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Dan Campbell addresses consecutive timeouts on final drive that cost Lions opportunity at first win

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It was a familiar result for the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, yet the outcome could have been much different. While the Chicago Bears ended up defeating the Lions, 16-14, on a walk-off field goal, the go-ahead score could have occurred much sooner — giving the Lions an opportunity to snatch a victory themselves. 

Dan Campbell’s coaching blunder cost the Lions that chance. The Bears drove nearly the length of the field and had the go-ahead field goal in hand with under two minutes left. The Lions called a timeout to stop the clock on a third-and-nine with 1:54 to play and called another timeout coming out of that timeout once the Bears lined up on offense. The consecutive timeouts led to a five-yard penalty and set up a manageable third-and-four at the Lions’ 11-yard line. Bears quarterback Andy Dalton completed a short pass to Damiere Byrd, which allowed Chicago to run the remaining time off the clock and kick the winner. 

So why was Campbell so quick to call a timeout in the first place? 

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“It was a check by what they were doing,” Campbell explained after the game. “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.”

The Bears did throw the ball out to the flat, but the whistle blew after the ball was snapped to get the Lions timeout in, so the end result of the play remains a mystery. If the Bears scored a touchdown, Chicago would have taken a minimum lead of 19-14 with just under 1:50 to play. The Lions would have had an opportunity to drive for the winning touchdown if they didn’t call the timeout — or tie it assuming Chicago converted the conversion attempt after scoring the touchdown. 

Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn could have just had the right check and avoided the timeout all together. In that case, the Bears don’t convert the third-and-nine, kick the field goal, and give the Lions an opportunity to kick a field goal to win the game. 

Instead, the Lions winless streak increased to 15 games. Thursday may have been their best chance to pull off a victory. 

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“We all want to win. We’re playing to win, those guys, you can see that out there,” Campbell said. “And I know it’s hard to see from afar because everyone wants the wins and the losses, and all of us do. But these guys are laying it on the line and giving it everything they’ve got right now. It’s just a matter of we have to learn how to win. 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. But the effort is there. The effort and the fight and the fact that here we are, three games in a row — we’re right there at the very end. 

“And then again, I see improvement. I sit there and watch and I see some of these guys getting better and better. What encourages me is the fact that I know the core of this team. I know the vets we’ve got and some of these young guys. This is a — these guys aren’t going to lay down. They’re not going to — that’s not what these guys are made of. That’s what keeps me hopeful. I know that we are building something.” 

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