Detroit Lions’ Darrell Bevell explains fourth-quarter fake punt, decision not to challenge

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
 
| Detroit Free Press

When officials spotted C.J. Moore just short of the first-down marker after a fake punt early in the fourth quarter, Detroit Lions interim coach Darrell Bevell’s first instinct was to challenge the spot on the field.

Ultimately, though, Bevell thought it was a challenge he would not win.

“There was three (TV) shots that we ended up having,” Bevell said. “Two of the shots clearly looked short and the other one looked close, and normally those yards, the line-to-gain plays are hard challenges to win.”

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The Lions tried their first fake punt of the season early in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 46-25 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

They trailed by 14 points at the time, and sent their punt team onto the field on fourth-and-3 with just over 12 minutes to play.

In a fake the Lions had been working on for weeks, Don Muhlbach snapped the ball to Moore, the Lions’ personal protector for punts. Moore ran a sweep around right end, but was hit by Nick Westbrook-Ikhine just before the 35-yard line.

Lions players and coaches immediately argued the spot, as Westbrook-Ikhine ran off the field in celebration.

“From the views that we had it, didn’t look like we were going to win it,” Bevell said. “So we decided it was more important to keep the timeout at that moment.”

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The Titans, who had been unstoppable on offense most of the day, scored seven plays later to take a 39-18 lead, and Bevell took quarterback Matthew Stafford out of the game on the next series, effectively waving the white flag on the game.

In his postgame video conference, he defended the call, saying, “with the clock and where the time was, it seemed like a good opportunity for that.”

“As far as the decision, the punt, we like some of the fakes that we had,” Bevell said. “We feel like our (personal protector) is a guy that’s got some good speed, have an opportunity to have the edge blocked and get him on the edge, so we ended up going with that. We could have definitely left the offense out there as well.”

play

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford: ‘Didn’t think I was gonna be able to play’

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford: ‘Didn’t think I was gonna be able to play’ with rib injury vs. Titans. Filmed Dec. 20, 2020.

Detroit Lions

No-hit bid

The Lions played without two starters on the offensive line Sunday, but still got a solid performance out of the unit. They did not allow a sack and gave up just five quarterback hits, four on Stafford, who was playing through a rib injury.

[ Earth to the Lions: Time to sit battered Stafford for final two games ]

“I think it shows what they think of Matthew and the fight and the things that they’re willing to do for him,” Bevell said. “We tried to do some things offensively to help with that as well. I mean, to get a quarterback out of a game without getting hit was going to be a tall task, but those guys went out and they really fought and worked for him.”

Joe Dahl made his first career start at center in place of the injured Frank Ragnow, and Matt Nelson played the second half at right tackle in place of Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who suffered a brain injury in his first game back from injured reserve.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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