Let me disagree with my media brothers and sisters who called Lions Coach Dan Campbell the rambling gambling man following Sunday’s wild and crazy 41-38 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.
They were especially giddy about calling Campbell’s fourth down and two call just past the two-minute warning another of his high wire acts. The Lions and Chargers were tied 38-38 when with 1:47 remaining at the Chargers 26 yard line.
“Some would say it’s a bonehead move and some say not,” Campbell said. “I trusted our guys. I trust (Jared) Goff. And I felt like that was the right thing to do.”
It was the only thing to do.
If the Lions kick that field goal they lose because the Chargers were running up and down the field and scoring like Olympic sprinters. This was a game of hot potato. Last one holding the rock wins.
Goff and Sam LaPorta made sure the Lions were the last-man standing with a six-yard completion for a first down. That insured that the Lions held on to the ball, milked the clock to two seconds, so Riley Paterson could boot the game-winning 41-yard field goal with no time remaining.
You did not want to be up three in this game with 1:47 remaining and the Lions defense on the field trying to fend of Justin Herbert, Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler. That’s a bad mix. A deadly mix. A losing mix.
Campbell went for it five times in fourth down in part because he trusts his offense. He also did it because this was one of those rare chess matches when you had to stay one score ahead of the opposition or risk falling off this roller coaster ride.
The two teams combined for 954 yards of total offense and 10 touchdowns. The Chargers scored touchdowns on their final five possessions and had plenty of time to do it again.
“You never know exactly how the game is gonna go,” Dan Campbell said. “but you do what you have to do to find a way to win and we did that today.”
Campbell’s reputation as a high stakes poker player will grow after this game. I will remain steadfast that was no gamble. The man figured out a way to win, figured out a way to push his team to 7-2.
Was he a gambler Sunday? Not really.
He was a genius.
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Original Photo Credit: © Orlando Ramirez – USA TODAY Sports