CINCINNATI (AP) – Giovani Bernard ran for 116 yards and a clinching touchdown in the closing minutes, sending Cincinnati to a 26-17 victory Sunday that eliminated the Detroit Lions from playoff contention and gave Marvin Lewis a good moment in what was possibly his final home game as Bengals coach.
Matthew Stafford and the Lions (8-7) couldn’t take advantage of an injury-depleted team that gave indifferent performances the last two games. It was a fitting finish for Detroit, which opened the season 3-4 and repeatedly wasted chances to move to the forefront of the playoff chase.
Tion Green’s 5-yard touchdown drive put the Lions ahead 17-16 early in the fourth quarter, but defensive penalties extended Cincinnati’s drive that led to Randy Bullock’s go-ahead kick with 4:42 left.
Given one last chance, Detroit self-destructed with a holding penalty, a false start and a short punt, allowing the Bengals (6-9) to finish it off in front of a half-empty stadium. Bernard broke free for a 12-yard touchdown run with 1:54 to go, sending fans to the exits.
There wasn’t much reaction from the small crowd when Lewis’ name was announced as part of the pregame team introductions. He is finishing his contract and has been cryptic about whether he thinks he’ll return for a 16th season.
Lions: Detroit’s offensive line was in flux again. Center Travis Swanson was out for the second straight game with a concussion, and guard T.J. Lang was inactive with a foot injury. Right tackle Rick Wagner missed his third game with an ankle injury.
Bengals: LB Vontaze Burfict was back after missing two games with a concussion, but hurt his right shoulder shortly before halftime. Running back Joe Mixon – who also missed the last two games with a concussion – left with an injured right ankle in the first quarter, putting the onus on Bernard.
The Lions host the eliminated Packers. They’re 3-4 at home this season. Detroit won at Green Bay 30-17 on Nov. 6.
The Bengals play at Baltimore, which is in the thick of the playoff chase. The Ravens opened the season with a 20-0 win at Paul Brown Stadium.