Randy Bullock channeled Doug Pelfrey on Sunday to deliver an early present to the few Cincinnati Bengals fans who bothered to show up on Christmas eve.
The gift came in the form of a go-ahead, 51-yard field goal with 4:42 remaining that lifted the Bengals to a 26-17 victory to eliminate the Detroit Lions from the playoff race.
Giovani Bernard added a late 12-yard touchdown run as part of his huge day in relief of injured starter Joe Mixon as the Bengals snapped a three-game losing streak to improve to 6-9.
Bullock’s 51-yard field goal was his fourth of the game, and it came on the 22-year anniversary of Pelfrey’s game-winning 51-yard field goal at the gun to beat Minnesota in 1995. And the 23-year anniversary of Pelfrey’s 54-yard field goal at the gun to beat Minnesota 27-24 in 1994.
It also came on the one-year anniversary of Bullock’s 43-yard miss at the gun in a 12-10 loss at Houston last year.
The victory sent head coach Marvin Lewis out of Paul Brown Stadium a winner in what likely was his final home game as Cincinnati head coach.
The Lions (8-7) took advantage of a critical Bengals penalty to extend a go-ahead drive that ended with Tion Green scoring a 5-yard touchdown and Matt Prater adding the extra point for a 17-16 lead with 9:49 left in the game.
After lining up to go for it on fourth and 1, Detroit had a false start that made it fourth and 6, forcing coach Jim Caldwell to send out the punt team. But Bengals rookie defensive end Jordan Willis ran into punter Sam Martin to make it fourth and 1 again from the Cincinnati 46, and Green converted with a 12-yard run.
But the Bengals answered with an 11-play, 53-yard drive that ended with Bullock’s go-ahead field goal. Bernard, who took over in the first quarter when starter Joe Mixon suffered an ankle injury, had more than half (28) of the yards on the drive.
He finished with 116 yards on 23 carries while running behind a patchwork offensive line that had left guard Clint Boling starting at left tackle for the first time in his career with Cedric Ogbuehi out with a shoulder injury. And Christian Westerman made his NFL debut at left guard, where he rotated with Alex Redmond.
Eric Winston made the start at right tackle with Andre Smith placed on season-ending Injured Reserve on Thursday.
Bernard also had a team-high seven catches for 52 yards in relief of Mixon, who was one of five Bengals players who left the game with injuries. Linebackers Vontaze Burfict (shoulder) and Jordan Evans (concussion) went out in the second quarter, safety Shawn Williams (concussion) exited in the third and safety Clayton Fejedelem (calf) went down in the fourth.
The Bengals trailed 7-6 at halftime before taking a 13-10 lead on Andy Dalton’s 1-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Uzomah with 5:52 left in the third quarter.
Dalton was 27 of 41 for 238 yards with a touchdown and an interception for a passer rating of 79.1.
The Bengals finished with 364 yards, their second highest total of the season, and the Cincinnati defense held Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense to 276 yards.