Dan Campbell’s 4th down gambles become costly in Lions loss to Seahawks

USA Today

I’ll be the first to say that I love Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell. I love the way he’s turned this Lions team around and has every player buying into what he’s preaching. Regardless of the outcome for the Lions games, they’re going to play tough and make life difficult for the opposition.

Playing tough and being aggressive has its perks. We see it weekly with this Lions team. However, being overly aggressive is costly and in Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks, Dan Campbell proved just how costly it can be.


Some fans will blame the referees and the penalties. News flash: the Seahawks had more penalties called on them than the Lions. The Seahawks had 9 penalties called on them for 80 yards. Meanwhile, the Lions only had 4 penalties called on them for 24 yards. Sure, there were missed calls in some key spots, but the Lions had chances to put points on the board and they didn’t.

For example, the second drive of the game for the Lions offense. They ran 12 plays and gained 57 yards while eating up over six minutes of the game clock. But the drive stalled on 3rd and 1 with David Montgomery losing 3 yards due to a missed block from Sam LaPorta and it set up a long 4th-and-4 on the 31-yard line.

Most teams would have taken the points and attempted the field goal. That wasn’t the case for Dan Campbell. Rather than potentially going up 10-to-7 against a Seattle team that has won 5 straight games against them, they went for it and didn’t convert.

In hindsight, Campbell looks like a legend if the Lions convert on 4th down but instead, he looks like a fool. We know he’s not a fool but the aggressiveness is foolish when you need to win these types of games. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only 4th down attempt that occurred for Detroit.

Near the end of the 3rd quarter, the Lions were at their own 45-yard line and went for it on 4th-and-2. Sure, we can drool over another gutsy call but this one put the defense in a tough spot. It’s a spot that they shouldn’t have to be in as they showed all game that they were struggling in stopping the Geno Smith led passing attack.

At that point, there was a chance to pin the Seahawks near their own end zone with a ruckus crowd at Ford Field behind them. Instead, it felt like the wind was taken out of the Lions sail after not converting another 4th down despite being up 21-17 at this point in the game.

To make matters worse, the aggressiveness started to wear off at the end of the game. During the Lions final possession of the game, they had 1:44 on the clock with their timeouts in their back pocket and the ball at midfield.

But all of that aggressiveness we’ve seen from Dan Campbell over the years went astray. He got conservative, ran five offensive plays and stalled their own drive by not taking a timeout until there were 26 seconds left on the clock. There were no shots to the end zone despite Josh Reynolds already hauling in two touchdowns.

Sure, injuries started to catch up to the Lions. The team went into the game down Taylor Decker, and they lost David Montgomery and James Houston during it. Despite Amon-Ra St. Brown getting dinged up, he made his way back onto the field and was on the field for the Lions final offensive possession.

None of that should matter though.

The offense was still making plays with contributions from Reynolds, Raymond, LaPorta and Gibbs. They were driving and headed toward the end zone. But the aggressive head coach that we’ve known since his arrival in Detroit suddenly got conservative. Penalty flags and challenge flags didn’t get in Dan Campbell’s way.

Dan Campbell got in Dan Campbell’s way.

We can eat humble pie and move on to the Atlanta Falcons. That’s fine. But this feels like a loss that we’ll be talking about again at some point this winter. Certainly, I hope I’m wrong, but this type of loss feels all too familiar here in Detroit.

The question that will linger from this loss to the Seahawks won’t be about what happens if the Lions don’t turn the football over. Instead, it’ll be about why is it acceptable for Dan Campbell to be aggressive on the 2nd and 7th drive of the game but not the last one?

If Campbell wants to be known as the guy who puts it all out on the table and is always swinging for the fences, that’s fine. However, his team and we fans are owed the consistency of him being that guy. Not the one that sits on the fence of being aggressive and conservative.

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