Nov 17, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz talks with Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin before their game at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

In the End, Detroit Lions Faced Two Losing Options Before Fake Field Goal

It is impossible to discuss the Detroit Lions loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers without talking about Jim Schwartz’s decision to fake a fourth quarter field goal.

The popular narrative says that the fake was a terrible call because all the momentum went the Steelers way after the fake failed, allowing the Steelers to ride the wave to victory.

Maybe the Lions should have kicked the field goal but whether they did or didn’t, the Steelers still needed to score a touchdown. Kicking the field goal wouldn’t have ensured a victory, but catching the Steelers off guard and converting on a fake field goal might have if it led to a touchdown.

You have to wonder if Schwartz felt it was the only chance to put the game away. Try to ignore everything that happened after the fake and consider only the situation at the moment the fake was called. Could Schwartz have had confidence in the Lions only going up 7? I’m not so sure.

The Lions’ first two drives of the second half resulted in two three and outs totaling -8 yards. The Steelers also got off to a slow offensive start to the half but did manage to put together a ten-play, 42-yard drive ending in a field goal right before the Lions’ fake field goal drive. With the secondary already struggling and Glover Quin injured, there was reason to believe the Lions defense wouldn’t hold up. Offensively, Joique Bell was injured and Reggie Bush couldn’t keep his footing and was ineffective as a result.

Schwartz opted to take the gamble that could have been a knockout blow. It didn’t work but what transpired does at least as much to justify the decision than to bemoan it. The defense couldn’t stop the Steelers offense and the offense never sniffed another scoring chance. Kicking the field goal wouldn’t have been enough. Schwartz gambled and as can happen with gambling, he lost.

The alternative was to kick the field goal and rely on the defense getting some stops and/or the offense getting back in position for more points. As it turns out, that was a losing gamble as well.

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