Recap: Bengals eliminate Lions from playoff race

Connor Muldowney
The Detroit News

The Lions’ offense struggled through most of the game and ultimately it was the defense which crumbled in crunch time as they lost in Cincinnati to the Bengals, 26-17.

Detroit’s loss to the Bengals drops it out of playoff contention, even with the Atlanta Falcons losing to New Orleans.

The Lions took a late lead, 17-16, thanks to a Tion Green touchdown run inside the Bengals’ 5-yard line, but the defense wasn’t able to clamp down as Cincinnati (6-9) added a field goal and then a touchdown with less than two minutes to play to put the game on ice.

Matthew Stafford came into the game red-hot, but struggled all day long, completing just 19-of-35 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown, but he had a crucial first-half pick and was sacked twice on the Lions’ final possession to end the game.

Green was the lone bright spot offensively for the Lions (8-7), rushing for 43 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries.

Giovani Bernard was the hero for Cincinnati, rushing for 116 yards and the game-clinching touchdown on 23 carries and he caught seven passes for 52 yards.

Could this be the end of Jim Caldwell’s tenure? We might have to wait until after next week’s game against Green Bay for that news.

Stafford sacked twice, Lions eliminated from playoffs

The Lions got the ball back, needing two scores under two minutes with no timeouts. Theo Riddick to a screen for a first down to his own 42. A deep throw to Kenny Golladay on second down went right through the rookie receiver's hands at the Bengals' 15-yard line. On third-and-10, Matthew Stafford was sacked, and the game seemed to be in hand. He was then sacked to end the game essentially, handing the ball back to the Bengals with 53 seconds left.

Lions defense crumbles in final minutes

An offsides and 9-yard completion gave the Bengals a first down inside the Lions' 30. Even after a false start, Andy Dalton found A.J. Green down to the Lions' 15-yard line for a first down on a slant, beating Darius Slay. On third-and-6, Giovani Bernard scampered to the outside and reached the end zone, giving the Bengals a 26-17 lead.

Ugly drive gives Bengals ball back

The Lions got the ball back at their own 25 after a touchback with just under five minutes left in the game. Matthew Stafford found Eric Ebron for seven yards on second-and-13, but a holding pushed them back to second-and-23. He then egregiously missed Golden Tate. Another false start pushed the Lions back five more yards. On third-and-38 from deep in his own territory, Golden Tate nearly made a tremendous play on a deep ball, but it was bobbled and dropped. A short punt gave the Bengals the ball at the Lions' 40.

Cincinnati take lead right back

The Bengals' Alex Erickson fumbled the ensuing kickoff but Cincinnati scooped it back up, avoiding disaster. A third-and-3 shortly after let to a 5-yard reception for A.J. Green. The Bengals couldn't get anything going on the next two plays, setting up a crucial third-and-12 with about seven minutes left in the game. Andy Dalton threw the ball away but the Lions were flagged for defensive holding, giving Cincinnati a first down. Giovani Bernard then rushed for 11 yards and a first down into Lions territory.

Dalton then threw the ball away on first down and Darius Slay was called for pass interference, giving the Bengals the ball at the 40-yard line. On second-and-13, Bernard kept his strong game going with a 10-yard run. The Bengals then threw a jump ball to the end zone on third-and-3 and Slay broke up a pass intended for Green. Randy Bullock then drilled a 51-yard field goal to give Cincinnati a 19-17 lead.

Detroit regains lead thanks to fourth-down conversion

Ameer Abdullah took the ensuing kickoff to the Lions' own 25. On a third-and-1 from the 34, Tion Green had one of the Lions' best runs of the day, picking up 11 yards. Miscommunication between Matthew Stafford and Ameer Abdullah on a first-down wheel route led to a second-and-10. An incomplete pass on second down then put pressure on a third-and-long. Eric Ebron caught the a 9-yard pass and the Lions lined up to go for it on fourth-and-1, but they were flagged for a crucial false start. A running into the kicker call of the Bengals set up fourth-and-1 again and the Lions' offense came back out on the field. Green ran the ball again for 12 yards when the Lions needed just one.

Stafford hit Ebron for 30 yards to get the ball inside the Bengals' 5-yard line. Green then picked up his second career rushing touchdown to tie the game at 16 and an extra point by Matt Prater gave them a 17-16 lead.

Bengals add another field goal

Cincinnati took over with good field position after the Matt Prater miss and Andy Dalton got the ball into Lions territory with a 17-yard completion to A.J. Green. A later third-and-3 opportunity saw Dalton hook up with Green again for a first down and 14 more yards. Giovani Bernard spun out of two tackles on a second-and-long to give the Bengals a first down at the Lions' 12-yard line. A Brian Hill rush for no gain ended the third quarter. Ziggy Ansah sacked Dalton for a six-yard loss to start the fourth. Tyler Kroft then dropped a pass on third-and-long. Randy Bullock would attempt, and make, a 35-yard field goal.

Matt Prater misses 50-yarder

The Lions went deep on the second play of the ensuing drive and Dre Kirkpatrick was flagged for pass interference, giving Detroit the ball in Cincinnati territory. They couldn’t move the ball much further as Matt Prater was set up with a 50-yard try and he missed it short.

Lions tight end Eric Ebron brings in an over-the-shoulder catch in front of the Bengals' Jordan Evans and takes it into the end zone for a touchdown in the first quarter.

Bengals regain lead on first second-half drive

The Lions sniffed out a reverse try by the Bengals from their own 25 after the touchback for no gain. Nevin Lawson was then flagged for a 25-yard pass interference after getting tangled up with Brandon LaFell. He responded by making a tackle for loss on Giovani Bernard who was hurt on the first-down play. His replacement, rookie running back Brian Hill, caught a pass near the sideline and took it 34 yards to the Lions' 18. Bernard returned a couple of plays later and caught a pass, taking it inside the Lions' 10-yard line. Tyler Boyd then made a reception at the 1-yard line which set up a touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to C.J. Uzomah. The Bengals took a 13-10 lead after the Randy Bullock extra point.

Lions strike with field goal to start second half

The Lions received the ball to start the second half and they returned the ball to their own 34. After setting up a third-and-1, Ameer Abdullah took a quick pitch across the line of scrimmage for a first down. A short reception by Abdullah set up another third-and-short and Matthew Stafford hit Golden Tate on a rollout near the sideline. Marvin Jones Jr. then caught another contested pass over Darqueze Dennard for 31 yards down to the 13-yard line. On third-and-2 from inside the Bengals' 10, Stafford couldn't connect with Kenny Golladay in the end zone, setting up a field goal try. Matt Prater drilled the field goal from 23 yards out to make it 10-6.

Half ends with Bengals field goal

A.J. Green caught an 18-yard pass from Andy Dalton to set up first down at the Lions' 35. Giovani Bernard then caught a quick screen pass and took it to the Lions' 24-yard line and then caught another one over the middle for six more yards. Dalton was then rushed and tried to throw the ball away and he nearly threw an interception to Jalen Reeves-Maybin. Anthony Zettel lined up in the neutral zone, giving the Bengals a free play and nearly threw a pick to Darius Slay in the end zone. Bernard caught a quick pass inside the 10 to set up a Bengals field goal try to end the half. Randy Bullock hit his second field goal of the day, this time from 27 yards to make it 7-6 Lions.

Lions throw crucial pick

With time winding down in the first half, the Lions picked up a first down and approached midfield, but Matthew Stafford was hit by Vontaze Burfict and the ball sailed into the waiting arms of a Cincinnati linebacker. The Bengals would take over at their own 47 with about a minute left.

A.J. Green interference stops Bengals drive

In a play on third-and-5, Andy Dalton hit A.J. Green for 28 yards and he dragged his feet along the sideline for a nice catch on Darius Slay. However, he was flagged for offensive pass interference and that brought Cincinnati back for a third-and-15 and the Bengals decided to run with Giovani Bernard, gaining 10 yards. The Bengals would punt and the Lions would fair catch the ball at their own 35.

Lions offense stalls yet again

Ameer Abdullah, not Jamal Agnew, took the ensuing kickoff out past the 20-yard line. A couple of short plays led to a 14-yard reception on third-and-short by Marvin Jones Jr. Then Kenny Golladay caught a 15-yard pass to push the Lions past midfield. A false start by Taylor Decker, loss of yards by Theo Riddick and short draw led to a third-and-17 and Matthew Stafford threw the ball away. The Lions then punted into the end zone for a touchback.

Bengals finally crack scoreboard

Giovani Bernard started the Bengals' drive with a 25-yard run and was tracked down by Glover Quin. Andy Dalton then missed an open pass, but found Tyler Boyd on third-and-10 who stretched out for a first down in Lions territory. Brian Hill then rushed for another first down to the Lions' 33. The drive continued to move downfield as Dalton hit Brandon LaFell for another first and Giovani Bernard caught a pass out of the backfield and dashed inside the Lions' 10. Ziggy Ansah forced Dalton out of bounds for a loss of yardage on second-and-goal which set up a third-and-goal from the 11. He then missed Tyler Kroft in the end zone and Randy Bullock hit a 29-yard field goal to crack the scoreboard. Lions lead 7-3 halfway through the second.

Lions go three-and-out

The Lions began at their own 40 after the Quandre Diggs pick. The Lions looked to get a first-down reception from Theo Riddick, but Vontaze Burfict and Darqueze Dennard stopped him just short to force a punt on a three-and-out. The Bengals would start at their own 21.

Dalton throws pick to start second quarter

A short kickoff return by Alex Erickson set up the Bengals at their own 12-yard line. Andy Dalton's first pass went for negative-2 yards and Giovani Bernard took off for nine yards to give Cincinnati a shot on third down. Dalton hit A.J. Green for 12 yards on a back-shoulder throw to beat Darius Slay for a first down. A couple of plays later, Bernard picked up a first down on third-and-1, rushing up the middle for three yards. Another third-and-1 run a couple of players later gave the Bengals another first to end the quarter past midfield. On the first play of the second quarter, Dalton throws the ball right into the hands of Quandre Diggs.

Lions strike first with Eric Ebron score

The first play of the drive resulted in a 12-yard catch and run for Golden Tate. A couple of plays later, Matthew Stafford faced a third-and-5 from the Bengals' 33-yard line and hit Eric Ebron down the sideline and he dragged a defender into the end zone for the game's first score. Lions led 7-0 with just under five minutes left in the first quarter after the Matt Prater extra point.

Bengals go three-and-out

A short run by Giovani Bernard, who replaced Joe Mixon who went down with an ankle injury during the previous drive, set up second-and-long. Ziggy Ansah sacked Andy Dalton and then Tyler Boyd dropped a potential first-down reception and the Bengals were forced into their first punt in the first 10 minutes. The Lions would start at their own 48.

Lions mismanage third-and-1 call

The Lions started with good field position at their own 41-yard line after the punt. A couple of runs by Theo Riddick and Tion Green set up a third-and-1, but a questionable shotgun play-call led to an errant Matthew Stafford pass which was nearly picked off over the middle. The three-and-out led to a punt and a fair catch by the Bengals at their own 19.

Darius Slay proves Pro Bowl status

After getting pushed back to second-and-15 following a false start, the Bengals completed a 10-yard pass to Joe Mixon which set up a manageable third down play for Andy Dalton from just inside his own 20-yard line. However, Dalton went deep to A.J. Green and Darius Slay made another nice play, even if the ball did bounce off the receiver's facemask first. The Bengals were forced to punt again.

Dropped passes cost Lions early

Theo Riddick began the game as the starting running back and carried for three total yards on the first two carries to set up third-and-long. Matthew Stafford needed seven yards to get the first and tucked and ran for eight. Drops by Kenny Golladay and Eric Ebron forced an early punt, halting any offensive momentum.

Lions hold strong after Joe Mixon's quick start

Detroit kicked off to start the game, electing to receive in the second half. Joe Dixon returned at running back for the Bengals after missing some time with a concussion and took two early carries for 12 yards and a quick first down and then he caught a pass out of the backfield for another first down. A drop by Mixon, great defensive play by Darius Slay to break up a pass intended for A.J. Green and errant pass by Andy Dalton forced a punt and the Bengal crowd rained some early boo birds. Jamal Agnew fair caught the punt inside the Lions' 20-yard line.


When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

Where: Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati

TV / radio: Fox / WJR 760

Records: Lions 8-6, Bengals 5-9


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