The Detroit Lions all but had a win wrapped up against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday … until they didn’t all of a sudden.
It would’ve been the first road win of the Dan Campbell era. Yet, it didn’t come to fruition, and Campbell deserves a large portion of the blame.
After Jamaal Williams scored for the second time of the day (on a 13-yard rushing touchdown) in the third quarter, making it a 24-14 game in favor of the Lions, the offense went cold, and failed to score the remainder of the game. And, as much as it was because of Amon-Ra St. Brown and D’Andre Swift getting banged up and not playing at full health, it was also due to some highly suspect play-calling from Campbell and Ben Johnson, the team’s offensive coordinator.
On the subsequent offensive possession for Detroit, even with Williams & Co. running the football with relative ease, the Lions decided to abandon the ground game. Campbell and Johnson failed to call a single run play during the possession, leading to a three-and-out.
It didn’t make much sense then and still doesn’t make much sense now, knowing how vital of a component the run game is for Detroit’s offense.
This is just one example from Sunday of Campbell and his coaching staff not knowing how to play with a lead. Time and time again, they impeded the Lions’ chances of securing a win in the divisional road contest.
The biggest mistake for Campbell, though, came late in the fourth quarter, with Detroit trying to add on to a 24-21 lead. Campbell & Co., at the time, faced a crucial fourth-and-4 play at the Minnesota 36-yard line, with 1:14 to play.
Up to this point, Campbell had been super aggressive on fourth down. In fact, the second-year Detroit head man had opted to leave the offense on the field and go for it six different times on Sunday. He was fearless in his play-calling -- and overly fearless at times -- converting on four of the six fourth-down conversion attempts.
However, with the game on the line, Campbell lost his aggressive touch, and elected to send out Austin Seibert and the field-goal unit (even after calling a timeout to reflect on the decision).
Seibert, who already had missed a field-goal attempt earlier in the contest, was given the task of attempting a 54-yard field-goal try. And, just as was the case at the very beginning of the game, he failed to execute.
It was a head-scratching decision made by Campbell.
“I freakin’ regret my decision there at the end. I should’ve gone for it (on fourth down),” Campbell lamented during his postgame presser. “You know, I told the team that I should’ve gone for it.”
As the result of the missed field goal from Seibert, the Vikings ended up with great field position, with the ball at their own 44-yard line. And, spearheaded by quarterback Kirk Cousins, they proceeded to march down the field and score the game-winning touchdown. It came on a 28-yard pass from Cousins to K.J. Osborn.
"I just felt like, you know what, let's kick the field goal, we go up by six and force them to score a touchdown for the win," Campbell said, as he explained his decision to opt for the long field-goal try. "I had no timeouts, (but) should've gone for it."
Throughout his tenure with the Lions, Campbell has embraced keeping his foot on the proverbial gas pedal and being the aggressor on offense, forcing opposing defenses to play four-down football. Yet, in a surprising turn of events Sunday, he went away from all of that, and ultimately played a significant role in his team dropping its Week 3 contest.
"I just hate the decision," Campbell expressed. "I wish I would've put it back in their hands, offensively, and so be it. Just wish I would've done that."
He later took it a step further, adding that he feels like he "cost" the Lions the divisional matchup.
"He (Campbell) ultimately has the final say, and I'm not going to question him. But, I wish I would've gone over there and demanded to stay on the field. And, I guarantee he would've let us," Goff said.
Goff & Co. had other chances earlier in the game to put the Vikings away, and failed to do so. One such instance came on the drive that took place prior to the one that resulted in the missed field goal by Seibert in the fourth quarter.
It was the Lions' third-to-last possession of the game, and Goff had spearheaded a double-digit play drive that took Detroit all the way from its own 22-yard line to Minnesota's 30-yard line. The Lions, however, failed to convert on a fourth-and-1 try, and subsequently left points on the field.
As evidenced above, Campbell is hardly the only one to blame for the heartbreaking loss. However, his subpar decision-making certainly played a substantial factor in why Detroit dropped the winnable game.