MINNEAPOLIS -- Sunday's game at the Metrodome afforded us the opportunity to discuss and debate the Detroit Lions' decision to play for a field goal at the end of the second quarter in a 24-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Lions coach Jim Schwartz addressed it after the game, so let's give him a chance to explain.
First, the situation. The Lions had a 2nd-down-and-2 at the Vikings' 15-yard line with 14 seconds remaining. Rather than take an immediate timeout for one (or two) shots into the end zone, Schwartz waited until three seconds remained. Jason Hanson's 33-yard field goal pulled the Lions within 14-10 at halftime.
"I was going to call the timeout and take a shot," Schwartz said, "but then if you get a ball that's not in the end zone or a ball that's intercepted or get a sack or one of those things. We had come away the other time we had come down without points and missed a FG. I wanted to make sure we didn't come down with that. It was 14-7 at that point and I thought it was important that we get points and I wanted to make sure that we were in a position to do that."
Indeed, Hanson had missed a 43-yard field goal earlier in the quarter. But I would have liked to have seen the Lions, who haven't won on the road in three years and hadn't won at the Metrodome since 1997, be more aggressive. It's nice to ensure the points, but if you trust your quarterback, the chances of a mistake were relatively low in that situation.
Why not take one chance that receiver Calvin Johnson could snatch a ball out of the air? If he's covered, you throw it away and have plenty of time for a field goal attempt.
That sequence wasn't the reason the Lions lost the game. And it's a testament to their progress that we're questioning individual decisions rather than suggesting global incompetence. But football is a game of emotion as much as it is of skill and talent. The Lions decided against putting their opponents on a wave of emotion before halftime at the expense of possibly catching one themselves.