Dan Campbell Play Calling Jared Goff Costs Detroit Lions Fourth Down
At the start of the Detroit Lions’ 2021 season, wasting opportunities to score was an all too common topic.
And the issue raised its ugly head again in the Lions’ 24-14 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
The Lions had nothing to see on the scoreboard at halftime as they chased the Bears 14-0. It could have been a very different game, however, if the Lions hadn’t had multiple self-inflicted wounds – especially from Jared Goff – and some over-aggressive game calls.
Hell, it could have been a 14-14 game at halftime if it weren’t for the mistakes I mentioned above.
Detroit’s lost opportunities began offensively at the start of the competition.
Chicago opened the game with a 12-game, 75-yard scoring drive that took 6:11 out of time. Detroit then responded by stringing together a double-digit play instinct, which could also have resulted in a score. In fact, the Lions got the ball as far as the Chicago 8-yard line, creating a first-and-goal situation for Goff & Co.
What had been a great draw opportunity, however, was erased when Goff made his first of two major rallies. In the eleventh and final game of the drive, Goff fumbled the snap with center Frank Ragnow after obvious misunderstandings, which resulted in a costly turnover.
The Bears followed suit, marching down the field for a six-game, 89-yard scoring drive that was crowned by David Montgomery’s second of two roaring touchdowns.
Then, on the subsequent ownership of Detroit, Goff & Co. drove again and came up to the 5-yard line of the bears. This time it wasn’t revenue that cost the Lions a scoring opportunity. But instead it was an over-aggressive game request from Detroit head coach Dan Campbell and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn.
The Lions reached the 5-yard line via a 33-yard pass from Goff to Quintez Cephus in their sophomore year. In the following three games, however, Goff threw an incomplete pass, sophomore running back D’Andre Swift lost two yards to the ground and Goff climbed a positive two yards.
All of this resulted in fourth and fifth games for Detroit, 9:35 in the second quarter.
Sure, the Lions were only five meters from the end zone, moving the football relatively easily against Chicago at the time.
However, Campbell & Co. were looking for their first win of the season and found themselves in the middle of a winnable game. For me, the solution should have made it easy: get the almost “automatic” points from this distance and shoot the field goal.
And I know that Ryan Santoso, the Lions’ active kicker for the game, only tried two field goals before the Sunday of his career – he didn’t try a single one against the Bears. I am also aware that many analytical minds strive for six points instead of three under these circumstances.
However, I don’t care about any of that. It was another opportunity to add points to the board that were wasted by the Lions, and ultimately it was a wrong decision by Campbell and his coaching staff.
Detroit then got the ball back at 8:00 in the second quarter after forcing the Bears to go three and out.
And if you can believe it (I know you can) the Lions did manage to suffer another self-inflicted wound and Goff was again the culprit.
This time Detroit marched to the Chicago 3-yard line, creating a third and goal situation, with 2:59 in the first half.
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On the 10th game of the drive, Goff was fired at the 12-yard line of the Bears by Robert Quinn, who stripped Goff of football. The ball was recovered by Khalil Mack at the Chicago 20-yard line.
Thus, another offensive possession in Detroit, which would apparently lead to points, was prematurely stunted.
© Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports
© Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports
If there was one issue in the Lions first half, it was surely wasting chances to get on the scoreboard.
Goff and the Lions offense played a much better second half, scoring two touchdowns. But Campbell’s over-aggressive play-calling still managed to get in the way of his team late in the fourth quarter.
Goff & Co. drove into the red zone again, this time holding the ball at 4:15 in front of Chicago’s 8-yard line. This was set by a nine-yard pass from Goff to rookie wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown on a third and tenth game.
So it was a fourth-and-one situation, and with the Lions trailing by 10, 24-14, they had a decision to make: kick the short “gimme” field goal or try beating the end zone for six.
Well, Campbell and his coaching staff, the aggressive individuals that they are, chose to make themselves out of nowhere and it backfired again.
Detroit tried a short pass to St. Brown and it went incomplete.
Campbell spoke about his controversial decisions for the fourth time after the game.
“I don’t regret any of them,” Campbell told reporters. “But the last thing I would have done in the end: I wish we’d huddled together. And that’s up to me. Should have pushed them together, gave us our best game on the fourth down and got the first down, got a touchdown and then we go from there. I wish I had. “
The offensive was clicking all the cylinders at this point, however, and it mattered why the Lions decided not to move together, according to Goff.
“Looking back, I’m sure that we would of course like to huddle together and get our best play-call there. We just went with the momentum,” said Goff after the game. “It’s always two-sided – do you want them to get their best bet on the defensive, or do you want to get your best bet on the offensive? So, yes, it’s always both sides. We thought we were moving the ball pretty well there and wanted to continue. “
It was a little more sensible for Campbell & Co. to try fourth-and-one than the previous fourth-down conversion attempt, since it was only a yard away. However, I would still have kicked the field goal to make it a one-score game. Or at least the Lions should have relied on their running game to get first place.
The Lions had enough time at this point to stop the defense and then get the ball back to end the game and force overtime.
It wasn’t a particularly smart call from Campbell, and it wasn’t the nicest game of him and his coaching staff as a whole, especially on those fourth-place calls.
And that certainly showed his inexperience as an NFL headman.
Campbell has to clean up quickly if he is to help his team stay ahead in winning games like Sunday.