With the Buffalo Bills holding a slim 14-13 lead and facing a third-and-7 with two minutes remaining in the game, Davis inexplicably jumped offside just as the ball was snapped.
Flags flew on the Bills‘ free play, which resulted in an incomplete pass. But Davis immediately stood up, his arms hanging at his sides in apparent awareness of a blunder that contributed to the Lions officially being eliminated from postseason consideration.
The 5-yard penalty gave the Bills a makeable third-and-2 situation. Running back Keith Ford came up short on the next play, but rookie quarterback Josh Allen converted the fourth-and-inches on a sneak. With no timeouts left, all the Lions could do is watch two kneel downs to end the game and the Lions‘ season.
“It’s a crucial situation,” Davis said. “It’s a got-to-have-it situation. You got to make plays. You can’t have mental errors like that. And that mental error killed us today.”
Davis’ mistake proved the tip of the iceberg in a game of self-inflicted wounds. Not only did Detroit botch a point-after-attempt, reliable kicker Matt Prater pushed a potential go-ahead field goal wide right with less than six minutes in the game.
The Lions also couldn’t stop a Bills offense down to their fourth running back after third-string rusher Marcus Murphy left with an injury. Despite a potential advantage, the Lions allowed Buffalo to amass 117 yards rushing and a touchdown on 37 attempts.
Given the factors that led to the defeat, Lions head coach Matt Patricia didn’t want to pin the gut-wrenching loss on Davis.
“There’s a lot of plays in there that we’re going to have to talk about,” Patricia said. “So, it’s a team game — that’s what’s great about it. It starts with coaching and planning and all of it. We’ll all take the blame, and we’ll all move forward.”
Nevertheless, the Lions were in a position to save their season and stay alive for the playoffs despite the miscues. All they needed to do was force the Bills to punt at the two-minute mark, but even then, asking a team that has failed to top 20 points in four straight games might have been asking for too much.
Davis’ penalty contributed to a lost opportunity for the Lions, who dropped to 5-9 on the season, to attempt a game-winning drive and now has the team looking forward to the offseason.
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