The Detroit Lions went into Minneapolis and outplayed the Vikings for nearly 60 minutes and yet things, as they always does with this franchise, went horribly awry and forced the fans held hostage by some sort of loyalty into another unfulfilling Sunday. If any group is used to losing and yanking defeat out of the jaws of victory, it's the Lions so this is hardly news. But the way it happened was certainly noteworthy and the on-ramp for a much-needed rant about the almost callous mismanagement second-year coach Dan Campbell displayed and how his commitment to selecting the worst possible choice prevented a momentary position atop the NFC North.
Before we start, let's not get it twisted. Campbell has been the recipient of a tremendous amount of press from this here blog. And a major reason for that is because he, unlike so many who have held his position before, seems to truly understand the unique challenge of existing in Detroit — which resides in football hell with one playoff win over the last 65 years. So that's why it was so surprising to see him choose the third-best of three options with the Lions leading 24-21 and facing 4th-and-4 from the Vikings' 36-yard line with 1:14 to go. Campbell allowed the play clock to wind down before calling his second timeout. Which is fine. It's fine.
At his disposal were three choices. One, go for it to seal the game. Two, punt and pin Kirk Cousins deep in his own end with a full field to go and no timeouts. Or three, attempt a 54-yard field goal with Austin Seibert, who had previously doinked one against the upright from 48-yards. Not a single Lions fan would have faulted him for trying to end things. Especially with a surprisingly competent Jared Goff. Not a single one would have quibbled with a pooch punt. And yet, Campbell for some reason went with the third option, one that wouldn't have ended the game no matter what and risked granting Minnesota the best possible field position.
You already know what happened. Seibert missed and Cousins assumed control 56 yards from the end zone and about 15 from field-goal range. That alone would have been enough. Campbell, however, wasn't done playing active defense against his team. After a 28-yard completion to K.J. Osborn, the Lions' head honcho inexplicably burned his final timeout for reasons. Perhaps to set up the defense for the next play, a carbon copy that found the end zone and ended all realistic hope.
A half-hearted attempt at a miracle ended in an interception as the Lions scrambled around without any ability to stop the clock. If it makes Lions fans feel any better, Campbell also hated the decision he made.
Look, I love the Hot Dog meme from I Think You Should Leave as much as the next person but this is ridiculous and inexcusable. This season was always going to have a very low ceiling yet now I feel like Campbell's grasp of what makes the distinct group of weirdos who subject themselves to Lions football tick isn't as firm as once thought. It's less than an hour since all this went down. Still doesn't feel like an overreaction.
Campbell could still be the best thing that ever happened to this franchise because there's not much competition. That doesn't make what happened today any less inexcusable and indefensible.
You want to be different? Then be different.