The Cincinnati Bengals don't take the easy route to victory but the AFC North leaders keep winding up in the right place.
For the second straight week, Mike Nugent made a game-winning field goal on the last play. This time, he hit a 54-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Bengals a 27-24 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Ford Field.
Nugent's 43-yard field goal handed the Bengals an overtime victory in Buffalo the previous Sunday. The first victory in their current three-game winning streak, 13-6 over New England, required a goal-line stand after the Patriots reached the Bengals 1-yard line.
Coach Marvin Lewis called the latest thriller a huge victory.
"We're on the road, playing a good team," he said. "They're an up-and-coming team here as well, and they've got a lot to play for. We knew it would be a tough game. When you play on the road against an offense that can do the things they can do, they have a little bit more of an advantage. At home, we have a little bit of an advantage playing an offense like this."
For the second straight week, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was sharp. He totaled 372 yards passing and three touchdowns, matching his touchdown total against the Bills. It's just the second time in his career he's thrown three touchdown passes in back-to-back games.
A.J. Green had six receptions for 155 yards for the Bengals (5-2), including an 82-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.
Cincinnati's defense allowed 434 yards but forced a three-and-out on Detroit's last possession. Sam Martin's 28-yard punt gave Cincinnati the ball on its 49 with 26 seconds left. Dalton then completed two short passes, setting up the game-winning field goal.
"The defense went out for a three-and-out and gave the ball back to the offense," Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict said. "We stood together throughout the whole game. That's what happens when you stay together. Good things happen at the end."
Matt Stafford passed for 357 yards and three touchdowns, two to Calvin Johnson, for the Lions. Johnson caught nine passes for 155 yards for the Lions (4-3), who came into the game tied for NFC North lead.
"You don't want the game to end on them making a 50-yard field goal," Detroit safety Glover Quin said. "We would love to make that kick. It was a heavyweight battle, a heavyweight fight. We took some punches, they took some punches. They just got the last punch in."
Tyler Eifert fought off the single coverage of Rashean Mathis for his first career touchdown, a 32-yard reception that gave the Bengals a 21-10 lead. That capped an 80-yard drive which opened the second half.
Johnson got those points back with a 27-yard touchdown catch on a third-and-10 situation. Nugent's 48-yard field goal made it 24-17 with 3:37 remaining in the third quarter.
Johnson's second touchdown catch with 11:59 left tied the game. On 3rd-and-18, he lined up in the slot and raced toward the end zone, where he beat triple coverage with a leaping grab.
"I held it as long as I could," Stafford said. "I didn't get to see a whole lot of it. I saw the very end of it and it was one of the best catches I have ever seen."
The Bengals struck quickly in the first half, as Green beat the single coverage of Chris Houston on his 82-yard score. Dalton under threw the ball but Green was able to score when Houston fell down trying to tackle him.
"I got behind him and Andy gave me a ball where I could make a play on it," Green said. "I just made the play."
Detroit answered with a 16-play, 80-yard drive that consumed nearly eight minutes. Brandon Pettigrew scored on a 3-yard pass on third-and-goal.
David Akers' 37-yard field goal gave the Lions a 10-7 advantage with 11:43 remaining in the half but he later had a 34-yard attempt blocked by Carlos Dunlap. Cincinnati then drove 40 yards and scored on Marvin Jones' 12-yard reception 41 seconds before halftime to take a 14-10 lead.
NOTES: Cincinnati CB Leon Hall suffered what Lewis called a significant right Achilles tendon injury in the first quarter. He tore his left Achilles' tendon two seasons ago. ... Bengals DT Devon Still was sidelined after suffering an elbow injury in the second quarter. LB Rey Maualuga injured his hamstring in the second half. ... Green's 82-yard reception was the longest of his career. He also surpassed the 3,000-yard mark during the first half. ... Johnson's 35th career 100-yard game set a new franchise record. Herman Moore held the previous mark.