(CINCINNATI, OH) - The power was still out in Cincinnati yesterday evening.
Oh, the electricity in Paul Brown stadium worked just fine, but there definitely was a shortage on the Detroit Lions side of the field. Detroit was dominated from start to finish by the Cincinnati Bengals in a lopsided 23-10 win. While rookie quarterback Carson Palmer was picking apart the Detroit defense, going 7-for-7 for 97 yards and 2 touchdowns including a 30 yard bomb to T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Detroit starter Joey Harrington was just 5-of-11 for 27 yards.
In fairness to Harrington, his stats would have looked a whole lot better if rookie first round draft pick Charles Rogers had held on to a 40 yard bomb laid right into his hands by Harrington; he dropped it.
A key element in the loss is that Detroit treated the game as if it were a scrimmage. They did not game plan specifically for the Cincinnati Bengals, playing the game as "vanilla" as possible. Cincinnati, on the other hand, game planned specifically for Detroit and got the win.
The result, starter Jon Kitna completed 10-of-15 passes for 90 yards and even third stringer Shane Matthews completed 8-of-11 for 67 yards while Bengals rushers combined for 101 yards against the Lions.
So what good came out of this contest?
Detroit was able to evaluate several players and gave their backups long minutes in this one. While Cincinnati did move the ball against Detroit's first teamers, they were only able to get three field goals from Neil Rackers. Once the backups were in, they were picked apart by Palmer, giving Mariucci and the coaching staff something to use to make the tough personnel decisions ahead.
Especially was this the case with the linebacking unit. While Earl Holmes, Barrett Green and Boss Bailey appear to have starting jobs set, Bailey looked lost in pass coverage several times. Dante Curry led the team with 8 tackles and could be a factor in the starting lineup. Jeff Gooch also was turned around on several pass plays but finished with six tackles.
While James Stewart had nine carries for 33 yards, none of the other backs distinguished themselves. Luke Staley rushed five times for just 15 yards against the Bengals tough run defense, Autry Denson got only one carry for seven yards, and Rafael Cooper picked up a yard on his only carry. But Denson shined catching the ball out of the backfield and was the teams leading receiver with seven grabs for 35 yards. Denson finished the game with 113 all-purpose yards for the team.
Look for undrafted rookie tight end Casey Fitzsimmons to make the team.
Fitzsimmons caught just one ball but it was an eye-popping effort. After
sitting nicely in the zone, Fitzsimmons caught a pass from backup quarterback
Mike McMahon just short of the first down stick. Fitzsimmons then carried five
would-be tacklers the extra two yards to pick up the first down, easily the most
impressive offensive play of the night.
Detroit also now knows that third-year quarterback Mike McMahon is ready to play. McMahon led both of Detroit's scoring drives and eluded Cincinnati's rush several times to complete passes and make plays. McMahon has outplayed his rival Harrington so far this preseason, although not by enough to cause a quarterbacks controversy, at least not yet.
McMahon was 9-of-18 for 94 yards including a 21 yard scoring strike to
fullback Stephen Trejo for Detroit's only touchdown of the night.
Harrington had lobbied the coaching staff to leave him in longer after being ineffective, but the staff stuck to the plan to give McMahon a quarter and a half and then go to third stringer Ty Detmer. Detmer running almost exclusively a two-minute drill, was a sharp 11-of-13 for 96 yards.
Stepping back from last weeks effort were defensive backs Danny Adams and Gerald Dixon. Adams was torched by Houshmandzadeh - never even touching the Bengals wide receiver - as he connected with Palmer on the 30-yard touchdown pass. Dixon had a tough day on the field as well, being victimized by Palmer on a handful of throws.
Overall defensively the only thing stopping Cincinnati was the clock. After forcing a punt on the Bengals first possession, Cincinnati scored on each of the next seven possession, except when time ran out in the half. The Bengals dominated time of possession holding the ball for over 35 minutes(59%) of the game and totaling 355 yards of offense against Detroit.
Detroit's backup linebackers in particular were disappointing. They appeared to be lost in pass coverage consistently with even the Bengals third stringers picking them apart. The backups in the secondary were just as disappointing giving the coaching staff all the material they need to make some cuts going into the all-important third preseason game.
Next Saturday's visit to Cleveland (7:30 pm EST) will be a good test for Detroit. They should have several key players, including defensive end Kalimba Edwards and corner Dre' Bly back for that contest.
Until then it's back to the drawing board for Detroit.
Anybody got a spare generator?