Failure to convert a fourth down late in Sunday’s game could have been lamented if the Lions lost, but head coach Dan Campbell had a solid explanation for the decision.
Much has been made of how often Dan Campbell goes for it on fourth down over his two seasons as Detroit Lions head coach. The Lions set the single-season NFL record for fourth down attempts last year (41), but so far this year Campbell has had some struggles in striking the right balance between aggressiveness and recklessness.
Just before the two-minute warning on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, leading 15-9, the Lions had a 4th-and-3 from the Packers 43-yard line. Failure to convert would set the Packers up with a short field and all three of their timeouts, though they way the Lions’ defense was playing it was questionable if it would matter.
As has become common in such situations, the Lions attempted a pass rather than trying a more straight forward run play. Jared Goff’s pass intended for Amon-Ra St. Brown fell incomplete.
Lions head coach Dan Campbell has solid explanation for 4th down decision
Criticism of the play call aside, Campbell had a solid explanation for his decision to go for it after the game.
I just, I felt like I liked where we were at, and I thought we would convert that,” Campbell explained, when asked about this decision-making late in the game. “But, if we did not, I had three timeouts in my pockets, and yeah, our defense was playing pretty good. So, I just felt like that was the way to go.”
For what it’s worth, the analytics pretty much back up Campbell’s decision. Via Ben Baldwin of The Athletic, converting would have, not surprisingly, iced the game with a 97 percent win percentage. Failure, as happened of course, still had a 73 percent win percentage. The likelihood of a succesful convertion was better than a coin flip (53 percent).
A punt would have created a longer field for the Packers, regardless of the result (touchback or not)–so the win percentage was high there too. But sometimes you have to make an aggressive move to win. This time for Campbell, the process was right even if the result fell short.