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FOUR DOWNS: Lions lose another heartbreaker


Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell wears his emotions on his sleeve.

That was evident in watching him fight back tears after another gut-wrenching Lions loss, 19-17, on a last-second 54-yard field goal Sunday in Minnesota.

"That was tough," Campbell said. "That was a heartbreaker. I was proud of the way our guys fought, man. That was the first thing I told them. It's tough to be 0-5 and it's tough to lose like that again."

The Lions made more mistakes than their opponent, and it cost them in the end. 

"It's tough. You want it for yourself as an organization for all of us, but you want it for those players," Campbell said. "They're out there busting their ass. It's tough. When you see your players give all they have and you lose that way, it's tough. You don't want that for them."

It's almost the exact way Detroit lost to Baltimore Week 3, right down to the same score. After the Ravens game, Campbell said his team will be better for going through something like that, and he echoed that sentiment Sunday after the latest gut punch.


A lot of the talk this week will be about the last 37 seconds and how the Lions' defense gave up a couple chunk plays to allow Minnesota an opportunity to get the winning field goal, but if not for the defense and the way they played Sunday, the Lions would have not have been in the game at the end.

Minnesota saw the end zone just once. Detroit forced two turnovers, and the Vikings were just 5-of-13 on third down.

"When your defense plays that way, you have a chance to win every game," Campbell said.

Detroit made some terrific halftime adjustments in their pass defense, and Minnesota was mostly ineffective offensively in the second half. Linebacker Alex Anzalone recorded a key interception.

"I think today we played a great game," he said.

There are still some things the Lions need to clean up on that side of the ball, particularly those late-game situations, but overall it was a gritty performance.


Campbell told quarterback Jared Goff before the Lions' last offensive possession that if they scored, they were going for two.

All week the Lions worked on short-yardage situations after coming up short on a number of those occasions in the loss at Chicago last week.

It was a point of emphasis in practice, and the two-point play was one the offense worked on all week and had a lot of success with against the first-team defense.

What's interesting about the play, which was a successful pass from Goff to wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge in the back of the end zone, was that Hodge had never run that route before.

"I think it was (Quintez) Cephus the whole time," Goff said after the game of who ran that route in practice.

Cephus injured his shoulder in the first half and did not return, so the next man up was Hodge.

"Being a smart player and knowing what to do and gets himself open," Goff said of Hodge. "That kind of indicates the type of guys we have, which is encouraging there."


As aggressive as Campbell has been this season on fourth down and again Sunday going for the two-point conversion and the win instead of the tie late, he's been rather conservative on defense in a couple late-game situations.

Against Baltimore Week 3 and Minnesota Sunday, the Lions opted to play coverage and rush just three holding a late lead in a got-to-have-it situation on defense. In both scenarios, they gave up big plays in the passing game to allow game-winning field goals as time expired.

"You expose your secondary more when you rush four," Campbell said after the game when asked about the defensive strategy. "Man, there's a give and take there. There's a risk reward by both. You have to weigh the options as to what they're going to do and who you kind of feel like you need to take care of."

Campbell said defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn made a decision on what he thought was best.

"When you see them and they're in a double-tight empty wing, well, they're going to pound the edges," Campbell said. "Pressure does you really no good. You're exposed now in the coverage. Even if you want to rush four or five, they are going to try to somewhat max protect or at least pound it and get out of the flats, bang the edges, and you expose yourself and then you'll be kicking yourself you weren't more in a rush three."

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