Lions pay price for fake field goal gamble
If Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz had to do it over, he would call the same play.
But his team's failure to execute a fake field goal Sunday at Heinz Field cost the Lions the game and a chance to end their 10-game winless streak in Pittsburgh in the Steelers' 37-27 victory.
The Lions (6-4) were leading by four with 12:56 remaining and faced fourth-and-5 from the Steelers' 10-yard line. Instead of having David Akers attempt a 27-yard field goal to extend the lead to seven, Schwartz called for holder Sam Martin, the team's punter, to run for a first down.
Martin gained 3 yards then fumbled, and Steelers safety Ryan Clark recovered at the 3.
The Steelers (4-6) proceeded to drive 97 yards for the winning touchdown.
A testy Schwartz defended his call afterward.
“We worked on it, and we thought we could get it,” Schwartz snapped at reporters. “It was my call, and I don't regret anything that happens in the game.
“We're going to do our very best to win a football game. It was a great chance to score a touchdown, not just a field goal. We didn't make enough plays to win this one. They made the play, and we didn't.”
Lions quarterback Matt Stafford said he didn't realize Schwartz called the fake. He thought it was a botched snap.
“I didn't find out it was a fake until later in the game,” Stafford said. “It's an aggressive call, and we're an aggressive team. If it works and you go down and score a touchdown, everybody is talking about how great the call was.
“Hindsight is 20-20, but we were an aggressive team. He's going to make the call, and we're going to roll with it.”
Akers said Martin had a chance to call the play off, but the Steelers gave them the look they were hoping for.
“It was a mindset of being aggressive,” Akers said. “Coach Schwartz wants to give us a chance to win, and that was his decision. As a player, you love seeing these types of things.
“Obviously, we needed to execute better. The Steelers were rushing hard off the edge, and there was a little bit there.”
What bothered Schwartz more was his defense, which allowed the Steelers to drive the length of the field for the go-ahead score.
The Steelers converted key third- and fourth-down plays during the drive.
“Every play is a risk. We just didn't make that one,” Schwartz said. “Our defense turned around and gave up a 97-yard scoring drive after that.
“You all can say anything you want about me, but don't say I'm scared. We aren't. We didn't play well enough to win this game. We had a chance to put the game away, and we didn't get it done. We left too many plays on the field.”
Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.
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