This horrific display of coaching didn't get nearly enough attention yesterday. The ending of the Lions vs Bucs game featured one of the strangest incidents of clock management I've ever seen on a football field. Both the Lions and the Bucs lost their minds in the final minute. If you haven't seen it yet, here's the play-by-play of how the game ended, along with a highlight cued up to start at the Lions interception with 1:30 left in the game.
- Lions intercept ball with 1:30 left. Bucs have 1 timeout. Lions lead by 8 points.
- 1:30 - 1st & 10 - Lions knee (no timeout)
- 1:05 - 2nd & 11 - Lions knee with 16 seconds left on playclock (no timeout)
- 0:36 - 3rd & 12 - Lions knee with 14 seconds left on playclock (still no timeout)
- 0:00 - 4th & 12 - 37 seconds run off the clock to end the game (Bucs lose with 1 timeout left)
Can anybody explain to me what or why that happened? Why were the Lions not running out the play clock? Why did the Lions give the Bucs an opportunity to call a timeout on 4th down with 36 seconds left. And why didn't the Bucs take that opportunity? If the Bucs had called a timeout, the Lions would have had 4th down, and been faced with the decision to try and kick a 40+ yard field goal (risky), or try to pin the Bucs deep with a punt (also risky). In the most important game their season, the Bucs had a real chance to get the ball back to give their offense one last chance. They just didn't want it.
When I watched this in real time, I was certain that the scoreboard graphic was wrong. There was no other explanation. A handful of people were talking about the situation online, but it wasn't made into THAT big of deal. I figured I must have been missing something. But then Todd Bowles addressed it in his post game press conference.
Not a satisfying answer, Todd. Your answer doesn't even make sense. Where is he even getting 12 seconds from? Even if they were going to get the ball back with 12 seconds, why would you not take that chance? It's insanity.
Here's what I think happened based on my extensive Twitter searching. The Bucs called their 3rd timeout at some point earlier in the quarter. As I understand it, they were given that timeout back back due to a penalty. I don't think Todd Bowles realized that. I don't think he had any idea that they had 1 timeout left, and he's trying to cover his ass at the press conference.
The Lions deserve some heat for this too. I don't think Dan Campbell knew the Bucs had a timeout left either. The Lions never should have given the Bucs the opportunity to not use their timeout. Had the Lions run the play clock down to zero before each snap, even if the Bucs did call timeout, they could have ran out the clock.
I've been racking my brain trying to think of an explanation for this. Was the scoreboard at the stadium incorrect? Can somebody who was at the game produce a photo of the scoreboard on that final drive so we can see if there was a little dot in the timeout column next to the Bucs score?
The only other explanation is that Todd Bowles and Dan Campbell had some sort of gentleman's agreement. Instead of wasting the extra couple minutes to run out the clock, and force the Bucs to call a timeout, the Lions and Bucs said, "Fuck it, let's just end this. Get on with the snaps, we won't call a timeout, maybe we'll beat the traffic." Which again, would be fucking insane. That was the most egregious display of end of game clock management I've seen since Miami refused to knee the ball against George Tech.
I really hope somebody asks Todd Bowles or Dan Campbell about this again. We deserve a satisfying answer, because none of that made a lick of sense.