There is no guarantee for performance by the Detroit Lions, no matter the circumstances or the opponent.
That's what we learned in Sunday's 34-11 beat down by the Cincinnati Bengals at Ford Field. The one-sided nature of the loss was surprising, given the grit the Lions had demonstrated in close losses to the Ravens and Vikings in the last three weeks, and how little of that grit the Lions showed in getting steamrollered by the Bengals.
Among other things we learned include the following: The defense continues to give up big plays; running back D’Andre Swift has been more effective by far as a receiver than a runner, and how that is a reflection of the Lions' offensive shortcomings.
We start with the Lions' performance:
It's odd to say a team can be inspired by a loss, but that was the case for the Lions going into Sunday's game. Actually, they were doubly inspired by the two losses in the last three games.
They passed the gut check in both – a 19-17 loss at home to the Ravens in Week 3 on an NFL-record 66-yard field goal on the last play of the game, and then a repeat 19-17 loss to the Vikings on the road on a 54-yard field goal on the final play.
But the Lions actually had gotten praise locally and nationally for their grit in those losses. The defense carried some of that into the Cincinnati game for most of the first half, but the offense showed none of it.
Football is a violent game played at high speed. Things happen in competition. Someone is gong to win matchups on every play. It's part of the game.
But there is a reason the Lions were 0-5 going into Sunday's game and 0-6 coming out, and it wasn't all the level of competition with the ball in play.
Head coach Dan Campbell talked about MA's – missed assignments – by players. Campbell and his staff will work to clean up their problems, but it's a mighty chore they're facing there.
There were other plays that were just bad football, and bad decision making.
The following exchange of plays fell into multiple categories:
There was a taunting penalty against safety Tracy Walker after an interception by cornerback Amani Oruwariye had given the Lions possession at Cincy's 23-yard line. However, the 15-yard penalty pushed the Lions back to the 38.
On second down, Goff's pass over the middle appeared to be caught by rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown for a 25-yard gain to the 23. However, instant replay showed that the Bengals had ripped the ball from St. Brown's grasp for an interception.
Three snaps result in the following:
Snap 1: Interception, with a taunting penalty that cost the Lions 15 yards in field position.
Snap 2: Sack and holding on the same play.
Snap 3: What should have been a 25-yard catch for the Lions became an interception for the Bengals.
Swift: Sunday was another example of how he has been getting the majority of the snaps at running back. He had 49 of the 63 snaps.
Swift had 13 carries for 24 yards and 1.8 yards per carry. He had five receptions for 43 yards and 8.6 yards per catch.
For the season, Swift has 65 carries, 214 yards and 3.3 yards per carry. He has 34 catches, 295 yards and 8.7 yards per catch.
What hurts Swift in the running game is that teams can either load up to stop it because of the Lions' lack of playmakers in the passing game, and they get behind in games like Sunday's and it takes them out of games.
Big plays: They keep coming against the Lions' defense, and they hurt.
On third and 10 with 23 seconds left in the half, Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow dropped a dime to rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase for 34 yards down the right sideline. Three plays later, the Bengals kicked a field goal that upped their lead to 10-0.
There were more to come, but that was the first big crack in the defense – in an obvious passing situation.