In an ending that only a Detroit Lions fan could write, the Lions got the help they needed around the league but couldn’t take care of business in 26-17 loss to Cincinnati that ended their playoff hopes.
The Lions just needed a stop on third down and long but gave up a 12-yard touchdown run to Giovanni Bernard with under two minutes left to make it a nine-point Bengals lead. Detroit couldn’t generate any of their trademark late-game magic, falling to 8-7 on the season.
Matthew Stafford topped 4,000 yards for his seventh consecutive year, but he wasn’t himself for most of the game. The Lions failed to protect him and the team’s nine penalties mostly came at critical times in the game.
They made inexcusable mistakes, including jumping offsides in a likely hard-count scenario. Darius Slay played well in the first half but he got beat a few times by A.J. Green, then got a holding call that later extended the Bengals’ drive late in the fourth quarter.
Matt Prater missed on a 50-yard attempt that came back to haunt the Lions, while Bengals kicker Randy Bullock went 4-4 — hitting a 50-yarder along the way.
The loss is all the more frustrating knowing that Atlanta lost and the Lions had a great chance at making the playoffs if they won but couldn’t beat a 5-win team that previously was blown out by the Bears and Vikings in recent weeks.
The focus now shifts from scoreboard watching to wondering whether or not general manager Bob Quinn will keep Coach Caldwell around after the season. The offensive line was decimated with injuries and the team did little to upgrade their front seven in the offseason. Caldwell is the winningest head coach in Lions’ history, though, for what it’s worth.
It’s a painful holiday season for Lions fans, but fortunately, they are used to the feeling of disappointment this time of year.