Another loss for Detroit Lions, in ways old and new. What did this city do to deserve it?

Detroit Free Press

DALLAS — The Detroit Lions had converted a third-and-19 against one of the best defenses in football. They’d overcome two holding calls, a bad spot, and the frustration of their own mistakes — and a few more mistakes by the officials.

Still, here they were, first-and-goal from the 1, a yard away from taking the lead midway through the fourth quarter on the road against the Dallas Cowboys.

And then Jared Goff handed the ball to Jamaal Williams, and he fumbled. The Cowboys recovered. It was Williams’ first lost fumble of his career.

The. First. One.

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It’s inexplicable, really. Not that a running back in the NFL fumbled. But that the Lions were playing well on defense for the first time this season and were missing their two best offensive players and had already lost a few gut-punch games and when, oh, when will they ever … EVER make the play that so many teams in so many cities have made in so many decades.

It can’t just be bad luck, right? Something else is at work here.

And before you say the Lions beat themselves with turnovers (they did) and that Goff looks like Goff again (he does, and that’s not a compliment) and that Dan Campbell still can’t manage a game (he did Sunday), consider the psychological importance of that first-and-goal when the Lions were down 10-6.

Consider what that fumble did. And why Campbell threw his headset onto the turf when Williams coughed up the ball. Because he knew. That was their shot. And if you want to argue that decent teams overcome such frustration and bad breaks, well, they do. But the Lions aren’t a decent team, even if it seems like they should be.

After all, in his halftime interview, Campbell said, “We have enough to win.”

If that’s the case, then why didn’t they? What does that say about Campbell? If he’s admitting his team is talented enough to beat the Cowboys on the road, then … shouldn’t they?

In theory, yes. But that’s the point. It’s only in theory. It’s only ever been in theory, or at least it’s been in theory since before most of you were born.

This isn’t all Campbell though. It can’t be. Because this kind of torturous luck predates him by decades.

So, I’ll ask again:

What caused Williams to lose the first fumble of his career?

Bad luck? A cosmic joke? Did Detroit double-cross Dallas in a different life? Is the rest of the country jealous that we have the best water in the nation and made a deal with the water gods that there will be no joy on Sundays in the fall?

There has to be some other explanation. The Fords? That’s too easy. Besides, every franchise gets lucky at some point.

How about this: It was just a bad break. It had nothing to do with karma. It had everything to do with good defensive play from the Cowboys.

Besides, as we’ve established, teams should be able to shake off bad breaks. And the Lions couldn’t. Mostly because they were at fault for most of their bad breaks.

And while a bad holding call cost the Lions a chance at a touchdown in the first half, and another bad holding call kept a Cowboys drive moving in the fourth quarter, it’s a fool’s game to play the blame game, as tempting as it is in the stadium.

No, the bad juju started with a poor choice by Goff, who threw off his back foot on a promising drive to begin the second half. The ball hung like a feather down the field and Cowboys defensive back Trevon Diggs leapt in front of Josh Reynolds to snag it.

Replays showed the ball appeared to move when he hit the ground. But NFL officials didn’t see it that way, and Campbell couldn’t challenge the call.

Goff also threw a pick to end a drive later in the fourth quarter — when the Lions were still down by a single score —rushing a throw over the middle as if it were the end of the game. He didn’t play well Sunday. Partly because the Cowboys rush the quarterback about as well as anyone.

Partly because he was missing D’Andre Swift and Amon-Ra St. Brown (who took an elbow to the head in the first quarter, stumbled, got sent to the sideline by the refs, and then didn’t return).

Better to be safe, for sure. But the loss hurt. As did the absence of Swift.

The Lions aren’t good enough on offense to score without them against the best defenses in the league, as we saw two weeks ago in New England.

Is it bad luck that the Lions can’t stay healthy?

Maybe. Then again, it’s the NFL. It happens.

What doesn’t happen so much are goal-line fumbles and first-ever fumbles from those that don’t fumble. It happens to Detroit, though. And it keeps happening. There’s got to be a reason.

One of these decades, we might find out why.

Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or swindsor@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.

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