<
>

Young Bengals show spark with victory in Marvin Lewis' possible home finale

There's no question the Cincinnati Bengals are about to conclude one of their most disappointing seasons in years.

But the team seemed determined to provide some hope for the future, at least on this Sunday, snapping a three-game losing streak to beat the Lions 26-17 in what could be the final home game for coach Marvin Lewis.

Lewis, whose contract is up after this season, has refused to publicly acknowledge that possibility despite a report last Sunday by ESPN's Adam Schefter that said Lewis would leave the team at the end of the season.

Perhaps the players needed some spark to get them out of the funk they have been in since blowing a 17-0 lead in a loss to the Steelers several weeks ago.

The Bengals (6-9) had one of their best games in weeks against the Lions (8-7), playing in front of a small, but clearly frustrated, fan base. That frustration was evident in the form of a banner hung up in the stands prior to the game.

The banner boldly stated "What about OUR feelings?" in giant letters.

That was one of many messages that has been written on that particular banner this season. It changes every week, ranging from Sunday's message to "Hope is not a plan" and "change is good" earlier in the season. Some have stayed up for entire games, while others have quickly been taken down by stadium security.

It was an odd contrast to what took place on the field Sunday. The Bengals appeared to have woken back up after two humiliating weeks where they were outscored 67-14.

They also gave some hope for the future.

Forced to shuffle around the offensive line due to injuries, the Bengals moved guard Clint Boling to left tackle and played two little-used guards in Alex Redmond and Christian Westerman. The Bengals were surprisingly efficient with the patchwork line, particularly in run blocking.

With Joe Mixon leaving early with an injury, Giovani Bernard reminded people how good he could be when given playing time, running for 116 yards and catching seven passes for 52 yards. Rookie Brian Hill had a nice reception for 34 yards.

The offensive line has been an area of serious concern all season, but Sunday's performance showed there might be more answers already on the roster than originally believed.

While the linebacker corps took another hit with new injuries to Vontaze Burfict and Jordan Evans, cornerback William Jackson III continued to show that he's capable of being the Bengals' Day 1 starter next season.

Carl Lawson and Carlos Dunlap concluded the game with back-t0-back sacks, putting Lawson at 9.5 for the season, which ties Dunlap's franchise rookie record. Lawson has been one of the bright young stars on defense this season despite playing a limited amount of snaps.

While the Bengals' season was ultimately disappointing, it's clear there's a good base to work with for next season, even if there is a new coaching staff overseeing that roster.