CINCINNATI –Needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Detroit Lions simply didn't make the kind of game-changing plays against the Bengals Sunday that playoff-caliber teams make at the end of the year.
Detroit blew a halftime lead and a fourth quarter lead, and Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford couldn't orchestrate one of his patented fourth-quarter comebacks, as the Lions fell to the Bengals 26-17.
The loss ends any chance of the Lions qualifying for the playoffs in the NFC. Sunday's defeat stings even more to Lions fans, considering New Orleans did them a favor by beating the Falcons. The Lions would have only needed a win at home against Green Bay and a Falcons loss to Carolina next week to get in, had the Lions taken care of their own business first.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions Week 16 game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Now, the Lions will be watching the playoffs from home in January.
Detroit jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a 33-yard Matthew Stafford to Eric Ebron touchdown in the first quarter.
The Bengals would record two first-half field goals to trim Detroit's halftime lead to 7-6.
Detroit extended the lead to 10-6 with a 23-yard Matt Prater field goal on Detroit's opening possession of the third quarter, but Cincinnati responded with a seven-play, 75-yard drive to take their first lead of the game on a 1-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Andy Dalton to tight end C.J. Uzomah late in the third quarter.
Trailing 16-10 in the fourth quarter, Stafford led a 10-play, 75-yard drive to retake the lead on a Tion Green 5-yard run with 9:49 left in the game.
But Cincinnati took the ball back and orchestrated a 11-play drive down to the Lions 33-yard line that set up Randy Bullock's game-winning 51-yard field goal.
The Bengals would add a 12-yard Giovani Bernard touchdown in the final minute to ice the victory.
QB Comparison: Stafford's streak of three straight games completing 75 percent of his passes ended Sunday. He was 19-of-35 passing for 203 yards with a touchdown and an interception for a passer rating of 69.1.
Dalton completed 27 of his 41 passes for 238 yards with a touchdown and an interception for a passer rating of 79.1.
Run defense: It was 3rd and 6 with less than a minute to go with Detroit's season on the line, and Bengals running back Giovani Bernard took a simple handoff running off right tackle and found wide open space, right into the end zone.
Touchdown. Game over. Playoff chances over.
Stopping the run has been one of those inconsistent areas for the Lions' defense all season. They've been very good at times, and equally as bad other times.
Sunday was one of the bad ones. Bernard racked up 116 yards on 23 carries, and the Bengals rushed for 146 yards total. Cincinnati's run game allowed them to control both the clock and the tempo in the second half.
Diggs INT streak:** Make is three games in a row for Lions safety Quandre Diggs recording an interception. Diggs made the move from nickel cornerback to safety four games ago vs. Baltimore. The last three weeks, in games at Tampa Bay, vs. Chicago and at Cincinnati, Diggs has recorded an interception.
40 for Ansah: Defensive end Ziggy Ansah recorded three sacks on Dalton, giving him 9.0 on the year and 41 for his career. He joins Robert Porcher, Mike Cofer, Tracy Scroggins and Bill Gay as the only players in Lions history since sacks became an official statistic in 1982 to reach 40 career sacks with the franchise.