In a Thanksgiving game featuring many critical plays and decisions, there is one Detroit Lions offensive call that stood out as the biggest play of the game.
The scene: 3rd-and-1 from the Buffalo Bills’ 33-yard line with 32 seconds left on the game clock. Buffalo leads by three points. The Lions had just lost a potential first-down conversion to an official review reversing the spot of the ball on an Amon-Ra st. Brown reception.
The play call: Jared Goff gets an iso look on the right outside with speedy WR DJ Chark in one-on-one coverage and decides that’s the best option. Chark gets open over the top but Goff misses him badly. Now it’s fourth down and the clock is dead, giving MVP candidate Josh Allen and the Bills offense over 20 seconds to answer Michael Badgley’s game-tying field goal — a kick that barely squeaked inside the right upright.
Allen proved why he’s an MVP candidate in quickly leading the Bills down the field for what proved to be the game-winning field goal.
After the game, Campbell was asked if he regretted the call, and also if he would have considered going for it on fourth down.
“Could have done that. “Certainly could have done that,” Campbell stated. “No, we like the play call. Didn’t work out; kicked the field goal.”
It’s a very similar call and play to what Campbell drew up in Week 8 against the Dolphins in almost the exact same situation. Goff missed Josh Reynolds down the left sideline in that one, another throw that wasn’t even close to being completed. In Week 3, Goff and Chark weren’t even close to connecting on the exact same play call, just to the left side of the formation.
It’s a very similar play and route to one Goff attempted earlier in this game against Buffalo, a throw where he badly overshot Kalif Raymond. In short, it’s not a play with much chance of success based on the Lions personnel on the field.
That didn’t dissuade Campbell, who acknowledged, “Chark, I’m not
sure if he really ever saw it until it was really late. I just don’t think he saw it. So, obviously they weren’t on the same page.”
It’s an aggressive call, a high-risk/reward decision to try and win a game the Lions weren’t supposed to against one of the NFL’s best teams. If that play hits, Detroit absolutely does not lose the game in regulation. The Lions either score a touchdown on that play, get 2-3 red zone shots to score a touchdown or kick a short field goal as time expires.
But it didn’t work, and the Lions lost.
For his part, Goff admitted he made a poor throw. The veteran QB liked the call and the opportunity.
“I wish I had thrown a different ball,” Goff said after the game. “I thought the play-call was great and had some options what to do there, and yeah, if you had to do it again, would you do something differently?” I don’t know, maybe, but if I throw a better ball, it might not matter. But yeah, unfortunately, that’s going to be the play that gets focused on, but there’s a lot of plays that could have gone either way today as well.”
Goff is right on both counts. If he proves capable of making what should be an expected NFL throw, one he keeps missing, it’s a great call. And there were many other plays that also swung the outcome. Detroit’s defense was absent on Allen’s final drive. There were several pivot points throughout the game. But everyone will focus on Goff’s failure on the last critical play for the Lions offense.
Story originally appeared on Lions Wire