FOUR DOWNS: Team loss, Stafford's misses, Houston owns up and Waddle steps in

Posted Oct 20, 2013

Tim Twentyman takes a look at four keys from Detroit's 27-24 last-second loss to the Cincinnati Bengals



The last play is usually the one that hurts the most and the one fans remember the most.

For the Lions, Sunday, that was the 28-yard shanked punt by rookie Sam Martin that set up the Bengals' 54-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.

That's the play everyone will talk about at the water cooler on Monday, but as Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders said in a tweet shortly after the game, you win and lose as a team.

Sanders is right, the Lions' 27-24 loss to the Bengals was a complete team loss and all three phases had a hand in it.

Cornerback Chris Houston biting on a double move and giving up an 82-yard touchdown in the first quarter was just as costly a play.

So, too, was the blocked field goal by Carlos Dunlap at the end of the first half that resulted in a Bengals touchdown and a 10-point swing.

Let's not forget the offense had a chance to drive the field with 1:43 left and win the game and could only muster one first down.

Lots of people will blame Martin's punt for the loss -- even Martin himself after the game -- but the blame touches all three phases of this team.



Matthew StaffordPhoto: G. Smith/Detroit Lions

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw for 357 yards and three touchdowns -- two to Calvin Johnson -- but it wasn't his best performance throwing the football.

Stafford completed just 54.9 percent of his passes and missed on a number of throws that could have changed the course of the game.

Three throws in particular, all on the same drive late in the second quarter, were especially costly.

The first was an overthrow to Johnson, who had gotten behind the Bengals defense and would have scored a touchdown had Stafford put the ball on him. Stafford threw it about 60 yards in the air, but only needed 55.

The second was a 2nd-and-7 play where receiver Kris Durham had gotten behind his man and had a run at the end zone, but Stafford just overthrew his outreached hands.

The last miss was on 2nd-and-8 and Stafford missed receiver Ryan Broyles right at the end zone on another high throw. It was a tough pass over the linebacker, but one Stafford will watch on tape and probably admit he should have made it.

So why bring these three plays up?

Well, two plays after the Broyles miss, the Lions lined up for a David Akers field goal that was blocked, returned into Lions territory and eventually converted into a touchdown.

That play doesn't happen if Stafford connects on one of those three throws.



Give Chris Houston credit. He played a terrible game and stood in front of reporters and said as much after the game.

"I put the whole loss on me," Houston said. "I wasn't in that zone. I feel like I let my teammates down."

Houston didn't have an answer for Bengals All Pro receiver A.J. Green, who beat him on an 82-yard touchdown early in the game and had 122 yards in the Bengals' first eight plays.

It got so bad for Houston that he and the coaches decided to make a switch to rookie Darius Slay at halftime.

"I don't think I have (ever been benched)," Houston said. "If I kept playing like that, I would have took myself out and put somebody else in there. Because like I said, I felt that I let my team down -- offense, defense, special teams, my coaches. Double moves are hurting me right now."

Houston's services were eventually needed later after Rashean Mathis went down with a groin injury, but it had to be a humbling experience for a cornerback that is considered the Lions No. 1 option at the position.

"I don't think we did a very good job in coverage," head coach Jim Schwartz said after the game. "We didn't want to give up big plays to No. 18 (A.J. Green).

"He goes and makes a huge play early in the game and it was something that was a big point of emphasis all week. All his double-moves and things like that, stuff we worked on all week and we didn't execute well enough in that."



The Lions looked to be in pretty dire straits in the second half when right tackle Corey Hilliard went down with a knee injury and guard Dylan Gandy trotted on the field, presumably to play tackle.

Left tackle Riley Reiff, who left the game earlier with a hamstring injury, trotted on the field and gutted out the rest of the game, but it showed how much the Lions were hurting at the position.

If not for rookie LaAdrian Waddle, It could have gotten very rough.

Waddle was called upon to play left tackle when Reiff initially went out and moved over to the right side when Hilliard was hurt. By all accounts, he held his own in his first action in a regular season NFL game at tackle.

"In the feel of the game, we were calling all the same plays," Schwartz said of Waddle. "It wasn't like we were changing the way we had to play because he was out there.

"We had a lot of confidence in him. He had a good preseason. He's continued to work hard. He's a young player, but he's on our 53 and he's been on our 46 quite a bit this year. You don't put a guy on the 46 if he's not ready to play and we had confidence that he was."