Todd Bowles Cost the Bucs One Last Shot at a Win By Not Calling a Timeout at End of Lions Loss

Todd Bowles
Todd Bowles / Nic Antaya/GettyImages

The Detroit Lions won their first playoff game in over 50 years last week and decided they wanted another one, so they went out and got it on Sunday by beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was a tight contest from the start and ended with a Baker Mayfield interception with 1:35 left on the clock. Detroit would kneel it out and win, 31-23. Those who were watching closely, though, may have noticed something odd. The Bucs had a timeout left when they turned it over-- and never used it.

That matters because there was juuuuuust enough time left on the clock for something weird to happen if they did. If the Bucs called timeout after the Lions' first-down play, there would have been about a minute and a half left. If the Lions knelt it on second and third down, letting the playclock tick down as far as possible, then they would have faced a fourth down with approximately 10 seconds left. At that point Detroit had two choices-- try to kick a field goal that would have been at least 45 yards, or punt. There would have been a chaos option on the table involving trying to run around and burn the rest of the clock, I suppose, but that is incredibly risky with double-digit seconds left so it was really the punt or the field goal.

In either circumstance, Tampa Bay is very unlikely to win. If the Lions attempted the field goal and made it then the game is over. If they missed, the Bucs would have had to drive nearly 70 yards in one, maybe two plays. And then convert a two-point conversion. If the Lions punted then Tampa would have faced an even longer field and thus longer odds. They had a near-certainty of losing that game once Mayfield threw the final interception, which is why head coach Todd Bowles didn't even bother with trying to keep the season alive, as he was happy to tell reporters after the game.

But, I mean... You gotta try, right? If the Lions try the field goal and miss then the Bucs have a chance. Hell, it's entirely feasible there was a go-ahead touchdown waiting in the wings; we've seen plenty of muffed snaps or blocked kicks get returned for shocking scores in wild moments. Is it likely? Of course not. But it is possible, and Bowles did his team a disservice by not at least seeing what might have happened.

Matters are made worse by the fact that the Lions fully believed Tampa Bay had given up at the end and didn't even bother running out the playclock before kneeling it out. Which means that, if Bowles had called a timeout following Detroit's third-down knee, there would have been over 30 seconds left on the clock.

It's just baffling for a professional football coach to give up like this. Especially playing against the Detroit Lions! Before this January they were the most cursed franchise in sports. Nobody would have been surprised if they botched the field goal or punt or whatever so badly that the Bucs suddenly had a chance. Those are the sorts of things that happen to the Lions franchise.

Yet Bowles had no interest in finding out if his team could get lucky. It's a disservice to his players and his staff to give up like that. What a weird way for a game to end, and one that Bowles should have to answer for beyond the postgame presser.