35 degrees/ MPH wind
Key Decision #1: (DET trailing 19-17 / 3rd & 28 DET 7 / <4:00 Q4)
- Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell’s decision not to challenge late in the fourth quarter was a difficult one for Detroit fans to understand. The Lions needed to win this game to keep their playoff aspirations alive. QB Matthew Stafford threw a deep pass, in traffic, to WR Golden Tate. The ball hung in the air and Tate fought off a number of Bengals to appear to catch the ball. Maybe. Maybe not. The play was ruled to be an incomplete pass as it looked as perhaps the ball was wrestled away while the players were on the ground.
- It’s difficult to determine what a catch is at this point in the NFL. But Detroit needed this play, had all three timeouts available and maybe had a strong argument for this play being overturned. Caldwell did not challenge the ruling on the field, the Lions punted, the Bengals scored on the next possession and the Lions were eliminated from the playoffs.
- Caldwell explained why he did not challenge the ruling on the field, “From what our guys saw on the replay and those kinds of things, he had it, went down and didn’t complete the catch,” Caldwell said after the game. “It bounced out. That was the ruling.”Had they won this challenge, the Lions would have had a new set of downs, with the ball near midfield, two timeouts and the 2 minute warning and would have had to punt anyway.
- We know why Caldwell didn’t challenge the ruling on the field. Caldwell was trying to preserve timeouts in case the Lions stopped the Bengals. However that didn’t happen. And we will never know whether that was a catch.
Key Decision #2:
- Cincinnati’s commitment to their running game saved the day. RB Joe Mixon returned after a concussion kept him out the week before. Mixon was hurt in the first half, this time with an ankle injury and didn’t return. The Bengals then used RB Giovani Bernard who rushed for 116 yards on 23 carries and the game-sealing touchdown. He was also a factor in the passing game with seven catches for 52 yards. Newly acquired rookie running back Brian Hill also ran four times for 17 yards and had one big catch for a 34 yard gain in the third quarter on a drive that led to a Bengals touchdown that gave them their first lead of the game.
- The Bengals by deciding to run the ball were able to control the clock and keep their defense, which had lost linebacker Vontez Burfict in the first half, off the field.
Key Decision #3: (CIN trailing 17-16 / 4th & 3 DET 33 / 4:42 Q4)
- On a windy day, Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis chose to have Randy Bullock attempt a 51-yard field goal rather than attempt a fourth down conversion. Bullock would kick a field goal to give the Bengals a one point lead and the lead for good. Bullock helped out the coaching staff as on a play before, Cincinnati aimed for the end zone on a 3rd & 3 play but QB Dalton’s pass came up short.
Key Decision #4:
- The Lions inability to use a fullback and blocking tight end consistently is something we have discussed repetitively. If there was ever a team that needed to use fullbacks and tight ends, it is this one. It cost them before in previous games (against Pittsburgh most notably) and it probably cost them a playoff spot. It would be even more important to be able to run the ball in a cold and windy game. It would help them on third down and short where the versatility that those type of players brings can create matchup issues for the defense and keep them off balance. When Detroit did use one even when it was a reserve linebacker at fullback, the Lions were successful on third down.
- The Lions offensive line was missing three starters: Right tackle Rick Wagner (ankle), right guard T.J. Lang (foot) and center Travis Swanson (concussion). Even at full-strength, the Lions have had a hard time protecting QB Matthew Stafford or running the ball consistently. Coming into the game, Stafford had been sacked 43 times and the Lions were averaging a league worst 77.4 rushing yards per game.
- The weather conditions as well as the pressure from Carl Lawson and Geno Atkins made throwing hard and Stafford only threw for 195 yards and one touchdown and completing only 19 of 35 passing attempts. The Lions most effective runner was Tion Green who rushed for 43 yards on seven carries and a touchdown. The running game needs a fullback and pass blocking, versatile tight ends.
Key Decision #5:
- At the end of the half, both quarterbacks did not protect the ball. It cost the Lions and did not cost Cincinnati. The Bengals were driving and had the ball on their own 46-yardline. Stafford facing some pressure from Vontez Burfict, threw the ball to Bengals linebacker Vincent Rey. Cincinnati took over at their 47-yard line and move the ball downfield. This was not without Jalen Reeves-Maybin almost intercepting a Dalton pass. The Bengals Randy Bullock kicked a 27- yard field goal to make it a 7-6 deficit at halftime.
Key Decision #6: (DET trailing 16-10 / 4th & 1 CIN 46 / 11:17 Q4)
- Lions runningback Tion Green ran for a 12-yard gain to extend a drive that they would eventually score a touchdown and take a 17-16 lead on.
- The wind appeared to play a factor in this game from the very beginning as the ball fell off the tee on the opening kickoff. The wind impacted decision making.
- Detroit’s loss eliminated them from the playoff picture.
- Holding on the ball would be difficult in this game. Tyler Kroft, Alex Erickson, AJ Green, Tyler Ebron among others would have a hard time catching and holding onto the football.
- Cincinnati scored on six of their seven last possessions, including five of their last six.
- Both teams ran reverses and jet sweeps with some of the bigger personnel (Lions WR- Kenny Golladay and Bengals WR- Josh Malone )
- In the first half, the Lions had excellent field position on three consecutive drives (at their own: 41, 48, and 40). They were able to only generate seven points from these three possessions (punt, touchdown, punt).