CINCINNATI (AP) With everything on the line, Matthew Stafford and the Lions fell apart.
There will be no playoff victory for another year.
Stafford and the Lions needed a win on Sunday to stay in contention. They couldn’t take advantage of a down-and-out team that had been blown out the past two weeks. Cincinnati’s 26-17 victory sent Detroit (8-7) into an uncertain offseason.
”It’s not fun when you get eliminated,” said Stafford, who was only 19 of 35 for 203 yards with a touchdown and an interception. ”It’s not fun.”
Detroit repeatedly wasted chances to move to the thick of the playoff chase during the season. It had an opportunity to extend its hopes for one more week after Tion Green’s 5-yard touchdown drive put the Lions ahead 17-16 early in the fourth quarter.
Then it all fell apart.
”We laid an egg out there today,” Lions receiver Marvin Jones Jr. said .
The erratic season raised questions about coach Jim Caldwell’s future after four seasons in Detroit without a playoff win.
The Bengals (6-9) haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the sixth-longest stretch of postseason futility in NFL history. The Lions are right behind them in futility.
”Anytime you lose, everything’s up for consideration,” said Caldwell, adding that he hasn’t talked to management about the future.
The head coach was the focus on the other side, too. Marvin Lewis is finishing his 15th season in Cincinnati with no contract beyond the next few weeks. He tried to get an offseason extension from owner Mike Brown, but they couldn’t agree.
Now, it appears he’s on the way out. If that’s the case, his final game at Paul Brown Stadium was at least upbeat.
”I guess everybody’s been writing me off,” said Lewis, who has been cryptic about his plans.
Some takeaways from the Bengals’ win:
STAFFORD’S STREAK SNAPPED
In his three previous games, Stafford completed 80 percent of his passes overall. The Lions’ offense never got into a rhythm against the Bengals. His passer rating of 69.1 was his lowest in six games.
”Sometimes it’s not going to be easy,” Stafford said. ”For some reason or another, we didn’t score enough points.”
Jones was one of the Bengals’ top receivers for four seasons. He was hoping to have a big game in his return, but was limited to three catches for 50 yards. He topped 1,000 yards receiving for the season.
”It really doesn’t mean anything right now,” Jones said.
GIO’S BIG DAY
Giovani Bernard became the Bengals’ featured back when Joe Mixon left the game in the first quarter with an injured left ankle. Bernard ran for a season-high 116 yards, including a clinching 12-yard touchdown with 1:54 to go. He also caught a team-high seven passes for 52 yards.
It was by far his best game since he returned from a torn ACL suffered midway through last season.
”I knew when I went down last year it was only a matter of time before I came back ready to go,” said Bernard, whose previous high this season was 77 yards rushing.
The 65,000-seat stadium was half-empty for the kickoff. The Bengals sold 47,732 tickets, though many went unused. It was their smallest announced crowd since 2011. There was little reaction when Lewis’ name was mentioned during pregame introductions.
ONE MORE TIME
The Lions finish the season by hosting 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 AFC playoff chase. The Ravens opened the season with a 20-0 win at Paul Brown Stadium.
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL