The NFC North-leading Lions appeared to have the Steelers on the ropes Sunday. That is, until a failed fake field goal attempt -- and a subsequent 97-yard touchdown drive by Pittsburgh -- flipped the game on its head.
The Lions led 27-23 early in the fourth quarter at rainy Heinz Field when, on a 4th-and-5 from Pittsburgh's 10, head coach Jim Schwartz called for a little trickery. Rather than take a chip-shot three points from David Akers, Schwartz opted to have punter/holder Sam Martin attempt to run for a first down.
Martin was stuffed shy of the marker, then fumbled when he was hit. The Steelers recovered at their own 3 and then marched 97 yards for a go-ahead TD.
Matthew Stafford fired an interception on the Lions' next possession, which Pittsburgh later converted into another touchdown for the final 37-27 count.
As expected, Schwartz had to answer for his decision after the Lions' loss:
Schwartz said the fake FG was his call, said he was trying to be aggressive
— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) November 17, 2013
The botched fourth down may stand out as the instant that Detroit let all momentum slip from its grasp. But the second half featured a near-complete team meltdown. The Lions failed to score over the game's last 30 minutes after hanging 27 points on Pittsburgh in the second quarter. Stafford, who had 327 yards passing at the break, completed all of three passes for 35 yards in the final two quarters.
Perhaps those offensive struggles were all the more reason for Schwartz to take the three points -- and a seven-point lead -- in increasingly ugly weather conditions. Instead, he rolled the dice and the revved-up Steelers made sure that decision backfired.