At the most critical time of the game, the Detroit Lions offense dialed up a curious play. Fourth-and-goal from the Raiders’ 1-yard line, the Lions were in a do-or-die situation. Convert and the game continues. Don’t and it’s over.
After the Oakland Raiders gifted them a timeout to think it over, the Lions curiously went into a goal line formation. That meant their top four receiving options—two of which had already eclipsed 100 yards and a touchdown on the day—were all off the field.
The Lions were showing run, and really, really trying to sell it. On a day in which Detroit ran for 90 yards on 20 carries—a surprisingly effective day on the ground—the Lions were hoping to catch the Raiders cheating on the final defensive play of the game.
But to no avail. The Lions pulled a play-action fake, only to see both Jesse James and Logan Thomas blanketed by defenders. Matthew Stafford, immediately under duress following his play-action rollout, threw a jump ball to Thomas and it was batted away. Game over.
The play immediately drew a lot of heat. Why run play-action when the team’s goal-line rushing attack was so ineffective. Why take the team’s biggest playmakers off the field at the most crucial moment? There were a lot of questions to be answered. Here’s what the Lions were saying after the game.
Head coach Matt Patricia:
“We thought we had a play in there that was pretty influential at that standpoint. We thought we were going to be able to get them an opportunity, knowing that they were probably going to bring in pressure, or at least they had a lot of big guys out there to deal with. So, from that standpoint we thought that play had a good chance in practice, and thought we had a good chance with it today. We just didn’t execute it very well, and they played it very well.”
Patricia on the personnel decision:
“We had a couple shots down there earlier that didn’t work when we had some of those other guys out there”
“Yeah they were in goal line defense and we were in goal line offense. We were a yard away from the end line. It was a play we’ve worked on quite a bit, and they defended it well.”
Stafford on why they thought the play would work:
“I mean we had a 1-on-1 shot. We had a chance. We had one of our big guys on one of their not so big guys and a chance to go up and make it. You know I got to give him a better chance and a better ball. We got a little stuffed up on the side there. Jesse trying to get out, but Logan did a nice job on the back end line”
Meanwhile, the players that weren’t in on the play didn’t make a stink about being on the sidelines for the final play.
“I have all the trust in our coaches and all of the faith in the world for those guys on the field for that last play,” Kenny Golladay said after the game. “At that point I just cheer on those guys on the field and hope for the best.”
“We have a great plethora of plays that we can get to and that was the call,” Marvin Jones Jr. said. “It doesn’t matter who is out there. We all expect to make the big plays.”
Overall, no words are going to make anyone feel better about the call. While playing Monday Morning Quarterback—especially with play-calling—is a bit too easy with the power of hindsight, there are some legitimate questions to have about the play call. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until next week to see if they’ve learned anything from this game. Until then, they’ve got plenty of other issues to clean up.