Facing fourth-and-one at the Tennessee seven-yard line in overtime, with a touchdown needed to win the game, the Detroit Lions sent their offense onto the field as if they were planning to go for it. I liked the decision, because a field goal merely would have tied the game and given the Titans another chance to win. What's more, if the Lions simply gained a yard, they would have first-and-goal on the doorstep of the end zone.
The Lions did end up going for it, but only because they made a mistake. Dominic Raiola snapped the ball to a surprised Shaun Hill, who tried to fall forward for the first down. Considering only him and Raiola actually moved initially, the play was doomed as soon as the ball was snapped. Take a look:
With Hill not picking up the first down, the game came to an end. The Titans walked away with a stunning 44-41 victory. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said after the game that what happened on the final play was the result of a "miscommunication." Here are his exact comments from MLive:
"That was miscommunication," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "We were going to try and draw them offsides, and the crowd was loud. If they didn't jump, we were going to take the timeout, and the ball ended up getting snapped. We need to obviously make sure all 11 guys get the calls right there, and be able to play it. I don't want to take the delay of game if they didn't jump, because, then if they're offsides on the field goal, then you're still going to be short of the first down."
Hill took "full responsibility" for what happened and also said the botched play was the result of a "miscommunication." He said that as the quarterback, he needed to make sure that the entire offense was on the same page. Personally, I don't think he should have been put in that position to begin with.
I get the thinking behind sending out the offense to try and draw a penalty, and had it worked like Schwartz planned, we'd all be patting him on the back for the call. My issue is that I think the Lions simply should have gone for it to begin with. Don't screw around with trying to draw them offside; simply line up and go for the first down. A quarterback sneak could have worked had the rest of the offensive line blocked, and simply giving the ball to Joique Bell or Mikel Leshoure would have been a good plan as well considering how easily the Lions were moving the ball on that drive. The Lions only needed about half a yard to move the chains and get a fresh set of downs inside the 10-yard line.
When the botched play first happened, I actually wasn't all that upset with it. I liked the call; it was just obvious that the execution was bad. Now that we know Schwartz didn't intend to go for it in the first place, I have to take issue with the call. Let's say that the Titans don't jump and the Lions take a timeout and kick a field goal to tie things up at 44. The Titans would have gotten the ball back with less than seven minutes left, needing only a field goal to win the game. Considering how bad the Lions' special teams and defense had been playing, the idea of kicking it off to the Titans and putting the defense back on the field is not a good one in my book. What's more, even if the defense gets a stop, it's not like the Lions would have had a ton of time to get back into field goal range. I suppose a tie is better than a loss, but not by much.
At the end of the day, it's the head coach's job to make sure everybody is on the same page, especially in a situation like that. I don't know how Raiola wasn't aware of the call or why he snapped the ball, but it's just inexcusable for a team to look so lost in such a key situation. We can second guess the decision to not go for it and the attempt to draw them offside all we want. What really is concerning to me is that on fourth-and-one with the game on the line, the Lions allowed a miscommunication to end the game. I thought we were beyond embarrassing plays like that with this team, but apparently that's not the case after all.