Bumbling Lions lose again on last-second field goal, 16-14 to Bears
Detroit — The Detroit Lions have nothing to be thankful for and they only have themselves to blame.
The offense committed three consecutive penalties on separate drives and the defense allowed the Bears to eat the final eight-and-a-half minutes off the game clock before kicking a 28-yard, game-winning field as time expired in a 16-14 loss at Ford Field on Thursday to drop them to 0-10-1 on the season.
Taking over with 8:30 remaining and trailing 14-13, the Bears (4-7) embarked on a methodical, 18-play, clock-eating drive that was kickstarted by an early third-down conversion, which saw quarterback Andy Dalton evade heavy pressure and find receiver Damiere Byrd for 13 yards. That preceded a 12-yard David Montgomery run up the gut, a 12-yard reception for tight end Cole Kmet and a 9-yard scramble by Dalton into the red zone, leading into the two-minute warning.
The Bears were able to kill the remaining time after the Lions called back-to-back timeouts without a play being run, a 5-yard penalty, shortening a third-and-9 to third-and-4, which the Bears converted.
After the game, Lions coach Dan Campbell explained the situation, saying half the secondary had one play call and the other half another, based on an attempt to audible on the field. Without the timeout, he's convinced the Bears would have scored on the play.
"It really was a check based on what they were doing," Campbell said. "So we had half in one call, half in another, and so the first thing in my head is, 'Well, we got a blown coverage and they're about to score a touchdown.' So I (call timeout), which you can't do, and now it's a penalty. I know that if he threw that out in the flat, it was about to be a touchdown."
Instead, three kneel downs after the conversion led to the game-winning kick from Cairo Santos.
It marked another wasted opportunity in a season full of them for Detroit after the team jumped out to an early lead and held the late, one-point edge. After winning the coin toss and deferring to the second half, the Lions got off to a hot start forcing a punt and scoring with their first offensive possession.
Showcasing a chemistry they built playing together the past four years with the Los Angeles Rams, quarterback Jared Goff connected with receiver Josh Reynolds twice on the possession, including a 39-yard scoring strike.
Goff, returning from an oblique injury that kept him out of the lineup last weekend against Cleveland, stood tall in the pocket despite heavy pressure and delivered an in-stride deep ball to Reynolds, who raced the final few yards across the goal line to put the Lions up, 7-0.
"I’ve got trust (in Reynolds), we’ve got a good thing going," Goff said. "He understands me, I understand him, I know his body language. So, hopefully we can build off that. That was a fun one to hit there early on and would be a whole lot more fun to talk about now if we had won."
The two teams traded punts through the remainder of the opening frame, but the Bears found themselves in field-goal range as time expired in the first quarter. A 17-yard pass to tight end Jimmy Graham to open the second quarter gave Chicago a a fresh set of downs at Detroit's 12 before the drive stalled.
Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye nearly ended the threat in the end zone, but couldn't hang on to an interception while being yanked down by former Lions tight end Jesse James, the intended target on the play. That left the Bears to settle for a 28-yard Santos field goal, cutting the early lead, 7-3.
Detroit appeared poised to respond, driving into Bears territory, but three consecutive penalties pushed them out of field goal range. Worse yet, running back D'Andre Swift suffered a shoulder injury during the sequence that knocked him out of the game.
After a quality punt return by Chicago's Jakeem Grant, the Bears needed just two plays to take the lead.
Wide receiver Darnell Mooney beat safety Will Harris — playing nickel cornerback in place of injured rookie AJ Parker — for a 52-yard gain. Then, on the next play, Harris appeared out of position ahead of the snap as Graham released free down the right seam for an 17-yard touchdown pass from Dalton.
An exchange of turnovers followed the lead change as Goff fumbled in the pocket after he was wrapped up by Robert Quinn and had the ball punched free by linebacker Trevis Gipson.
"Yeah, got to hold on to it," Goff said. "He hit it perfect. Inexcusable. Can’t do it in their territory, (have to) make sure I go down with the ball."
But Oruwariye would make up for his earlier missed opportunity, undercutting a pass into the end zone and snagging his fifth interception of the season.
"When it left my hand, I thought it was a touchdown," Dalton said. "The corner made a really good play. Even to the last minute I thought, ‘Oh man, I put that in a really good spot.’ He made a good play."
With the Lions unable to capitalize on the turnover after a pair of holding calls, the Bears took over near midfield with 1:09 remaining. From there, they managed to add a 43-yard Santos field goal as time expired in the half to take a 13-7 lead into the locker room.
Detroit's offense continued to struggle to open the third quarter, going three-and-out with their opening possession, and again after the Bears missed a 53-yard field goal.
But after Detroit's defense came up with a three-and-out of their own, Goff finally got back into gear, opening the series with a 17-yard completion to Kalif Raymond and picking up 15 more when Chicago was flagged for unnecessary roughness.
Goff then found Amon-Ra St. Brown for an 11-yard gain to convert third-and-10, setting up a 17-yard scoring strike to T.J. Hockenson, the tight end's first touchdown since Week 2. A successful extra point by rookie kicker Riley Patterson put the Lions back up front, 14-13, heading into the fourth quarter.
The Bears managed to get to midfield on the ensuing possession before Detroit's struggling pass rush finally broke through. Rookie Levi Onwuzurike dropped Dalton for a 7-yard loss on second down and Austin Bryant forced the quarterback to tuck and run on third, leading to a punt.
Pinned at their own 10, the Lions quickly found breathing room when Goff connected with Reynolds for 15 yards, followed by a 19-yard run by Jamaal Williams. But for the second time in the game, the Lions committed three consecutive penalties, killing a possession.
That set up Chicago's game-winning drive.
"We all want to win," Campbell said. "We’re playing to win. Those guys, you can see that out there. And I know it’s hard to see from afar because everyone wants the wins and the losses, and all of us do, but these guys are like laying it on the line and giving it everything they’ve got right now. It’s just a matter of we have to learn how to win. We have to learn how to win.
"Once we learn how to win, then we can begin to see the fruits of our labor a little bit. But the effort is there. The effort and the fight and the fact that here we are, three games in a row — we’re right there at the very end. ..These guys aren’t going to lay down. They’re not going to. That’s not what these guys are made of. That’s what keeps me hopeful. I know that we are building something.”