O'HARA: Lions trapped in the present after a stinging 27-24 loss to Cincinnati

Posted Oct 20, 2013

After tough losses like Sunday's, the Lions likely want nothing more than to move ahead to the next game

There was nothing left to do and not much to say. Calvin Johnson, who'd done everything he could -- and then some -- to take a game into his own hands and deliver a victory for the Lions was at a loss for words to explain away a bitter loss.

Calvin JohnsonWR Calvin Johnson (Photo: T.Hurley/Detroit Lions)

Johnson dressed carefully and slowly as the usual media throng waited in a semi-circle at his locker to hear his version of what went wrong in Sunday's 27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at Ford Field.

There would be no ready explanation from Johnson. He said he had other obligations before departing with a brief comment.

"Get you all next time," Johnson said.

He had given another other-worldly performance with nine catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns. One was a 50-yard catch in the end zone when he was surrounded by three Bengals defenders.

Obviously, one against three favored Megatron, who had some comments later, away from the media crowd in the locker room.

But Sunday was no day to glory in an individual accomplishment. Johnson and the Lions had to find a way to move on. In that regard, they have no choice. The NFL routine doesn't allow for wallowing in place.

But "next time" has a hollow ring like banging an old tub with a wooden handle on days like Sunday, when the Lions would rather not rehash all that went wrong in a loss to a good Bengals team that they think they should have beaten.

The loss made their record 4-3 and kept them from taking over first place alone in the NFC North.

For the Lions, "next time" -- next week's game against the Dallas Cowboys -- cannot come soon enough. Until then, they have to own up to the fact that the Bengals did enough to deserve to win. They didn't win on a referee's call or a weird bounce of the ball.

When it came down to who could make the winning plays, the Bengals made them and the Lions didn't.

Most glaring were two plays in the kicking game -- a field goal and a punt by both teams -- that the Bengals made and the Lions botched in similar situations.

Mike Nugent's 54-yard field goal on the last play of the game won it for the Bengals. In a situation far less dramatic -- but one that turned the momentum in Cincinnati's favor -- the Lions had a 36-yard field goal attempt by David Akers blocked late in the first half.

The Bengals used the block and recovery to drive to a touchdown in the final minute of the half for a 14-10 lead.

An exchange of punts late in the fourth quarter ultimately doomed the Lions.

Kevin Huber's 45-yard punt pinned the Lions at their six-yard line with 1:43 left in regulation time.

When the Lions had to punt from their 23 with 34 seconds left, rookie Sam Martin shanked a 28-yarder that set up the Bengals at their 49. Two plays and the Bengals were close enough for Nugent to rip one through the uprights.

Martin, who's been terrific this year and had a 65-yard punt early in the game, said he expected a hard rush from the Bengals' coverage team.

"I thought -- we all thought -- they were going to bring pressure," Martin said. "I was trying to go left ... to keep the ball away from the returner."

It was a miscalculation. The Bengals didn't rush.

"I thought they were going to rush the punt, and I rushed it," Martin said. "They didn't bring any pressure."

There were other plays that turned the game against the Lions, and some that could have turned it in their favor.

Matthew Stafford missed some deep passes that could have given the Lions a cushion. The Bengals hammered their running game, holding Reggie Bush to 50 yards on 20 carries, with a long gain of seven yards.

Chris HoustonCB Chris Houston (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

On defense, cornerback Chris Houston gave up touchdown catches to A.J. Green and Marvin Jones in the first half and was so thoroughly out of sync that he willing let the coaches replace him with rookie Darius Slay in the second half.

"I wasn't in that zone," Houston said. "I put this whole loss on me."

The pass rush, which was supposed to be a strength this year, hasn't produced nearly the way it should. Ndamukong Suh got the only sack late in the fourth quarter, and it was only the Lions' 10th sack in seven games.

With an absence of any real pressure, Dalton threw three TD passes and had a passer rating for the game of 135.9. Those are elite stats for a quarterback who isn't in the elite category, and the question persists of why the Lions don't blitz more when week after week, opposing quarterbacks get time to pass.

There are questions and issues that have to be sorted out before the next game.

On Sunday, there was only the misery of the present hanging over the Lions over a game they let get away.

"We know we're a good team," said center Dominic Raiola. "It should sting. You don't belong here if it doesn't sting. We've got a locker room that this stuff matters."