CINCINNATI –One of the big matchups heading in Sunday was Lions Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay vs. Bengals Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green.
Slay had traveled with some of the league's best pass catchers all season long with a ton of success. He'd held down the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones, Antonio Brown and Mike Evans. Slay was expected to travel with Green most of the afternoon Sunday, which he ended up doing.
But for the first time this season, Slay was on the losing end of one of these individual matchups.
Slay made a couple nice plays on Green early in the game, but it was Green who made more impact plays overall, especially late, propelling his team to a 26-17 victory that ended Detroit's playoff chances.
Green made a big 6-yard grab on a 3rd and 3 play to keep a fourth quarter drive alive with Cincinnati trailing 17-16. On the same drive, Green drew an interference penalty on Slay that gave the Bengals a first down at the Lions 40-yard line. The drive would end with a 51-yard Randy Bullock field goal that turned out to be the game winner.
Overall, Green finished with six catches for 81 yards.
Slay defended three passes, which gives him 23 for the year, but he also had to make six tackles, a few of those coming after Green receptions.
RUN DEFENSE CONSISTENCY
It's really been feast or famine all year long when it comes to Detroit's run defense. Seven times this season they've forced an opponent to run for less than 100 yards. But then there's the other eight games, including Sunday vs. the Bengals, where opponents were able to churn up big gains on the ground and finish with over 100 yards for the contest.
It's consistency," linebacker Tahir Whitehead said. "We just have to do the mundane things ... that's really what it boils down to. It's X's and O's. It's not just anything spectacular that you have to go out there and do. Sometimes it's simple stuff. If everyone just takes care of their job then you come out there and win that down. It's really what it boils down to."
The Lions haven't won enough of those downs defensively against the run this season. Sunday, it cost them once again.
"It's very frustrating," Lions safety Glover Quin said. "We didn't make enough plays to win the game. We didn't stop the run and they controlled the line of scrimmage. When you aren't able to do those things, you lose ball games."
Lions punter Sam Martin missed training camp, the preseason and the first part of the season dealing with an injury suffered away from football in early July.
Since his return, Martin hasn't been the same consistent punter we've known the last four seasons. He's on pace to set career lows in both punting average (43.3) and net punting (38.4). In Martin's previous four seasons, he's never been below 46.0 in average punting or had a net less than 40.1.
"You never heard me make any excuses about anything," Caldwell said. "You can ask Sam if he's had any ailments or anything of that nature, but obviously when you don't have an opportunity to go through a normal season, missing a lot of those games, it's an intricate game that takes practice and work, and he missed some of that. But Sam's got a great leg and he's got ability."
- Quarterback Matthew Stafford reached 4,000 yards passing in the game (4,123) and Marvin Jones Jr. notched his first 1,000-yard receiving season (1,020). That combination has been a good one all year for Detroit. The future only looks brighter as they become more and more comfortable with each other.
- Tight end Eric Ebron had another nice game. He led the Lions with five catches for 83 yards, including a career long 33-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.
- Cornerback Nevin Lawson left the game to be evaluated for a concussion and did not return.