TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles said his team not using its final timeout in the Bucs’ 31-23 divisional round playoff loss to the Detroit Lions was not a matter of coaching etiquette.
Instead, he said, it was recognizing that “the game was over.”
“It’s not a gentlemen’s agreement,” Bowles said Monday. “They were in field goal range. We’d have had 12 seconds, calculated, after using that timeout to come back from it. Then we’d have been down 11 points, so it’s kind of pointless. You kind of know when the game is over. The game was over.”
With the Bucs trailing 31-23, quarterback Baker Mayfield was intercepted by Lions inside linebacker Derrick Barnes with 1:39 to go. Lions quarterback Jared Goff proceeded to take a knee on three consecutive snaps, with his final kneel-down at 37 seconds. Center Frank Ragnow snapped the ball with 14 seconds left on the play clock.
Lions coach Dan Campbell said he was aware that the Bucs had a final timeout left and could have gone down the field.
“Yeah, look, well, first of all, we didn’t handle that whole thing well on our end. We should’ve bled it more than we did,” Campbell said. “Look, I’ll be the first to admit that. And that’s on me. But yeah, we knew they had a timeout left, and I could tell he wasn’t going to call it. And so, that’s just — that’s how it ended.”
Had Bowles used his final timeout, the Lions could have attempted a long field goal or punted. Bowles assumed the field goal would have been made, but there were no guarantees that Lions kicker Michael Badgley would have made the kick from 49 yards out, as Badgley is 5-of-13 (38.5%) in his career on kicks of 50-plus yards. On kicks of precisely 49 yards out, Badgley is 3-of-4, with his one miss against the New England Patriots in Week 15 of the 2021 season.
A missed field goal would have resulted in a turnover on downs and could have put the Bucs within striking distance at their own 39-yard line with 30 seconds left. A punt would have pinned the Bucs deep and still afforded them a shot at a Hail Mary, although they would have needed a successful 2-point conversion to go into overtime. The Bucs failed on their previous 2-point conversion attempt after Mike Evans‘ 16-yard touchdown reception with 4:41 to go.
Bowles said, “I don’t know what good using a timeout is if you can’t take advantage of it.”
This isn’t the first time timeouts have gone unused for Bowles. In the Bucs’ 23-17 overtime loss to the Cleveland Browns in 2022, Bowles did not call timeout after a third-down stop by Lavonte David, just before David Njoku scored a 12-yard touchdown on fourth-and-10, which would have preserved time on their final possession. Bowles’ explanation was that he didn’t want to give the Browns more time to draw up a play.
The Bucs got the ball pack with 32 seconds remaining after the Browns had tied it up 17-17. Again, instead of using a timeout, Bowles had his team hurry to the line of scrimmage and run a play, which burned 12 seconds off the clock before the ball was snapped. It wasn’t until after a 26-yard completion to Julio Jones on second-and-9 that Bowles used his first timeout with 8 seconds.