After losing a heartbreaking game on a record-setting field goal by Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker, Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell wasn’t his typical caffeinated self. A straight-talking Campbell met wtih the media after the game and didn’t bite on addressing the controversial missed delay-of-game penalty just prior to Tucker’s 66-yard game-winner.
Well, he didn’t bite too much.
“There’s nothing I can say to that,” Campbell said. “Because it’s the same thing. Tomorrow you’ll get an apology and it doesn’t mean anything. That’s life. That’s the hand we were dealt and we still had an opportunity. That was fourth and a long way to go and we gave it up.”
The NFL cannot hide from another officiating error that directly costs the Lions a win
So what happened on the 4th-and-19 play that set up Tucker’s record-setting field goal? In Campbell’s own words,
“The (defensive play) call I thought was fine, it was just the way we played the call. We (had) communication errors. Look, we—I’ve said it before. It’s not an excuse, it’s a matter of how quickly you can clean it up. But we’ve got—we do have growing pains. There’s things we have to continue to work out and work out the kinks and grow from this and learn from this. This is really, this is the first time that some of those guys have been through that situation that were out there.”
On the first three defensive plays of the drive, the Lions attacked Jackson. OLB Charles Harris sacked Jackson on first down, a play where the Detroit defense rushed five. Romeo Okwara pushed Jackson out of bounds for a loss on third down, another play where the Lions brought extra defenders to rush the Ravens QB.
But on fourth down, only the front three down linemen rushed. Two linebackers played the shallow middle of the field, ostensibly serving as spies in case Jackson–who entered the game fourth in the NFL in rushing–tried to take off and make the 19 yards with his legs. The deep coverage was too deep down the field and they somehow lost wide receiver Sammy Watkins. That’s what Campbell was talking about, and it’s not an acceptable time to have an error like that.
The head coach knows his Lions needed to play better earlier in the game, too.
“Because the bottom line we talk about all the time, but you have no idea what that play in the first quarter can do when you’re sitting there at the end of the fourth quarter for the win,” Campbell responded to a later question. “So every play counts, man. Every opportunity counts. Every drive counts. You can get three more points in the first half or you get one more stop in the first half, it makes all the difference.”
Campbell’s Lions did not make the plays early, and it cost them dearly in the end.
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