DETROIT – Detroit Lions head Coach Dan Campbell joked that he was so distracted by fans doing the wave during Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings that he didn’t realize they were running a critical trick play to offensive lineman Penei Sewell.
At least, I think he was joking.
Here’s the situation: The Lions had the ball at the two-minute warning on Minnesota’s 41-yard line. They were leading by eight points and looking to put the game away on third down and seven.
Coming out of the break, Sewell, a 331-pound left tackle, reported as an eligible receiver and leaked out to the right after the snap. Jared Goff lofted the ball to him in the flat, and he dove forward to move the chains and effectively end the game.
It was one of the biggest plays of the season, and a hilariously fun trick play that fans will remember for a long time.
But during an interview with the Pat AcAfee Show, Campbell said he didn’t necessarily know what was coming until the Goff threw the pass.
“Here’s another thing that happened -- these things happen during the game,” Campbell said. “We’re in that situation and the fans are doing the wave around the stadium, and so, I’m just watching and I hear (offensive coordinator) Ben Johnson’s, like, ‘Hey coach, do you want to (inaudible)?’ I’m just so focused on the wave, and I said, ‘Yeah, that’s fine.’ Then I look up and we’re throwing it to Penei, and I’m going, ‘What the f--- are we doing?’ He’s, like, ‘Coach, you said it was fine.’ But it worked out great.”
Campbell said his main concern was that Sewell stay in bounds to keep the clock running, which he did.
Campbell also talked about another massive gamble that worked in Detroit’s favor. Early in the third quarter, on fourth and eight on their own 26-yard line, the Lions ran a fake punt that saw C.J. Moore dash 42 yards for a first down that set up an eventual touchdown.
Well, the head coach said he tried to call off the play, but he couldn’t radio in fast enough.
“My button -- I didn’t get it down fast enough, and I was saying, ‘Don’t run it,’ and (special teams coordinator Dave) Fipp heard me say, ‘Run it,’ and then before I knew it, it just hit, so it worked out great,” Campbell said.
Whether he was joking or not (it’s hard to tell), Campbell has the Lions playing their best football in a long time. With wins in five of their last six games, they’re on the fringe of the NFC playoff race.