CLEVELAND — After all the mistakes.
After all of the ugliness.
After all of the hair-pulling out moments.
Suddenly, the Detroit Lions had a chance.
The Cleveland Browns had a 13-10 lead with less than 4 minutes to play. And then suddenly, Lions coach Dan Campbell went conservative.
On a third-and-14 from their own 36, the Lions didn’t pass. Campbell ran it. He put the ball in D’Andre Swift’s hands. But didn’t pick it up so they had to punt.
The drive before, the Lions, trailing by six, decided not to go for it on fourth-and-1 from Cleveland’s 25, instead kicking a field goal to cut the lead in half. Another conservative decision. —
If they were to win this game, it would be on their defense.
They had to get a stop.
But they couldn’t stop Nick Chubb. He grounded out first downs, churned up the clock and the Lions lost once again, 13-10.
One step closer to a winless season.
So now, we will all wonder: why did Campbell give the ball to Swift instead of passing it?
And there is only one answer: Tim Boyle.
At that stage, Boyle had completed 15 of 23 passes for 77 yards and two picks.
But Swift had more than 100 yards rushing.
To be brutally honest, Swift gave the Lions a better chance.
Even if it didn’t work.
And besides, this game didn’t turn on that play.
The Lions have only themselves to blame after this game. When they had a chance to make a play, they missed the tackle. When they had the Browns in trouble, the Lions committed a penalty.
When the Lions had a spark of momentum, they shot themselves in the foot.
When they tried to drive the ball, Boyle threw an interception. And then another.
The only thing saving the Lions, the only thing preventing an earlier blowout, was the simple fact that the Browns were trying to out-ugly the Lions.
For every mistake the Lions made, the Browns did the same.
They traded interceptions.
Traded holding penalties.
Then, it got interesting in the second half.
Just when you thought it was over.
Just when you thought this Lions team had reached a new level of ugliness.
Suddenly, there was a spark.
Swift had a fantastic run in the third quarter, a 57-yard thing of beauty. On a third-and-8. The time when the Lions usually commit a penalty.
Only this time, he was breaking free.
Swift cut to the right and beat Sheldon Day, a defensive tackle.
He cut to the left and beat safety John Johnson III.
He cut to the left and beat the other safety, Grant Delpit.
Then, he curved to the right, kind of banking in the air, like a jet on approach to an airport, and ran away from cornerback Denzel Ward.
And suddenly, they had a chance against the Browns.
So that is the reason why Campbell went conservative.
That’s why he gave the ball to Swift again.
He was hoping it would happen again.
Hoping his star running back would be a better option than his backup quarterback.
Can’t blame him for that.
Contact Jeff Seidel: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.