Cincinnati — It was a bittersweet homecoming for Lions rookie running back Tion Green.
Green played at the University of Cincinnati just up the road from Paul Brown Stadium, where the Bearcats played their home games for the 2014 season while their on-site facility Nippert Stadium was undergoing renovations.
With plenty of friends and family in the crowd, Green led the Lions with 43 yards rushing and a touchdown but none of it mattered much after a 26-17 loss to the Bengals Sunday put a dagger in their playoff hopes.
“It means a lot more if you get a victory," Green said.
Green played a key role and came up big for the Lions when they responded with a touchdown after the Bengals used a field goal to go up 16-10 early in the fourth quarter.
He kept the scoring drive alive twice, with an 11-yard run on a third-and-1 and then four plays later by breaking loose for 12 yards on a fourth-and-1 near midfield.
Then after a 29-yard catch by Eric Ebron set up a first-and-goal at the Cincinnati 5, Green punched it on the next play to put the Lions on top 17-16 with 9:54 to go — a lead they would relinquish five minutes later.
"It was an inside zone play,” guard Don Barclay said. “(Green's) a hard runner and he found a seam and I think at that point we knew we had to keep running the ball good. We started slow on offense and that's what held us (back) in the beginning.”
Green, who averaged 6.1 yards per carry in the contest, accounted for nearly half the team’s rushing production as the Lions finished with 87 yards rushing. Ameer Abdullah added 21 yards on six carries, Theo Riddick had 16 yards on eight attempts and Matthew Stafford had a 7-yard scramble.
Detroit was without three starting offensive linemen — center Travis Swanson, right guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Rick Wagner — and the ground game struggled to gain any sort of traction against the Bengals’ worst-ranked run defense until Green helped provide a late spark.
“Football is about winning one-on-one matchups,” Green said. “Every time you're not going to win every matchup. It's just a matter of when you win them in critical moments. We converted a bunch of fourth-and-1s. We won those matchups. It's just a matter of winning your matchup, that's it.
“Sometimes you get out-schemed or whatever it is. They just made plays when they needed to make plays.”