A hush went over the crowd.
The spotlight found Big Sean, the Detroit rapper, sitting in the stands at Ford Field during halftime of the Detroit Lions annual loss on Thanksgiving Day. Big Sean started his halftime performance walking up the aisle through the crowd, a man among the people, beginning a crisp and entertaining performance that was 100 times cleaner than how the Lions played.
“Last night took an L, but tonight I bounce back,” he rapped.
I love that song but it felt ironic to be played at a Lions game.
Because it was the Bears who bounced back from a five-game losing streak with a 16-14 victory, and it was the Lions who took another L — their 10th of the season.
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“A couple of penalties showed up that killed us,” Lions coach Dan Campbell understated after the team’s fifth-straight loss on Thanksgiving Day. “We had too many penalties. Some teams can overcome them, some can’t.”
He has said similar things several times this season, which is getting tiresome.
Because it’s up to him to fix this. The honeymoon is over. This is on Campbell now. This is where we will find out if he can coach.
Can he get this mistake-prone team to improve, even incrementally in its final six games?
Can he inject some discipline? Goodness, if I see another penalty flag I’m gonna get sick.
Can he figure out a way to get these guys to stop jumping offsides and committing holding penalties and squeeze some more offense out of this offensively-challenged team? It’s not even about wins and losses anymore, not for a team with a 0-10-1 record. For what it’s worth, I don’t think this team is gonna win a game this year.
But pre-snap penalties are not about talent. It’s about focus and discipline.
“We were just kept kicking ourselves and putting ourselves behind the chains,” quarterback Jared Goff said.
It is unacceptable and has to be fixed.
Losing is one thing.
Hurting yourself is another. And that starts with coaching.
How far back can they go?
Now, here’s the truly frustrating part.
The defense has held its last three opponents to 16 points or less, and that should be good enough to get a win.
“Guys fought their (butts) off,” Campbell said. “Defense once again stepped up and held those guys to get them out of the end zone. That’s back-to-back-to-back games where defensively we stepped up.”
But you can’t win when you continuously hurt yourself.
Consider this moment: The Lions were clicking in the second quarter, building some momentum while holding a 7-3 lead, moving down the field and getting into field-goal range at the Bears 29.
Then poof: it all disappeared.
False start by T.J. Hockenson.
Holding by center Evan Brown.
False start by Jamaal Williams.
Yes, that about sums up this day.
So when Campbell pulled out a draw play on a third-and-31, the crowd began to boo.
“The bottom line is we put ourselves in those third-and-a-mile situations and that’s on us,” Campbell said.
If it just happened once, that would be one thing.
But they did it again.
In the fourth quarter, they were near midfield with a 14-13 lead.
False start by Brown — their fourth of the game.
Holding by Tommy Kraemer.
Holding by Taylor Decker.
Fans were booing and suddenly, it was third-and-32.
“It killed us,” Decker said. “It’s frustrating.”
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Mistakes keeping them away from victory
Now, here comes the crazy part.
As many holes as this team has, it is on the verge of winning.
“We’re so close,” Campbell said. “These guys are fighting their tails off. But until we get out of our own way we won’t quite get over the hump.”
Shoot, they have now lost three games on last-second field goals.
Add in the tie against Pittsburgh, and that’s four potential wins.
If they would stop making mistakes.
If they would get on the same page — the Lions had to call back-to-back timeouts late in the game because the secondary had a miscommunication problem. And that was another penalty.
“All self inflicted stuff and that’s the hard part and also the encouraging part, right?” Goff said. “It’s stuff that we can fix and stuff that we have fixed before and stuff that we need to continue to stay on. But also, you know, they didn’t do much like stop us.”
If they would stop hurting themselves.
If they would find some discipline.
And if they would use better technique.
At this point of the season, that starts with coaching.
Campbell has proved that he is an entertaining coach. And he still has this locker room. But he hasn’t proved that he can get this team to play with discipline. He hasn’t proved that he can get this team to get out of its own way and climb to the next level.
And actually win a game.
Contact Jeff Seidel: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel/.