Detroit Lions: 2013 Week 11 DET at PIT

Jim Schwartz AP Photo/Don WrightLions coach Jim Schwartz has no regrets about the play calling in Sunday's loss to the Steelers.
PITTSBURGH -- It was a call that speaks to the mantra of a team: safe or aggressive. Take the points, or go for it all?

In Pittsburgh on Sunday, the Detroit Lions wanted it all. Early in the fourth quarter, they faced a fourth-and-5 on the Steelers' 10-yard line. The field goal was the safe play, the smart play.

Detroit lined up for the field goal, but instead of giving David Akers the chance to convert the chip shot and give them a 30-23 lead, the Lions called for the fake, and punter Sam Martin fumbled the ball while fighting for the first down.

So what if a field goal would have turned the Lions' four-point lead into a seven-point lead? If Martin had converted the first down or scored, Detroit would have had another big win in a season’s worth of aggressive play calls by head coach Jim Schwartz.

But in Sunday's 37-27 loss to the Steelers, it didn't turn out that way. Martin said he “got hit by a 350-pound man.” He fumbled. Pittsburgh recovered. Drove down the field. Scored. Took the lead. Won the game.

Schwartz didn’t second-guess the decision. He had no regrets. He wanted to put the game away. Instead, he played a part in putting his own team away for the day.

“It had to do with trying to make the plays to win the game. We didn’t make it. But look, you could say whatever you want,” Schwartz said. “Y’all say whatever you want about me, OK.

“Don’t say I’m scared. Cause we ain’t, OK? This team is going to be aggressive. We’re going to play our very best. We didn’t play well enough to win this game, OK. But it’s not because we’re passive or anything.”

If there is a defining characteristic about Schwartz and the Lions in second halves of games this season, it's aggressive calls. Schwartz wants his team to make plays. He’s done it with a style that has mostly worked, including a fourth-down sneak against Washington in Week 3 that worked and led to a Lions victory.

It’s the same type of mindset that helped the Lions to a come-from-behind win two games ago against Dallas and last Sunday against Chicago. Being aggressive is part of the makeup of this team.

Detroit's players had no problem with the call -- at least the ones who knew about it. Quarterback Matthew Stafford thought the Lions had botched the field goal attempt instead of it being a planned fake.

Even Pittsburgh’s players said after the game they understood why Detroit made the call.

“It was drawn up extremely well,” Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark said. “But when you’ve got guys that hustle to the ball on your front line the way we do, that’s how you stop things like that.”

Pittsburgh did. It helped in its victory.

One thing was clear about the Lions and how they felt publicly about the call: Every Detroit player in the locker room didn’t take issue with the call and how aggressive it was.

“It comes down to a mentality," Akers said. " ‘Are you going to play it safe or are you going to be aggressive and go after it?’ "

The aggressiveness has worked in the past and the future is still there for Detroit, although the way the Lions imploded in the second half is a definite cause for concern. The fourth-down fake field goal was somewhat emblematic of it Sunday.

The fake field goal was just part of a complete outage by Detroit in the second half. After Stafford threw for 327 yards in the first half, he completed three passes for 35 yards in the second. After Calvin Johnson had six catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, he was targeted only three times and caught no passes for no yards in the second. Reggie Bush had 54 total yards and lost a fumble.

The Detroit defense struggled to stop Pittsburgh all day. Ben Roethlisberger threw for four touchdowns and passed for 367 yards. After the fake field goal, the Lions gave up a 97-yard drive, and touchdowns on the last two possessions of the game.

So Detroit’s problems Sunday weren’t necessarily with an aggressive play call but everything else surrounding it.

“If you’re not on your P’s and Q’s and the next man is, you’re going to look embarrassed, and that’s what happened today,” cornerback Rashean Mathis said. “We had some embarrassing plays that shouldn’t have happened but when it all comes back to it, it wasn’t just a man beating us. It was missed tackles. Technique sound. Things of that nature.

“Those things are fixable. That’s what playoff teams do.”

For now, Detroit is still a playoff team. The Lions, even after this loss, are still tied for the division lead with Chicago. It's a team, though, that struggled a lot Sunday.

“I don’t know how much momentum we’re going to lose from this,” center Dominic Raiola said. “Going back home with Tampa coming into town, everything’s right in front of us.

“You know, we’re not, we don’t need a State of the Union. It’s just a loss. We lost, you know. They got us. Just bounce back like we do after every loss.”

Locker Room Buzz: Detroit Lions

November, 17, 2013
PITTSBURGH -- Observed in the locker room following the Detroit Lions' 37-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Supporting the field goal call: Almost unanimously in the locker room Sunday, the Detroit players supported coach Jim Schwartz's decision to go for the fake field goal in the fourth quarter.

“I thought it was a good call,” center Dominic Raiola said. “Aggressiveness, yeah, trying to put somebody away.”

Quiet Johnson: After being one of the last players in the locker room, Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson declined to talk with the media after the game Sunday.

“Ain't got nothing for y'all,” Johnson said as he walked out of the Lions' locker room following a game in which he had 179 yards receiving in the first half and none in the second half.

Fiery Schwartz: Schwartz is usually fairly reserved whenever he talks with the media. Not Sunday. He came into his postgame news conference more angry than he has been for any other game this season. He spent the first minute of his news conference defending the fake field goal call.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

November, 17, 2013

PITTSBURGH -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 37-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

What it means: What a complete collapse for the Lions, a team that had went through every sort of emotion during Sunday’s game. They started off discombobulated in the first quarter, set records in the second quarter, then fell apart in the second half.

It’s tough to explain how the Lions went from an offensive juggernaut in the first half to Calvin Johnson not having a reception in the second half and Matthew Stafford unable to even throw for half a field after halftime. It is, though, a loss that could hurt the Lions down the road. Detroit had complete control over this game before a combination of defensive lapses, dropped passes and a bizarre fake field goal call in the fourth quarter turned a win into a loss and a potential three-game winning streak into a 6-4 record that gives the Bears and Packers a chance to keep pace in the NFC North.

Stock Watch: Rising -- Safety Don Carey. Carey had yet another week of significant playing time with cornerback Bill Bentley injured, and he had a decent game, making nine tackles and two tackles for loss. ... DeAndre Levy had a game-high 12 tackles, including two tackles for loss. Falling -- Detroit’s fourth quarter defense. The Lions gave up a 97-yard drive to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers midway through the fourth quarter, resulting in a touchdown with 4:46 left to give Pittsburgh the lead. ... Reggie Bush's production. The running back fumbled, ran for 31 yards on 12 carries and caught two passes for 23 yards. Not his best day.

Setting records: Detroit’s typical combination of Stafford-to-Johnson gave the Lions some big records in the first half. Stafford threw for 327 yards in the first half, a franchise record. He also broke Bobby Layne’s franchise passing record of 15,710 yards. With 362 yards Sunday, Stafford now has 16,005 yards. Stafford, though, faded in the second half, passing for only 35 yards.

What’s next: The Lions return home for two games in less than two weeks when they face Tampa Bay next Sunday and then Green Bay on Thanksgiving Day.