DETROIT — You figured the offense would struggle, but when the first and second Bengals defensive units had no clue Friday night, it sent a collective shiver through Bengaldom.
The way to defuse the arrival of a rookie quarterback is attentive pass protection, the running game, defense and special teams, but only running back Cedric Benson showed up in the 34-3 loss to the Lions at Ford Field in the Bengals preseason opener.
In Lions No. 1 quarterback Matthew Stafford's 11 snaps, the Bengals allowed at least five yards on eight of them. The pass rush was non-existent, the coverage soft, and Cincinnati's best player, cornerback, Leon Hall, gave up one-on-one catches in the end zone twice in 89 seconds.
Rookie running back John Griffin's fumbled kickoff at his own 16 in the middle of it all didn't help, but…
"I didn't expect that; it was embarrassing," said defensive tackle Domata Peko. "We have to go back to the film. The film will tell us what to do."
Peko said defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer told the defense he can fix it, but clearly one of the leaders was mystified by what he had just seen. So is one of the new ones.
"I was surprised by the way I played. I set a high standard for myself," said SAM backer Manny Lawson. "Every game counts for me even though this is the preseason, so I'm 0-1."
Lawson didn't chalk it up to the lockout or the fact he and all the other free agents had just six days on the practice field before Friday. The Lions had their share of guys like that and the Bengals defense has only five in their No. 1 regular packages: Lawson, WILL backer Thomas Howard, cornerback Nate Clements, third-down backer Brandon Johnson and third-down corner Morgan Trent.
But Lawson did counsel his teammates to keep talking to each other. They have new linebackers in all three spots.
"We need to figure out each other's game plan, figure how each other plays and become technically sound," he said.
Or as Peko said, "Go back to the drawing board."
The defense was bad all across that board. All four Lions quarterbacks led scoring drives. The second unit gave up a bad field goal at the end of the half. Drew Stanton, Detroit's third quarterback, picked apart a secondary that included projected top backups Fred Bennett at cornerback and Tom Nelson and Robert Sands at safety. The fourth quarterback, Zac Robinson, gunned a 28-yard TD pass to wide receiver Nate Hughes past fourth-team cornerback David Pender.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Tough night for Griffin, the free agent from Massachusetts. His fumble on his first NFL snap was a killer.
"The speed was faster, but it's more mental discipline," Griffin said. "I could have read it better. But, end of the day, you can't fumble. Anytime you fumble that's an individual thing."
» The Bengals have to be looking at their guard situation. Is it time for rookie Clint Boling or veteran Max Jean-Gilles to get more snaps?