There are losers and then there are losers. It’s fun when a team like the Jets is terrible, because that’s how the universe ought to be. It’s fun when the Jaguars lose, for obvious reasons. But the winless Lions are something different. Something more sympathetic. They’ve played hard, scrappy football, hanging in there with better teams but coming up short. Dan Campbell is a living cartoon who seems to be a decently smart, aggressive coach, and is well-liked by his players. They deserve better. But the Lions are the Lions.
Now, being the Lions, sometimes they are handed absolute gifts by the universe because the universe knows that makes the loss all the more heartbreaking. That was the case Sunday afternoon, after playing respectable but inferior football for 58 minutes before kicking a field goal to get within seven points of the Vikings. Minnesota needed a single first down to run out the clock, and attempting to get it, Alexander Mattison—who’d had a big day filling in for the injured Dalvin Cook—fumbled, giving Detroit back the ball on the edge of the red zone. It’s the sort of break that doesn’t happen to teams like the Lions. They should have been suspicious of it.
D’Andre Swift would find the end zone with 37 seconds left to bring the Lions within one, and Campbell—because they were on the road, because they were the underdogs, because Campbell doesn’t do half-measures—went for two. It was a gutsy call, from a coach with job security but also for a team with nothing to lose. It worked.
A comeback like that against a division rival would’ve been a truly brilliant way for the Lions to grab their first win of the season and Campbell the first win of his head coaching career. It was not to be, which you’ve probably already guessed if you’ve paid attention to the tone of this blog or the last 60-odd years of Lions football.
Kirk Cousins needed just three plays and 34 seconds to go 46 yards, and Greg Joseph nailed the 54-yarder to wrest victory back from the Lions’ jaws.
The 19-17 final score was identical to Detroit’s Week 3 loss to Baltimore, another game in which they miraculously took the lead late, only to lose on a long (in that case an NFL record), last-second field goal. It appears that “having the lead in the last minute of the game” is not going to work for the Lions as a path to victory this season. I understand that narrows their options a bit.
Aw, Dan. I feel awful for the Lions but this is tremendous content. Well, as the old saying goes, Rome didn’t bite Carthage’s kneecap in a day.