The Bengals Knocked The Lions Out Of Playoff Contention With A 26-17 Victory On Christmas Eve.
This game began very slowly, as neither offense was able to do a whole lot with the football. All of the first five possessions ended with punts, three of which were three and outs.
Finally, nearing the end of the first quarter, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford connected with tight end Eric Ebron on a deep 33 yard touchdown pass to give Detroit the first lead of the game.
Score: Lions lead 7-0
The Bengals had their first strong drive of the game in the middle of this quarter, when quarterback Andy Dalton led the Cincinnati offense on a 12 play, 68 yard possession. The drive did stall in the red zone though, and the Bengals settled for a Randy Bullock field goal.
Shortly before halftime, Matthew Stafford was hit as he was throwing, resulting in an inaccurate pass that was intercepted by Bengal linebacker Vincent Ray. This interception set the Bengals up with good field position, and they were able to score another field goal before the end of the first half.
Score: Lions lead 7-6
Detroit started the third quarter off on the right foot, marching 61 yards down the field and scoring on a 23 yard Matt Prater field goal to extend their lead.
The Lion defense was unable to hold onto this lead though, allowing Cincinnati to go 75 yards for a touchdown in just seven plays on the ensuing drive. Andy Dalton found tight end CJ Uzomah for a one yard touchdown to give Cincinnati its first lead.
Score: Bengals lead 13-10
Cincinnati extended their lead very early in the fourth quarter with another Randy Bullock field goal from 35 yard out.
Now down by six, the Lions offense started to show signs of life by answering with a touchdown. Rookie running back Tion Green had a big role on the scoring drive, carrying the ball three times for 28 yard including a five yard touchdown.
The Bengals offense had no problem retaking the lead though. Kicker Rand Bullock made his fourth field goal of the game on the next drive to give the Bengals the lead under five minutes left.
After the Lions offense went three and out, Cincinnati runningback Giovanni Bernard ran a 12 yard touchdown to clinch the win for the Bengals.
Final: Bengals win 26-17
The Lions were out-gained 364 to 276 offensive yards
All throughout the game, the Lions offense struggled to get anything going, while the Bengals had no problem strolling up and down the field at their own leisure.
Cincinnati ran for 142 yards
The Bengal running game, particularly Giovanni Bernard (116 yards, five yards per carry), got going on Sunday. The Lions run defense looked helpless to contain the Cincinnati rushing attack.
The Lions committed 9 penalties
Penalties cost the Lions big time in the one, particularly late in the game. The Lions played very undisciplined on Sunday, and it showed in the box score.
Matthew Stafford had a 69.1 passer rating
In one of the most important games of the season, Matthew Stafford played one of his worst games. He barely completed half of his passes, averaged 5.8 yards per attempt, and threw just one touchdown along with an interception.
Sam Martin averaged only 40.4 yards per punt
Punter Sam Martin played an awful game on Sunday, consistently setting the Bengals up with good field position. His terrible game was capped off by a 33 yard mis-kick late in the game to set up the game clinching score for the Bengals.
Tion Green ran hard
Tion Green carried the ball only seven times, but he produced big time, going for 43 yards and a touchdown on those carries. Green converted both a third and fourth down and one in the fourth quarter, and looked like the Lions best back on Sunday. Hopefully he deserves the majority of the carries in week 17.
Here is the fourth and one conversion. The Lions offensive front actually did a pretty good job of opening up a running lane here, and Green’s patience allowed that lane to develop. Green then did a great job of not only accelerating through the hole, but powering over a couple of Bengal defenders to pick up extra yards at the end.
This is Green’s touchdown. On the play, he gets to the outside where it is just him versus a couple of Cincinnati defensive backs. Green is a very large running back, and he easily won that battle, powering in for his second touchdown on the season. If Green keeps running like this, he has a shot to be the Lions power back next season.
Eric Ebron made plays on offense
Eric Ebron had a very strong game, highlighted by his 33 yard touchdown reception and a big 29 yard catch and run to set up a fourth quarter touchdown run. Here are those two plays.
On this play, Ebron was lined up out wide at the top of the screen with a linebacker across from him in man coverage. Ebron is an extremely athletic tight end, so just about any linebacker on him in man is a mismatch. Ebron uses a hesitation move at the start of his route, then blows right by the Bengals defense, getting wide open for a touchdown.
This play is more of a great throw from Stafford than Ebron making a play. Stafford threw a perfect pass to where only Ebron could get it on the deep crossing route. Ebron was not only able to bring it in, but he gained another 10 yard after the reception.
Ziggy Ansah was a defensive force
Ezekiel Ansah played one of his best games over the last few seasons. He made seven tackles, three of which were sacks and one was for a loss on a running play. Ansah looked like his old 2015-self on Sunday, and, if he keeps it up with another strong performance in week 17, he could earn himself a big payday in free agency.
Nobody else came to play
The Lions star players did not show up when they were needed the most. Matthew Stafford was off all game. Star receivers Marvin Jones and Golden Tate both were unable to top 50 yards. The offensive line allowed Stafford little time to throw. The running backs were unable to do much with their carries. Cornerback Darius Slay was routinely beaten in coverage by Bengals pro bowl receiver AJ Green. The defensive line and linebackers were lost in run defense. Everything that could go wrong did.
The coaching was abysmal
The Lions coaches also let the team down big time. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter’s predictable play calling led to many wasted possessions. Head coach Jim Caldwell didn’t get his team to play disciplined enough (nine penalties and just generally sloppy play in an important game) and didn’t challenge a key play late in the game that he probably would have won.
There is lots of blame to go around in Detroit for this loss, but the coaches really let the players and the fans down on Sunday. It has never been more apparent that it would be mutually beneficial for all involved for the Lions to seek new coaching this offseason.
Player Of The Game
Eric Ebron is this weeks player of the game. He was one of the few Lions players who seemed like they actually wanted to win on Christmas Eve, and he finished the game with five receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown. Ebron has really come on lately and been a big part of the Lions passing game.
Ebron has had a very strong finish to the season, and he has earned himself a spot on the Lions roster for next season. Hopefully, his progression will continue and he can someday be worth of his draft position .