Heartbreaking games are becoming a trend for the Detroit Lions. On Thanksgiving Day, they lost on a field goal as time expired for the third time this year. The Kitties were flat-out embarrassing on the national stage with everyone watching.
It’s a pick-your-poison look back for Detroit after they managed only 14 points against a Chicago Bears team that has all but clocked out on head coach Matt Nagy.
Perhaps it’s best to start with this viral screenshot.
The Lions faced down-to-go situations from 32 yards behind the sticks at two different junctures in the game. How is that even remotely possible, you ask? Penalties, penalties, and some more penalties.
The second-quarter drive that came to a flabbergasting 3rd and 32 from their 49-yard line started on the Chicago 29. Detroit got called for a false start, holding, and another false start on three consecutive snaps. What should’ve been three points, at worst, turned into a punt from midfield.
The drive in the fourth quarter that also had a 3rd and 32 was a perfect bow on a disastrous afternoon for the Lions despite them having a chance to win it up until the end.
Like the drive in the first half, this one started out swell. Jared Goff completed a 15-yard pass to Josh Reynolds, and then Jamaal Williams ripped off a 19-yard run. After that, the Lions were called for a false start, holding, and another holding call on three consecutive snaps. The drive concluded with them punting from their 29-yard line.
If all of that didn’t have Detroit fans slamming their heads repeatedly against the wall, Chicago’s last possession did.
The Bears milked the last eight minutes and 30 seconds of the game with an 18-play drive that spanned 69 yards. On a huge 3rd and 9 late in that drive, the Lions needed a stop to get the ball back with some time remaining. They had just used a timeout. As Andy Dalton approached the line of scrimmage, Campbell and other Lions coaches noticed a problem on defense and opted to take another timeout. The issue with that is, you can’t do it in the NFL. Officials are supposed to ignore a coach trying to take back-to-back timeouts, but it’s a five-yard penalty if it is granted.
3rd and 9 turned to 3rd and 4. Out of the long break, this is what the Lions did.
It doesn’t take a genius to see all the issues with that coverage call pre-snap. First, the corners are playing about eight yards off the line of scrimmage on 3rd and 4. Secondly, there are three receivers out in the pattern up top and only two defenders within sight on the screen. Care to venture a guess about what happened next?
Chicago melted away the remaining time, kicked the game-winner, and got the hell out of Ford Field.
Those who got their first glimpse of the Lions this year likely think this is how it has looked all season long. While the Lions still don’t have a win on their resumé, they haven’t shot themselves in the foot so badly in the other close games they have played in. Although when it still doesn’t result in wins, it doesn’t matter.
As for the two-timeout debacle, Campbell had quite the explanation.
“Half of our secondary had one call, half had the other, and so, yeah, banged the timeout,” Campbell said.
“It really was a check based on what they were doing,” Campbell said. “And so you don’t get it until it’s in the middle of the play. But it’s something we had talked about, and you don’t get it pre-snap. It’s a call, and it’s got basically a check on it to what they’re going to do and what they line up in offensively, is what happened. So we had half in one call, half in another, and so the first thing in my head is, ‘Well, we got a blown coverage and they’re about to score a touchdown.’ So I do it, which you can’t do, and now it’s a penalty. I know that if he threw that out in the flat, it was about to be a touchdown. So, can’t do it.”
There’s an argument to be made that the Lions allowing the Bears to score a touchdown wouldn’t have been the worst outcome in the world. They would’ve been trailing but also would’ve gotten the ball back with time to score. Granted, that wouldn’t have inspired a ton of confidence the way their offense has played this year, but it beat the alternative. The message boards can have that debate separately.
The final score suggests an enjoyable Thanksgiving Day game. It was not. Instead, it was littered with penalties, puzzling coaching decisions, and the Lions yet again finding a way to lose. In the last time that most non-Lions fans will watch this team this year, they will leave with the assumption that the team is a dumpster fire with no direction. Detroit hasn’t been quite that bad this year, but on Thursday, they put on one of their most embarrassing displays yet.