Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell’s late-game strategy vs. Vikings was smart, almost worked

Detroit Free Press

Free Press sports writer Carlos Monarrez answers three questions about the Detroit Lions’ 19-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday:

Was Dan Campbell too conservative?

A week after being too aggressive in Chicago, when he went for it and failed on two critical fourth downs, the Lions’ coach learned his lesson and didn’t pass up points early in the game. On the opening drive, the Lions faced fourth-and-9 from the Vikings’ 21 and opted for Austin Seibert’s 54-yard field goal. When they faced fourth-and-2 at the Vikings’ 34, Seibert kicked a 52-yarder to keep the deficit to 13-6 in the second quarter. That allowed the Lions to keep it a one-score game until the Vikings went ahead, 16-6, with 4:33 left. Keeping the game close allowed the Lions to still run the ball late, which is their strength. Seibert kicked a 40-yarder with 2:30 left that again made it a one-score game, cutting the deficit to 16-9. You never know what’s going to happen — like a Vikings turnover in the last two minutes — that gave Campbell the chance to be intelligently aggressive and go for the win with a two-point conversion with 41 seconds left.

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What did you think of the defense?

The Lions’ defense dodged a major bullet when the Vikings made running back Dalvin Cook inactive with an ankle injury. That probably eliminated two-thirds of the Vikings’ playbook. The Lions’ defense took advantage by playing a classic bend-don’t-break style. Cook’s backup, Alexander Mattison, played well and finished with 113 yards. But even after rookie Derrick Barnes’ whiff let Mattison gain 48 yards, Alex Anzalone came up with an interception on a tipped ball at the Detroit 21. The defense got a big boost with Trey Flowers’ return from a knee injury, but the Lions were still without Romeo Okwara and started Jerry Jacobs, their fourth cornerback opposite Amani Oruwariye. Keeping it a one-score game late in the fourth quarter is a testament to the effort and strategy the Lions have shown on their undermanned defense.

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How much blame does Jared Goff deserve?

A lot will be made of the Lions quarterback’s two turnovers — and interception and a lost fumble — which pushed his total to seven for the season (three picks, four lost fumbles). And yes, Eric Kendricks’ interception after reading the play well and sitting there unseen by Goff on a shallow route to T.J. Hockenson looked bad. But you can’t place too much blame on Goff for his fumble because I’d like to see another quarterback hold on to the ball while he’s getting crunched simultaneously by Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen, who easily beat Lions tackles Penei Sewell and Matt Nelson. Goff has been a tick slow on releases and decision making, although you have to consider the dearth of talent in the receiving corp. And yes, Goff had turnover problems with the Rams last year. But it’s not fair to classify him as turnover prone with the Lions at this point.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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