Detroit Lions couldn’t have asked for much more from Friday night’s 34-3 win over the Bengals at Ford Field. Their offense was crisp, their defense opportunistic, and most important, their quarterback stayed healthy.
Matthew Stafford looked sharp in his return from January shoulder surgery, throwing two touchdown passes in as many series and leaving before a defender laid a hand on him.
Stafford led a seven-play, 67-yard drive to open the game, capped by a 26-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson, and found Nate Burleson for a 7-yard touchdown after the Lions recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff.
Burleson’s touchdown originally was ruled incomplete on the field, but Lions coach Jim
Schwartz challenged the call reluctantly.
“I’m not real wild about challenging plays in a preseason game, but that one deserved to be challenged just because Nate made such a great catch,” Schwartz said.
Stafford finished 6-for-7 for 71 yards and left with a quarterback rating of 148.5.
He played just three games last year because of two separated throwing shoulders, and with both starting tackles hobbled — right tackle Gosder Cherilus played just two series as he continues his recovery from microfracture knee surgery, and left tackle Jeff Backus is on the active/non-football injury list with a partially torn chest muscle — the Lions were careful not to chance their quarterback’s health.
Running back Jahvid Best touched the ball four times on the Detroit Lions‘ first six plays, and Johnson’s 26-yard touchdown, off a play-action fake, was the only pass longer than 11 yards.
“I feel like we played at a pretty high level,” Stafford said. “We had a great tempo out there today. I feel like we were wearing their defense down even on that first drive just getting to the line of scrimmage, executing and throwing and catching, and Jahvid had a good game running the ball, too. So I definitely want to be out there and want to be healthy. I think we’re pretty exciting to watch when all the pieces are together.”
Johnson, a game-time decision because of a midweek ankle injury, left after his touchdown catch with what Schwartz termed a bruised shoulder.
“We just took him out of the game right then, but I don’t have any real concerns there,” Schwartz said. He caught the only two passes thrown his way for 37 yards.
Along with Stafford, the Lions got good production from their other quarterbacks.
Shaun Hill, who made 10 starts in place of Stafford last year, was his usual reliable self. He was 8-for-9 for 63 yards and ran for one touchdown, somersaulting over two defenders to give the Lions a 21-3 lead late in the second quarter.
Third-string quarterback Drew Stanton took over for Hill on the Lions’ final possession of the first half and led a 10-play, 49-yard drive that ended with Jason Hanson rushing onto the field to make a 37-yard field goal.
Stanton finished with a game-high 110 yards passing, and even No. 4 quarterback Zac Robinson led two scoring drives.
Defensively, the Lions forced two turnovers (not including the fumbled kick).
Ndamukong Suh harassed rookie Andy Dalton into an interception on his first play from scrimmage, and Willie Young caused a Jordan Palmer interception with good pressure late in the game.
Suh also drew one of three Lions personal fouls in the first half when he slammed Dalton to the ground, jarring his helmet loose. The play was reminiscent of one Suh was fined for last preseason when he body-slammed Jake Delhomme.
Free-agent additions Stephen Tulloch and Erik Coleman also drew personal fouls.
“We didn’t run the ball well enough. We didn’t stop the run well enough — too many penalties,” Schwartz said. “Some aggressive penalties, but too many penalties. There’s a lot of stuff we can work on. The good feeling is to come out of a game with a win like that and also be able to find a lot of things that you can still improve on.”
The Detroit Lions averaged 2.1 yards per carry Friday and had just 70 yards in the game.
Best finished with 12 yards on four carries, and Jerome Harrison — who got first crack at replacing rookie Mikel Leshoure as Best’s backup — managed 8 yards on six carries three days after he signed.
Mike Bell, who signed the same day as Harrison, was just as unimpressive, carrying five times for 5 yards.
Cedric Benson had 37 yards on six carries for the Bengals.
Credit: Detroit Free Press