The Detroit Lions are lined up to set the record for fourth down attempts, but Dan Campbell also goes for it when he “should” a lot.
While he hasn’t always done it when it seemed to make sense, Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell has routinely gone for it on fourth down with little restraint. With 36 attempts so far this season, it’s a formality the Lions will break the NFL single-season record for fourth down attempts (39, by the 1995 New England Patriots).
The Lions are only middle of the pack (tied for 17th) in fourth down conversion rate this season (50 percent; 18-for-36). But earlier this month Ben Baldwin of The Athletic tabbed Detroit as the team in the league that went for it on fourth down most often when they should–excluding win probability greater than 20 percent and the final 30 seconds of the game, with minimums of five opportunities and at least one percent win probability added if successful.
Detroit Lions back atop fourth down “should go for it” metric
Baldwin updated his “go for it when they should” fourth down metric after Week 16’s action. The Los Angeles Chargers and head coach Brandon Staley have gotten some attention for unabashedly going for it on fourth down, but a couple decisions classified as mistakes in Week 16 apparently dropped them from No. 1, and the Lions are back in the top spot when it comes to going for it on fourth down when it’s been deemed they should.
Conversion rate on those optimal fourth down chances is not included in the data, but Campbell has clearly seen the value in doing all he can to keep possession of the ball as he tries to find a gap in conventional thinking for the Lions to exploit. As he sets a new culture in Detroit, the aggressive mentality is a piece of the equation that shouldn’t be overlooked. Raw success rate is in the background at this point.