It wasn’t the complete performance that Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell was calling for from his team. But the Detroit offense was masterful in the 41-38 victory against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 10.
So when the game was on the line, Campbell trusted his offense to win it.
With the game tied 38-38 and 1:47 remaining, Campbell elected against kicking the go-ahead field goal on fourth-and-2 at the Chargers 26-yard line. Instead, the Lions offense remained on the field.
Quarterback Jared Goff completed a 6-yard pass to rookie tight end Sam LaPorta for the first down. Then after three kneel downs, the Lions kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired.
Following the victory, Goff, in his own colorful words, explained to the media the top reason Campbell delayed the team’s late field-goal try.
“There’s many factors going into that, but he’s got big balls, and he showed it there,” Goff told reporters after the game. “It’s a lot of fun when he puts the ball in our hands to make the play.”
The statistics support Goff’s NSFW claim. Detroit is tied for the most fourth-down tries in the NFL. The Lions are also second in fourth-down conversions as of November 13.
Lions Offense Outlasts Chargers Behind Dan Campbell’s Fourth-Down Decision
In games like the one the Lions and Chargers played on November 12, the team who has the ball last usually wins. That fact appeared to play a significant role in Campbell’s decision to go for fourth-and-2 at the 26-yard line.
“I wanted to finish with the ball,” Campbell told reporters in his postgame press conference. “I trusted our guys, I trusted Goff. Going into that situation — there’s going to be a lot of time left (if) you kick a field goal.”
Goff added that the team wanted to get a little closer to allow kicker Riley Patterson a slightly shorter attempt on the potential game-winning try.
The quarterback also said that when Campbell elects to go on fourth down, the coach is sending a clear message of trust that the entire offense wants to reward.
“We want to make him right. It gets us a little more motivation to make things works,” Goff told the media. “He trusts us. He’s showing us he has full faith in us to make it work in a scenario that maybe the odds are stacked against us in some way. He’s saying, ‘No they’re not.’ He trusts us and lets us go to work.”
Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who led the Lions with 165 yards from scrimmage and scored a touchdown in the victory, shared Goff’s sentiment.
“I was excited,” St. Brown said about the decision to go for the fourth-and-2 try. “I don’t know how many coaches are going to go for that in that situation. So hat’s off to him.”
Lions’ Aggressive Mindset
Campbell certainly has an aggressive mindset as Lions head coach. Goff explained to reporters that he assumes the offense is going to go for every fourth down unless Campbell says otherwise.
The Lions have attempted 22 fourth downs this season. The New York Giants are the other team that has 22 fourth-down tries. The Carolina Panthers are the only other NFL squad with at least 20 fourth-down attempts.
The Giants and Panthers have a combined 3-16 record. They are often behind early in games, so it makes sense that they have a lot of fourth-down attempts.
But Detroit is 7-2. Only the Philadelphia Eagles have more wins.
The Lions fourth-down offense doesn’t always work. They failed to convert a fourth-down early against the Seattle Seahawks, which proved to be an early turning point in the Week 2 loss.
But Campbell isn’t going to apologize for being aggressive.
“Some say it’s a boneheaded move and some say it’s not,” Campbell said. “I made the decision and I stick by that decision.”
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