The Bengals were the more consistent, more complete and better-coached team on this day. Detroit made some big plays offensively, but the defensive playmakers were ineffective.
There was a lot to like from Detroit in this game, but also several players who are not going to have a comfortable time in the film room after this tough loss.
The grading scale here is subjectively based on my expectations for player performance. As an example, if Ndamukong Suh gets three tackles and one quarterback pressure, that will grade lower than C.J. Mosley doing the same things.
Impact plays like turnovers, touchdowns or other big plays rate highly. Penalties, blown assignments and giveaways really hurt the grade for a player.
Here are my grades for the Lions.
This was a strange game for Stafford. As I noted in the game takeaways, his raw numbers look pretty impressive. Anytime a guy can put up 357 yards and three touchdowns, it's tough to issue a low grade. The fact he avoided a single sack or turnover makes it even harder, though he did earn an intentional grounding penalty.
Stafford was good, not great. Several of his throws were near-misses. A slight overthrow of Joseph Fauria here, a ball just behind Kris Durham there, a bad miss to a wide-open Ryan Broyles in for good measure. He just wasn't his sharpest on a day when the Lions needed him to be at his best.
In my game plan breakdown, I specifically singled out Reggie Bush's need to run assertively against the Cincinnati defense. I guess Bush didn't read it, because he was largely passive and soft as a runner. We've now seen this "Bad Bush" a couple of times this year.
At least he converted some third downs and still managed 94 total yards from scrimmage on a bad day.
He had a typical Joique Bell game. There were lots of yards after first contact, a couple of nice catches but an inability to really get into the open. It's not for lack of effort. He finished with 56 total yards on five carries and three catches.
Nine catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns. That's a good day. He did earn an offensive pass interference flag, however. I gave Megatron a lot of love here.
Durham continues to play hard and make tough catches. He also continues to show absolutely zero ability to run after the catch, and two of his five receptions were on plays where he simply looked at Stafford right after the snap and caught the throw uncovered.
Once again, I liked his blocking. Durham also earned a penalty, which was declined.
He caught two of his four targets, registering 16 yards. One of the misses was the first play all season where he got wide open behind the defense. There needs to be a lot more of that, as he just isn't getting open very effectively.
After this game, Kevin Ogletree could very well leap Broyles in the pecking order. His 43-yard go route down the right sideline was an excellent play, showing burst off the line and sound footwork. I noted on another play that he down blocked well after motioning inside. He finished with two catches for 50 yards.
The good is that Brandon Pettigrew caught a touchdown pass. The bad is that he caught three of his seven targets and amassed a total of seven yards, including a two-yard loss on one reception. His in-line blocking was not particularly effective.
It was not a dancing day for the rookie. He caught one pass for 15 yards on four targets. Two of those were in the end zone, and neither was close to being a completion. He was a decided non-factor after Detroit's first few drives.
The left tackle will want to quickly put this one behind him. Riley Reiff was on the hook for at least two hits on Stafford before leaving the game with a hamstring injury. He returned later in the game and played better in pass protection, but his run blocking was not effective at all after the first drive.
I noted his strong run blocking early in the game. He also adjusted nicely to an interior blitz and effectively blocked two rushers to give Stafford time. This was a nice rebound game for him after a couple of lackluster efforts.
Dominic Raiola handled himself well against a strong Bengals defensive tackle rotation. He anchored well in pass protection and wasn't a pushover in run blocking. Twice in my game notes I had him completely stonewalling Geno Atkins, which is no small feat. The center did fail to recognize a couple of blitzes, which is his line responsibility.
It's getting to be a broken record, but Larry Warford continues to perform as a devastating run blocker. The highlight play was a first-quarter third-down run by Bush where Warford pancaked the defender into the turf to open the hole. I did have him down for two pressures allowed on Stafford, however.
Corey Hilliard had a very rough game. He admitted to being responsible for the blocked field goal, the second time this year he's failed in that capacity. The right tackle allowed some edge pressures on Stafford and was negligible as a run blocker before leaving the game with an injury.
Pressed into injury relief at both tackle spots, the undrafted rookie played well. He was demonstrably better than Hilliard at right tackle. I broke down LaAdrian Waddle's day here and why he should move into the starting lineup.
Suh faced double-teams almost all day, some of which involved a lot of illegal activity. He eventually made some impact plays after starting slowly, including a huge sack on Cincinnati's penultimate drive. Even though the stat sheet doesn't show it, Suh was quite active against the run too.
Here's a tweet of mine from the third quarter of the game
Nick Fairley is invisible once again. Just a general observation so far. #CINvsDET— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) October 20, 2013
Nick Fairley did not record a tackle or get near Dalton even once. Either his shoulder injury is worse than is being let on, or he's just not trying very hard.
From the fire to the frying pan. After getting educated by Joe Thomas last week, Ziggy Ansah got more NFL lessons from Andrew Whitworth in this game. How ineffective was Ansah? He does not appear in the ESPN stat sheet for the game. The one time he made an impact was when he was clearly offsides and nailed Dalton for a strip sack.
He had a little more success than Ansah. I noted Willie Young crashing inside against the run and also setting the edge a couple of times. He did not accomplish much as a pass-rusher.
I know he played because I made a note that he entered the game on a second-quarter drive. That's the only thing I've got; he did not record a tackle, and honestly, I do not recall a single thing he did in the game.
The third tackle brought some juice to the Lions, blowing up one run with a quick penetration and getting a solid pressure on Dalton on another play.
Devin Taylor was the most effective pass-rusher of the ends, even though his best play was a tackle for loss on a run late in the second quarter. He was consistently aggressive but also aware, good traits to display for a rookie. His arrow is pointing up.
Like Taylor, Andre Fluellen played well in limited duty. On the play where Taylor recorded the tackle for loss, Fluellen's quick penetration forced the play right to him. He reacted well to a screen.
I singled out the linebacking issues in the game takeaways column, so I'll keep these short and sweet.
This was such a bad performance by the normally reliable Stephen Tulloch. Credit the Bengals for isolating him in mismatched coverage situations. Most of his tackling came well away from the line of scrimmage, too.
He was better than Tulloch, in the way that getting hit by a baseball on the thigh is better than being hit by a golf ball in the cheek.
Ashlee Palmer played relatively well in this game. Sure, he got beat in man coverage on A.J. Green, but he's a linebacker and that was not his fault. I noted his solid run fits a couple of times, and he did register a tackle for loss.
Anytime a player surrenders a long touchdown early and then gets benched later for still playing poorly, it's a real bad day. A.J. Green was a tough matchup, but Chris Houston was not able to handle it at all. This was one of the most discouraging performances by any Lion all season.
Rashean Mathis started out playing very well. He provided blanket coverage on several throws in the first few drives, breaking up consecutive passes on one.
He had to leave the game with a flare-up of his wonky groin, which has bothered him for a couple of weeks now. He was not as effective when he returned, missing a tackle and getting turned around by Marvin Jones on a pattern.
The slot corner did not make much of an impression during the game. His one tackle was a cleanup job after Mathis missed it. I'm curious about his snap count; I suspect he will play much more against Dallas next week.
He was better than Houston, but that's not saying much. At least his problems were less egregious than being out of position and unaware of the ball.
Darius Slay continues to play well against the run, which is something to keep building upon for the rookie. He allowed a few completions but did a good job of keeping the play in front of him. He must take sharper angles when coming out of breaks to match receivers.
The safety was quite active once again. His excellent open-field tackle prevented one third down from being converted. I did catch him over-pursuing against the run a couple of times, and the Bengals caught him too. Without the All-22 film yet, it's hard to evaluate his coverage skills in this game.
Glover Quin made a fantastic pass breakup (pictured above), although he was badly beaten over the top on the play. He appeared too passive and reactive in coverage situations, not properly reading or anticipating the routes or ball. His play has tailed off from a strong start to the season.
The blocked field goal was not his fault, but nonetheless he suffers the miss on the ledger. His other field goal and all three extra points were dead solid perfect.
Until his last punt, Sam Martin was having an awesome game. His first three punts were all downed inside the Cincinnati 20. All but one of his kickoffs were touchbacks. He even recorded a tackle on the blocked field goal.
But that last punt...it cost the Lions the game. Of all the times for a shank, Martin hit one for just 28 yards to set up the Bengals with great field position. That led to the game-winning field goal.
This was a solid outing from the embattled return man. His one opportunity to run back a kickoff produced a 35-yard scamper up the left sideline. Even though he didn't get any yardage on his first punt return, simply catching the ball saved several yards.