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The Detroit Lions’ fourth-quarter conservative offense is going to kill me


Los Angeles Chargers v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions are 2-0-1. They’re undefeated. They will head into the bye week with a winning record no matter what happens when they host the Kansas City Chiefs next week.

But this team is KILLING ME.

Once again, the Detroit Lions took a convincing lead into the fourth quarter, and, once again, they nearly blew it because of some curious coaching decisions.

Twice, the Lions had the ball in Eagles territory, with a chance to put up more points to—at the very least—push the lead to six, if not 10. Twice, the Lions decided to waste two downs by trying to force a running game that just isn’t worth it.

Here’s how that went.

27-17 Lions, 4th quarter, 13:02 remaining—ball on Eagles 48-yard line

First-and-10: Kerryon Johnson rush to the right for 3 yards
Second-and-7: Kerryon Johnson rush to the right for -3 yards
Third-and-10: Matthew Stafford pass incomplete to Kenny Golladay

Drive summary: 3 plays, 0 yards, 1:31 off the clock

The next drive, the Lions got a little more aggressive.

27-24 Lions, 4th quarter, 6:59 remaining—ball on Lions 25-yard line

First-and-10: Matthew Stafford pass to T.J. Hockenson for 1 yard
Second-and-9: Matthew Stafford pass to Marvin Jones Jr. for 18 yards
First-and-10: Ty Johnson run for -1 yards
Second-and-11: Matthew Stafford pass to Kenny Golladay incomplete
Third-and-11: Matthew Stafford pass to Danny Amendola for 15 yards

Okay, great! The Lions only ran the ball once, and they picked up two huge first downs! Now the Lions are in Eagles territory with a chance to put the game away. Let’s see what happens next.

First-and-10: Kerryon Johnson run for 2 yards
Second-and-8: Kerryon Johnson run for 0 yards
Third-and-8: Matthew Stafford incomplete to Marvin Jones

Back to run-run-pass. Another punt.

Drive summary: 8 plays, 35 yards, 3:43 off the clock

The Lions got bailed out by a huge defensive stand, and all they had to do was get one more timeout to put the game away for good. Guess what they did.

27-24 Lions, 4th quarter, 2:18 remaining—ball on Eagles 28-yard line

First-and-10: Kerryon Johnson run for 0 yards
Second-and-10: Kerryon Johnson run for 0 yards
Third-and-10: Matthew Stafford incomplete to Kenny Golladay

The dreaded run-run-pass does nothing. It doesn’t even run clock or exhaust the Eagles timeout. With the two minute warning, Philly just has to use one timeout. Even without the blocked field goal here, it was a disastrous series for the Lions.

Drive summary: 3 plays, 0 yards, 0:39 off the clock

So let’s summarize here. In the Lions key final three possessions (not including kneel downs), here are the results.

Seven rushes: 1 yard
Seven passes: 3-7 for 34 yards, 2 first downs

Of the Lions’ four incomplete passes, three came on third downs of eight yards or longer, a horrible spot to put Stafford in against an aggressive Eagles defense.

In Eagles territory, the Lions did not throw the ball on first or second down a single time in the final 14 minutes of play.

Let me repeat that. On first and second down, the Lions did not throw a single pass in Eagles territory in nearly the entire fourth quarter. Instead, they forced Stafford to make huge plays on obvious passing downs. One time, it worked: Stafford hit Amendola for a big first down. Two other times, it didn’t; Stafford missed Jones on one play, and was forced to throw a jump ball to Golladay on the other.

This week, the Lions escaped despite this conservative nature, but it should have never come to this. Detroit suffered the consequences in Week 1 for this, and clearly didn’t learn its lesson. If not for a heroic performance from the Lions defense, the Lions would be 1-1-1 and would be lucky not to be 1-2.

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