No excuse for Bucs’ Bowles forgoing final timeout after Lions snapped the ball too early



Todd Bowles didn’t want to prolong the agony by using his final timeout in an against-all-odds situation — but that’s exactly what he ended up doing by letting the final 36 seconds tick away on the scrappy Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ season.

While the Lions were celebrating their 31-23 win Sunday night that sent Detroit to its first NFC championship since 1991, Bowles calmly defended his baffling decision to throw in the towel, suggesting, “They already had the field goal lined up, and there would’ve been about 12 seconds left on the clock to end the ball game. We weren’t going to come back from that. No sense to prolong the obvious.“

He doubled down Monday but his math was still wrong.

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“They were in field goal range,” Bowles began.

No argument there, although we’re not talking chip-shot.

“We’d have had 12 seconds, calculated,” Bowles reasoned, “after using that timeout to come back from it.”

Only if Bowles had called his third and final timeout right away, that is.

The Lions lined up in victory formation after linebacker Derrick Barnes intercepted Baker Mayfield’s pass over the middle with 1:33 remaining and Jared Goff took a trio of kneel-downs with nary a Tampa Bay timeout to stop the clock.

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Yet, the Lions failed to run every second off the clock that they could have. On third down, center Frank Ragnow snapped the ball when there were still 14 seconds left on the play clock.

So, the game clock showed 36 seconds remaining when Goff took a knee for the third and final time and the hugs and the handshakes, the celebrations and condolences, commenced.

Now, had Bowles used his last timeout, maybe the Lions decide to punt instead of attempting a long field goal. But Bowles surmised a kick through the uprights would have ensued.

“Then we’d have been down 11 points,” Bowles said, “so it’s kind of pointless” to use that last timeout.

Yes, a field goal would have sealed the Lions’ trip to San Francsico, one step from their first Super Bowl appearance.

But isn’t it worth the shot?

Maybe Michael Badgley misses from 49 yards out.

Maybe it’s blocked. Or botched.

Badgley had only attempted two field goals from 40-plus yards since rejoining the Lions last month, and although he made them both, he’s no sure thing from long range.

In his NFL career, he’s missed 11 of 48 field goal attempts from 40-to-49 yards and he’s just 5-of-13 from 50 yards or longer.

Bowles wrapped up his closing argument Monday with this:

“You kind of know when the game is over,” he said. “The game was over.”

Thirty-six seconds sooner than it absolutely had to be, thanks to Bowles’ fishy math and dubious decision to take that final timeout with him into the offseason.

Detroit coach Dan Campbell knows the Lions got away some bungled end–of–game management themselves.

“Yeah, look, well first of all, we didn’t handle that whole thing well on our end,” Campbell replied when asked Monday if he realized the Buccaneers could have forced Detroit to try a field goal on fourth down.

Or maybe during the timeout, Campbell opts to punt the ball and bury the Bucs deep so that a miracle finish would require Mayfield to go the full length of the field and convert the 2–pointer to send the game into overtime.

“We should’ve bled it more than we did. Look, I’ll be the first to admit that. And that’s on me,” Campbell said. “But yeah, we knew they had a timeout left and I could tell he wasn’t going to call it.

“And so, that’s just – that’s how it ended.”

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