Somewhere in the disappointment and anger over a ruling that took away what the Detroit Lions thought had been the game-winning play was a truism in sports expressed by head coach Dan Campbell.
"We just made too many critical errors there to where it shouldn't come down there to the end." Campbell said Saturday night in a postgame interview.
Unfortunately for Campbell and his team, the outcome was decided by the officials. The game-winning catch on a two-point conversion by tackle Taylor Decker was nullified.
Referee Brad Allen said after the game that Decker did not follow proper procedure to identify himself as an eligible receiver on the successful two-point play.
Ultimately, the Lions went home with a 20-19 loss. The Lions are 11-5 and clinched first place in the NFC North a week ago. The Cowboys are 11-5 with a chance to win the NFC East.
This week's Monday Countdown looks at how the ruling on the two-point conversion wasn't the only questionable decision in Saturday night's game. Campbell had a couple that could be debated.
There is also a look at how the Lions-Cowboys game was the only NFL game played Saturday and three of the Lions' young players were certain to make an impression on the large TV audience, takeaways on offense, defense and special teams, what's trending and the bottom line.
We start with decisions:
1. The gambler: Actually, I think it's more proper to consider Campbell as aggressive than as a gambler.
Here are three plays that stuck out:
- Second quarter, fourth down at the Lions' 28: In punt formation, a pass from linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin to cornerback Khalil Dorsey for a 31-yard gain. A good call, obviously because it worked, but also because the Lions needed a boost.
- Same possession: Fourth and four at the Cowboys' four-yard line, Campbell passed up a chip-shot field goal to go for the touchdown. Quarterback Jared Goff's pass to tight end Sam LaPorta was incomplete. Take the points.
- Final possession: A TD pass to wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown makes it 20-19. Campbell passed up the extra point to go for two with 23 seconds left. Great call, and it worked – until the officials got together and came to the conclusion that the Lions had violated a rule.
2. Star, defense: Defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson had a big game for the Lions – three sacks, five solo tackles, four tackles for loss, five quarterback hits, one forced fumble.
3. Stars, offense: LaPorta and St. Brown stood out, especially in the final possession where LaPorta had three catches for 50 yards. St. Brown had two catches for 25 yards, with an 11-yard catch for the touchdown.
4. Takeaways, offense:
- It was tough running against the Cowboys' defense. The Lions were tackled for losses on seven plays.
- Jahmyr Gibbs had 15 carries for 43 yards. A 35-yard gain late in the third quarter was called back on a holding penalty.
- Race for 1,000 yards: Gibbs now has 915 yards for the season. David Montgomery had 15 carries for 43 yards to bring his season total to 975.
5. Takeaways, defense:
- The Lions won the running battle 125 yards to 61 for the Cowboys. They were held to an average of 2.9 yards per attempt.
- CeeDee Lamb got his night off to a good start with a 92-yard catch and run for the Cowboys' first TD. Lamb added to his total to finish with 13 catches for 227 yards.
- QB Dak Prescott was tied for second place on the Cowboys' rushing list. He had two carries for five yards.
6. Takeaways, special teams:
It was a good, productive day for the Lions' special teams, as follows:
- The obvious – the fake punt put the Lions in place to add points, but they passed on a field goal and wound up with no points.
- Jack Fox had an average of 48.8 yards on four punts, with a long punt of 70.
- Kalif Raymond had a long punt return of 25 yards.
7. What's trending:
- Up: Hutchinson's hat trick of sacks. He's making a statement late in the season.
- Down: A one-point loss to the Cowboys. So close.
- Even: St. Brown – six catches on eight targets, 90 yards and a big TD. A typical good day for him.
8. Bottom line: The Lions are showing they can compete with anybody.