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Notes: Detroit Lions among least-aggressive teams on 4th down in 2019

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The Lions were among the least aggressive teams in 2019, but they had some interesting company.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions

In the NFL, you look for every possible advantage you can find to get an edge on your opponent. One potential edge is being more aggressive on fourth downs. Little by little, NFL coaches are beginning to accept that taking on a little more risks on fourth down can prove to be the small bump in advantage that a team needs to win on Sundays.

Football Outsiders has a metric called “Aggressiveness Index” which measures each team’s fourth-down decisions against the NFL historical average in those exact scenarios, taking into consideration down and distance, time remaining in the game and score differential. Football Outsiders found that the average Aggressiveness Index increased drastically over the past six years alone.

But the Detroit Lions remain one of the league’s most conservative teams. They scored an Aggressiveness score of just 0.93—meaning they’re going for it in seven percent fewer opportunities than historical averages. While that number may seem negligible, that’s fourth-lowest in the entire league for the 2019 season.

Lions head coach Matt Patricia chose to go for it just six times in 103 qualifying opportunities. That 5.8 percent go-for-it-rate ranks 30th in the NFL.

All that being said, it’s worth noting that the two head coaches in the Super Bowl—the 49ers’ Kyle Shanahan and the Chiefs’ Andy Reid—are just barely above Patricia in Aggressiveness Index at 28th and 27th, respectively.

  • Call me crazy, but I don’t think he’s an impartial judge to this five-year-old play:

  • If you missed it from yesterday, after Tony Gonzalez sent out an invitation for Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson to meet him in the offseason, Hockenson accepted:

  • The Athletic Nick Baumgardner has an interesting article (subscription required) suggesting that too much focus is on the Lions’ defensive scheme, while their ability to coach it deserves plenty of criticism.

  • If you’re excited to relive one of the Lions’ few wins last year by watching Amazon’s “All or Nothing” documentary which debuts next Friday and features the Philadelphia Eagles, don’t get your hopes too high: