The Detroit Lions were gutsy in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings most of the afternoon, but when they had a chance to make the most gutsy call of the day, they elected to go another direction.
While the Lions had a tough call to make late in the fourth quarter, it was actually pretty standard according to analytics guru Seth Walder. As he tweeted, the team should have gone in either other direction than a field goal, they would have had a better chance to win.
The model called out Dan Campbell’s decision to go for the field goal and not either go for a first down to salt the game away or simply punt and pin Minnesota deep. Detroit’s win probability was higher with either decision than to kick a field goal.
“Yes, though the model actually slightly preferred punt to go, but also favored go over FG substantially. Fairly shocking given Dan Campbell’s track record. Lions 4th-and-4 at Vikings’ 36 with 1:14 left. WP Go: 89.6%. WP Kick: 85.4%. WP Punt: 90.0%,” Walder tweeted.
Of course, the Lions missed the field goal and Minnesota marched down and managed to score the winning touchdown late. The Lions couldn’t mount a comeback. In the end, the decision was fairly shocking given the Lions had enjoyed success on fourth down most of the day, going 4-6 on the afternoon.
If anything, this proves the Lions have to start dialing in some of their decisions late in games. It’s easy to see how this game was lost when all was said and done.
ESPN Analyst: Lions Must Start to Win Games
While the Lions have been America’s sweethearts early in the season, there’s a reason the team continues to sputter in the minds of actual football fans. They simply don’t get enough wins when it matters.
ESPN host Mike Greenberg called Detroit out for this phenomenon a bit after the game. As he tweeted after watching the Lions melt down, he’s going to have to see the team start to win some of the close games they are involved in at some point.
Overall, Greenberg is right. The Lions can only be a nice story if they find a way to win and not lose. Moral victories cannot be good enough at a certain point for the team, and this week would have been a good start for that to happen.
Instead, the Lions will have to wait another week in order to get things going the right direction.
Campbell Reacts to Lions’ Narrow Loss
In terms of his own reaction to the loss, Campbell admitted that if he had the decision to do over, he would have gone for it on fourth down. Speaking to the media after the game, Campbell’s regret seemed palpable.
As he said, he told the team that if he had things to do over, it would have been done differently in that situation.
“I freaking regret my decision there at the end. I should have gone for that fourth down. I told the team that. I should have gone for it.”
It seems the analytics agree with the decision to go. Hopefully, Campbell and the Lions can learn from this and improve in the future when these decisions are sure to arise.
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