The Cincinnati Bengals vs Detroit Lions Week 16 game started out slow for both teams, but once the Bengals got going, they had no trouble moving the ball. Yes, you read that right, the Bengals’ offense wasn’t terrible in the team’s Christmas Eve win over the Lions. Cincinnati did encounter problems with turnovers and punching the ball into the end zone, however, which is why the score was as low as it was. The final score read 26-17 as the Bengals notched their sixth win of the year and brought their record to 6-9.
The Bengals clearly dominated the run game, with Giovani Bernard recording his first 100-yard game of the season. The Bengals average 4.3 yards per carry behind an offensive line with Eric Winston starting at right tackle, Clint Boling starting at left tackle, and Christian Westerman starting at left guard.
Not only was Bernard unstoppable in the running game, but he was second on the team in receiving yards with 52. A.J. Green lead the team in receptions and receiving yards, which is not surprise. Tyler Boyd showed up in a big way, making crucial catches when the team needed a few yards to keep the chains moving.
It took about 10 minutes for the game to get going, but the Lions found a way to inflict first blood. Starting the drive at midfield, the Lions made their way to the 35-yard line before Matthew Stafford lobbed a pass to tight end Eric Ebron for the touchdown. Ebron beat rookie linebacker Jordan Evans pretty badly to get wide open for the score with 4:54 left in the first quarter. Matt Prater kicked the extra point to extend the Lions’ lead 7-0.
Snow started falling on the next drive as the Bengals began to make their way down the field. Giovani Bernard, who was in while Joe Mixon got his ankle checked out, ran the ball five times. That included twice on third-and-one, which he converted both times. On the opening play of the second quarter, Andy Dalton threw an interception right to Quandre Diggs, completely overthrowing A.J. Green. The Lions were forced to punt, however, as Vontaze Burfict stuffed Theo Riddick one yard short of the sticks on third down.
The Lions punted and Bernard immediately broke loose for a 25-yard run to take it down to the 46-yard line.
Gio for 25. Equals longest run of the year for the #Bengals— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) December 24, 2017
Brain Hill also got going, taking a run for 11 yards coupled with a Bernard screen for 15 yards to set up the Bengals’ first red zone opportunity of the game. The Bengals would have to settle for a field goal as Dalton ran for a one-yard game, was sacked and overthrew Tyler Kroft in the endzone. Randy Bullock knocked the 29-yard field goal through, and the Bengals were on the board, 7-3, with 7:35 to go in the second quarter.
As the Lions looked to make another dent on the scoreboard, Burfict hit Stafford to force an ugly throw that landed in the arms of Vincent Rey. The former Duke Blue Devil returned the pick to the Bengals’ 47-yard line with 71 seconds left in the half. As the clock winded down, Green caught an 18-yard pass and Bernard had three important touches. The clock wound down to four seconds before Bullock came on to make a 27-yard field goal.
At halftime, the Bengals trailed by one point, 7-6, in a critical game for the Lions’ playoff hopes.
The Lions came back out with a vengeance in the third quarter, converting two of their first third down conversions. Former Bengals receiver Marvin Jones made an impressive grab to extend the drive, high-pointing Stafford’s pass for 31 yards. But the Lions’ drive stalled in the red zone thanks to a great play by William Jackson III, and Prater had to come in to kick a 23-yard field goal. The Lions extended their lead 10-6 with 9:29 remaining in the quarter.
Unfortunately, the Bengals’ defense was getting depleted at that point as Evans, Burfict and Shawn Williams all left the game with injuries. It was a concussion for both Evans and Williams and a shoulder injury for Burfict. Evans was hit in the head by Burfict when each attempted a tackle on the same player. Williams was similarly injured after colliding with Hardy Nickerson on a play.
On the next drive, the Bengals got a huge boost from Hill (Brian, not Jeremy, obviously) with his second career catch. Bernard had to step off the field after he was shaken up on a play, and Hill came in relief. For his first touch, he scooted for 34 yards all the way down to the Lions’ 18 yard line. Bernard came back two plays later to move the ball to the Lions’ seven-yard line. After a short pass to Tyler Boyd to get the ball to the one-yard line, Dalton faked a run to Bernard, then rolled out to find C.J. Uzomah in the end zone. The tall tight end reached up and grabbed the ball out of mid-air after watching Dalton loft passes over Tyler Kroft’s head all day. But most importantly, the Bengals had their first lead of the game, up 13-10 with 5:52 remaining in the third quarter after Bullock’s extra point.
The Lions looked like they were in a position to respond after Dre Kirkpatrick was beat deep and committed pass interference to stop Jones. The PI call added onto the Bengals’ league high count of pass interference infractions this year. However, the Lions couldn’t move the sticks and Prater came in to attempt a field goal. The kick from 50-yards out was short, and the Bengals took over on their own 40-yard line.
After a quiet first half, Green finally showed up as he shook Darius Slay to go for 17 yards on the ensuing drive. Later on the drive, he caught a 14-yard pass on a third down conversion. Bernard played like a much bigger back than he really is, taking a screen eight yards by breaking a tackle behind the line of scrimmage and breaking a second right before the sticks. As the fourth quarter opened, the Bengals started from the Lions’ 11-yard line when Dalton was sacked by Ezekiel Ansah to effectively end the drive. Bullock made a 35-yard kick to extend the Bengals’ lead 16-10 with 14:13 remaining in the fourth quarter.
On that drive, Dalton made history by joining Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to start a career with seven straight 3,000-yard seasons. This was the second major milestone of the game, as Green hit the 1,000-yard mark for the sixth time in his seven seasons earlier in the outing.
The Bengals looked like they were going to keep Stafford from another one of his famous fourth-quarter comebacks until Jordan Willis ran into the kicker and gave the Lions an extra five yards. Following the penalty, the Lions were close enough to go for it on fourth down, and did so successfully. Ebron beat Rey for a 29-yard pass, continuing to burn the Bengals’ depleted linebacker group. On the next play, Tion Green pushed his way in the end zone from five yards out to tie the game. Prater’s extra point put the Lions ahead 17-16 with 9:49 left in the game.
Long runs by Bernard and pass interference on the Lions helped the Bengals answer Green’s touchdown. They couldn’t get past the Lions’ 33-yard line though, and Bullock was called upon to attempt his first 50-plus yard field goal of the year. His 51-yarder had just enough mustard on it to help the Bengals leap out front, 19-17 with 4:42 left in the game.
The Bengals responded to Bullock’s filed goal by totally stifling the Lions’ offense in deep in their own territory. On third-and-28, the Lions had a brief glimmer of hope when it appeared Golden Tate had a would-be 45 yard catch. But a hoard of Bengals defenders, led by Josh Shaw and Kirkpatrick forced the ball out of his hands to send in the punt team.
Dalton and the offense chipped their way down the field until they got to the Lions’ 12-yard line. From there, Bernard bounced around to the outside and gracefully hopped over the pylon for his first rushing touchdown of the game. With Bullock’s kick, the Bengals took a 26-17 lead with 1:49 left in the game.
Inside the two-minute warning with no timeouts, Stafford set to the daunting task of overcoming a nine point deficit. Carlos Dunlap sacked Stafford to create a fourth-and-fifteen situation. Carl Lawson sacked Stafford on the next play to give the Bengals the ball on downs. With no way to stop the clock, Dalton kneeled it twice to seal the Bengals’ 26-17 victory and knock the Lions out of the playoffs.