In the annual Thanksgiving Day game, two series with back-to-back-to-back penalties stalled the Lions’ offense.
Then late in the game the defense was in disarray. Back-to-back timeouts were called which is illegal in the NFL, cost a penalty and then the Bears kicked the game-winning field goal.
It was another Lions’ game — a 16-14 loss — that left a bitter taste in the mouth.
The Lions (0-10-1) are still looking for their first win. The Bears (4-7) provided a good opportunity to punch it in at Ford Field. Instead it was just another punch in the gut.
“It’s just a matter of we have to learn how to win. Once we learn how to win then we can begin to see the fruits of our labor a little bit,’’ coach Dan Campbell said. “The effort is there, the fight and the fact that here we are, it’s 3 games in a row we’re right there at the very end.
“There again, I see improvement. I sit there and watch and I see some of these guys get better and better. What encourages me is I know the core of this team and I know the vets we’ve got and the young guys. These guys aren’t going to lay down, that’s not what these guys are made of, that’s what keeps me hopeful to know we are building something,’’ Campbell said.
It’s a familiar refrain for this team years after year, decade after decade. Rebuilding since 1957.
Five things to know about the Lions loss:
1. On two Lions’ offensive series there were back-to-back-to-back penalties.In the second quarter Detroit had first-and-10 at Chicago’s 29-yard line. They were in field goal range and then a false start by T.J. Hockenson was followed by a holding call on Evan Brown and then Jamaal Williams was called for a false start. All of a sudden it’s first-and-30, then second-and-26, then third-and-32, then punt. Campbell said some teams can overcome penalties but the Lions can not. “The bottom line is we put ourselves in those third-and-a mile situations and that’s on us. Those things kill you,’’ Campbell said. It happened again in the fourth quarter. Fans booed loudly when Goff completed a 7-yard pass on a third-and-32.
2. Jared Goff who returned after missing Sunday’s game due to injury completed his first dozen passes, but the offense had trouble establishing the run game finishing with just 76 rushing yards. Goff had a different outlook on the penalties. “The false starts are absolutely on us, that can’t happen,’’ Goff said. “You can call holding on every single play, it’s no excuse we’ve done it too much and I know those guys are hard on themselves up front. Back there they can throw that flag every play and to me it seemed like it was a little too often on that call.’’ D’Andre Swift left the game with a shoulder injury which affected the offense but still no excuse.
3. When a defense holds an opponent to 16 points, the team should be able to find a way to win. Campbell praised the defense repeatedly for keeping them in the game. And yet when the Bears got the ball with 8:30 left in the game, the Lions defense could not get them off the field. They went down and kicked a game-ending, game-winning field goal.
4. Calling back-to-back timeouts in the final minutes is inexcusable. The defensive players have to understand and know what is going on. Here is how Campbell explained it: “It was a check by what they were doing. So you don’t get it until it’s in the middle of the play, but it’s something that we had talked about. And so 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 and half in another. So the first thing in my head is, ‘Well, we’ve 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. But I know that if he threw it out in a flat it was about to be a touchdown.’ Can’t do it.”
5. Coaching has to be under scrutiny. Not just the conservative play-calling, but also having guys prepared. That whole back-to-back timeout situation is a perfect example. And the Lions finished with a season-high 10 penalties costing 67 yards. In Week 12 that should not happen. No excuses.
UP NEXT: The Lions host the Minnesota Vikings (5-5) on Sunday, Dec. 5, at Ford Field.