Detroit fans and the media alike, have been gushing over the combo of Detroit Lions offensive guru Ben Johnson and head coach Dan Campbell, but realistic expectations were few and far between.
To give Johnson credit, he called a great game against the Minnesota Vikings considering the injuries to D’Andre Swift and Amon-Ra St. Brown.
Their offensive game plan was working flawlessly through three quarters. They generated three touchdowns and a field goal. The Lions were up 24-14 leading up to the fourth quarter.
Their first road game of the year made for some concerns in the kicking department. Kicker Austin Seibert went one of three on field goal attempts. But Vikings kicker Greg Joseph went zero for two as well. Both kickers struggled, pushing their kick far to the right side, which could’ve been a factor in playing in U.S. Bank Stadium.
Besides the kicking theory, the amount of stagnation in their fourth quarter offense was not the risk-taking team we saw all game. The fourth quarter moved away from risk-taking plays and letting their players work to coaching strategy running the clock out.
It was fourth and four at Minnesota’s 36-yard line, in the fourth quarter with 1:14 on the clock. Detroit was four of six on fourth downs at the time. The Lions were up three, and elected to go with Seibert for a 54-yard attempt. The field goal was pushed right and missed. If they got it still would’ve only been a six-point lead.
After going for it six times on fourth down, why settle at such a crucial point in the game? If the Vikings would’ve scored a touchdown (which they did) they still would’ve tied (with a touchdown) or won (with the extra point) anyway. So why settle, when trusting the offense worked out for them for the entire game.
Detroit’s offense is the most expensive in all the NFL. But when their two most explosive and impactful players are limited because of injury, you need to find other ways to produce.
The Lions struggled to find other options when Swift and St. Brown were not on the field.
If Seibert made all his kicks, the criticism of play calling could’ve been avoided. But that is not the case here. Another score was crucial for Detroit to secure the victory. The play calls to run out the clock on rushing plays in the final three minutes of the game was too early.
The Vikings dissected Detroit’s defense immediately on three plays. Minnesota wide receiver K.J. Osborn found himself wide open for the go-ahead touchdown with 45 second left in the fourth.
Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has done a great job making turning this under-talented defense into something respectable. But they can only hang on so long, especially when safety and captain Tracey Walker III went down in the first quarter, defensive lineman John Cominsky just had surgery and rookie Aidan Hutchinson is coming off a limp stemming from the game in Washington.
The defense allowed the Vikings to come back and score twice in the fourth. The six penalties from cornerback Amani Oruwariye were six too many as well. Cornerbacks coach Aubrey Pleasant and Glenn will have to work with Oruwariye so he can regain his confidence going into next week.
With such little time on the clock, Jared Goff threw a deep bomb on third down to receiver D.J. Chark that was intercepted, which ended the game. While the chance for a game-winning drive was minimal, Chark looked like he was not ready for that pass. That should not be the case when he was the only Lion downfield with less than 23 seconds left in the game.
Noah Wulbrecht – Woodward Sports
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports