ReFo: Bengals @ Lions, Week 7
This competitive, back and forth matchup came down to the wire where it was decided in The Third Phase. Detroit was backed up near its own end zone with less than a minute remaining and looking to get to overtime when Sam Martin shanked a 28 yard punt. That mistake put the Bengals in great field position, which they took advantage of, setting up the game winning 54 yard field goal by Mike Nugent.
Fortunately the loss wasn’t too much of a setback for the Lions, as they remain right in the thick of the NFC North race – and with major injuries to both Chicago and to a lesser extent Green Bay, they appear to be set up well going into the second half of the season. Conversely the Bengals grinded out a tough road victory and are two up in their division. We’ll see if they can extend their winning streak to four games after consecutive 27-24 victories in the last two weeks.
Cincinnati – Three Performances of Note
Carlos Dunlap continues to be one of the more underrated defenders in the league. After missing a tackle on Reggie Bush early in the game, he was dominant in collecting seven hurries and two hits. He put his inside move on display at both 8:45 of the first quarter and 8:28 of the third quarter, getting past his blocker in less than three seconds for a hit and hurry. Showing variety later in the game, he picked up a pressure to the outside of LaAdrian Waddle on consecutive fourth quarter plays to flush Matt Stafford and end a Lion drive. As good as Dunlap was rushing the passer, perhaps his best play of the game doesn’t even show up in his +2.7 overall grade; he broke through to block a Detroit field goal late in the second quarter – those potential three points turned out to be the difference in the game.
The Bengals have often won in spite of their third year quarterback, but in this game they won because of the play of Andy Dalton. His +2.9 was among the better we’ve ever given him, as he completed 70.6% of his passes (80.6% if you ignore drops, throwaways and batted passes) with a whopping 10.9 YPA. On the few plays that Detroit brought extra rushers, Dalton was even better with a 15.2 YPA and perfect quarterback rating. An underthrow allowed the defender to recover to attempt a tackle on his 82 yard touchdown pass to AJ Green, but he was money the rest of the way with just one negatively graded throw (4Q, 10:31), and some really impressive ones (2Q 0:46, 3Q 10:49 for example). Dalton had his best game of the season by far going downfield completing 11 of his 13 attempts over 10 yards in the air. However, he’s still struggling throwing to the left side of the field at intermediate distances – he was 0-for-1 in this game and has completed just 25% of his passes there this season.
Nevertheless, if he can play like this more often, the Bengals are going to be scary with a great defense and one of PFF’s highest graded offensive lines at the moment; the group is second in Pass Blocking Efficiency and allowed pressure on just 25% of passing plays in this game – only two QBs faced pressure at a lower rate this week.
Guard Trouble at the POA
While the Bengals had a great day through the air, they struggled on the ground, averaging just 3.2 yards per carry against a stout Lion front. Among the four players grading at -1.0 or worse in run blocking were guards Clint Boling and Kevin Zeitler, surprising given that both have fared well at the point of attack this season. In Boling’s case, he opened the game with a nice outside seal of Nick Fairley (1Q, 11:54), but from that point on he was bested on a number of plays by Fairley and a few others in Detroit’s front seven. At right guard Zeitler had a bit more trouble facing Ndamukong Suh (and at 3Q, 2:02 it was Stephen Tulloch who got him), but as was the case with his teammate, there was nothing too egregious. Fortunately for the Bengals, they won’t face too many more lines as good as the Lions this season, so a bounce back should be in order – especially after the team’s close win in this game.
Detroit – Three Performances of Note
It must be nice for the Lions to have an uncoverable athletic freak of nature, a player whom they can turn to in times of need. That’s exactly what they did at 12:10 of the fourth quarter; down seven and facing a 3rd-and-18, Matt Stafford did what any sensible quarterback would do in that situation: chuck the ball 50 yards into triple coverage in the end zone. So Calvin Johnson rewarded him for that decision by making an unbelievable leaping catch between three defenders to tie the game. Both safeties Reggie Nelson and George Iloka had decent position on the play, but there was little they could do there (short of pass interference), as Johnson turned what would be an inadvisable throw for most QBs into a 50 yard touchdown. Unfortunately for the Lions, that play wasn’t enough as Stafford was otherwise off target for much of the game and was unable to move the offense late in the fourth quarter.
Taylor Makes his Case
Though he’s played sparingly this season, rookie Devin Taylor’s played well in a couple of his games – he notched a +2.5 in only 12 snaps in Week 4, and in this game he graded at +2.3 in just 14 snaps. Among the plays he made was a pressure at 11:01 of the second quarter, when he bulled one of our highest-graded tackles, Andrew Whitworth into Dalton, though he was able to complete the pass on the play. Taylor’s best work was done as a run defender, though, where he compiled two stops in just five snaps on running plays. On both tackles, he took advantage of matchups against smaller defenders – Tyler Eifert at 10:20 of the second quarter, and Mohammed Sanu (4Q, 3:10), making the Bengals pay for not putting a lineman on him on both occasions.
Blocking Struggles on the Edge
While the Lions are getting great production out of Johnson, they aren’t getting much out of tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who’s continued his struggles from last year through seven games. He showed up early with the team’s first touchdown, but didn’t make much of an impact as a receiver after that. Pettigrew finished with just 7 yards gained on three catches and 46 routes run, though it could have been more if not for a third quarter drop. Run blocking was an issue as well, as Dunlap proved too much for Pettigrew on a number of occasions, particularly when the tight end pulled (e.g., 1Q 9:32 and 1:25). While Reggie Bush was caught dancing a little too much at times, he didn’t get much help from his blockers, particularly Pettigrew. Bush averaged just 2.5 yards per carry, despite forcing six missed tackles – and over half of his yards came after contact.
– Stafford faced pressure on 43.1% of his drop backs – the fifth-highest rate this week and third-highest of the Sunday games.
– Cincinnati averaged 5.2 yards per carry on six runs through the A-gaps, but gained just 1.8 YPC on runs to other gaps.
– Taylor Mays’ +3.0 was his best grade of the season, as he allowed just one of five passes to be completed with two pass defenses.
PFF Game Ball
Dalton gets the nod for leading his team to their fifth win of the season.
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