DETROIT -- 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.
What the Bengals said
"Our coach, Coach (Marvin) Lewis, has always taught us not to flinch. We didn't flinch. We have been in games like this for the past couple of weeks. We know what we have to do to come out with that 'W.' That's what we did today." - Wide receiver A.J. Green.
What the Lions said
"When you play against a good team like that, your margin for error with mistakes is small and I think we made too many mistakes to overcome. They are a good team and they found a way to get down there, kick the field goal and win the game." - Linebacker Stephen Tulloch
What we learned about the Bengals
1. Quarterback Andy Dalton won't shed his critics until the Bengals go deep in the postseason but he's making better use of his receiving corps as he matures. Dalton threw three touchdown passes for the second straight game, including an 82-yard play to A.J. Green, while spreading the ball around. He had 12 completions to his wideouts, seven to tight ends and five to running back Giovanni Bernard.
2. Their pass defense can be gouged. After holding opponents to 216.3 yards through the air entering the game, they gave up 357 yards to Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford. The Bengals pass defense may have to go the rest of the way without top cover corner Leon Hall, who suffered a significant right Achilles tendon injury during the first half.
What we learned about the Lions
1. Their secondary and pass rush must improve if they want to contend for the NFC North title. Cornerback Chris Houston was benched for a portion of the second half after getting burned twice for touchdowns. He wasn't the only culprit, as Andy Dalton ripped apart the secondary for 372 passing yards. Detroit's heralded defensive line was a non-factor, sacking Dalton just once.
2. Rookie punter Sam Martin is a boom-or-bust proposition. Martin hammered a punt 65 yards in the first half but when his team needed a long boot in the final minute, he shanked one that traveled just 28 yards. That gave the Bengals possession near midfield and they cashed in for the game-winning field goal.