones caught another pass on the next play, but only got five yards before being gang-tackled by what seemed like all 11 defenders, and following that Michael Johnson burst through the line and dragged down running back Theo Riddick for a loss. Add in some shutdown defensive coverage by Dre Kirkpatrick on Golden Tate on 3rd down, and Lions would have to settle for just 3 points.
Cincinnati shut Detroit down for their next three drives, including the drive where Derron Smith recorded a 60-yard pick-six to put the team up 14-3. Following that interception, the Lions strung together another dangerous drive. DeShawn Williams was called for an offsides that gave the Lions’ drive new life, and following that Dan Orlovsky hit Cole Wick with a 24 yard pass to get the Lions into Bengals territory. Orlovsky then connected with TJ Jones on another 24-yard pass to get Detroit back into the red zone, but the Bengals defense again held strong. They didn’t allow another set of downs, as on 1st down Pat Sims and Margus Hunt both brought pressure and forced Orlovsky to throw an incompletion, and that was followed up by Chris Lewis-Harris holding Andre Roberts to just 6 yards on a screen play. On 3rd down, the Bengals brought pressure from every linebacker and safety, leaving just three guys in coverage, and Vincent Rey got to Orlovsky to force a bad pass, leaving Detroit to settle for another field goal.
Cincinnati continued to shut Detroit down all the way up until the final two minutes of the game, when the Lions managed to score a touchdown and convert for 2 points.
The toughness the defense showed was noticed by Marvin Lewis.
"Our defense obviously did a good job when they got down in the red zone, stopping them and getting off the field and holding them to a field goal," he said after the game.
It was also something recognized by the defenders themselves, including Domata Peko. "You know, they had us going for a little bit there, but once we got in the red zone we put our feet in the ground and we held our ground there and held them to three points," Peko said.
The defense performed very well in the red zone, even if they gave up some big plays that caused them to have to hold their ground in tight spots. It’s kind of obvious, but it doesn’t matter how many yards you give up if you still manage to keep your opponent out of the end zone.
The red zone toughness is something to build on from last week, as the defense gave up a touchdown to the Minnesota Vikings down inside the 20 last week. It’s also worth noting that while big plays were given up, there weren’t any plays where the defense got completely burned for a touchdown like they did against Charles Johnson last week.