Dan Campbell admits mistake in third-and-goal run that led to wasting a timeout

The biggest mistake Lions coach Dan Campbell made in his team's second-half meltdown against the 49ers was blowing a timeout on offense late in the game, rather than saving all three timeouts on defense to keep the 49ers from running out the clock at the end of the game. Campbell recognizes he made a mistake during the sequence of events that led up to that timeout.

The Lions called a running play on third-and-goal, and when they were stopped the clock kept running, and they wasted a timeout at that point. Campbell acknowledges that if they weren't going to score a touchdown there, an incomplete pass and preserving their timeout would have been a much better option.

“Yeah, look the easy thing to do is to throw it,” Campbell said, via "Probably should’ve been the right thing, but for me, I wanted to run it. I thought we would just pop it. We had just [run the 2-minute offense] all the way down the field, throwing the football, and they were in a four-down front and I believed we’d walk right in. And we just missed a block. So then, yeah, I’ve got to use a timeout. So, hindsight, throw it four times. But I believed in that moment it was going to be a walk-and-run, and it didn’t work out. So, I gambled and lost.”

Where Campbell is still wrong is in saying that he "got to use a timeout" after the failed run. The Lions' offense still should have hurried to the line for fourth down, rather than blowing a timeout, which effectively meant the Lions couldn't win the game without recovering an onside kick — which is virtually impossible in today's NFL, after a series of rules changes making onside kicks harder on the kicking team.

If the Lions had saved all three timeouts, they wouldn't have even had to onside kick, they just would have had to force a 49ers three-and-out, and the Lions would have gotten the ball back. With only two timeouts remaining, the 49ers were able to run all the time off the clock, ending the game on a fourth down kneeldown. That blown timeout was incredibly costly.