KEY QUESTIONS: Where is the line between being too conservative or aggressive in play calling?

Posted Nov 18, 2013

Tim Twentyman covers key points from head coach Jim Schwartz's press conference, including what Schwartz had to say about the failed fake field goal and Calvin Johnson not catching a pass in second half

Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz saw something he liked and thought his special teams could exploit it.

Jim SchwartzHead Coach Jim Schwartz (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

There’s nothing about the fake field goal call in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss in Pittsburgh he regretted 24 hours later, other than the execution of it.

The play failed when punter Sam Martin was tackled and then fumbled before reaching the first down on foruth-and-5 from the Pittsburgh 10.

"We really don’t care what anybody else’s feeling is," Schwartz said when asked about the call again during his Monday press conference. "We got the look that we wanted. We thought it was there. We didn’t execute it great.

"We have a chance right there to really put a dagger in that game and go up 11. We didn’t get it done. We still had a chance to get them stopped, and even if we gave up a drive, we had confidence in our offense being able to come back and score. We didn’t do any of those things.

What is the line between aggressive and conservative play calling, if there is one?

There are times this season when Schwartz has been criticized for being too conservative at the end of halves.

He’s been criticized over the last 24 hours for a call most deem too aggressive in this situation.

It seems to be a fine line there with the fans.

"Hey, if it were successful in that situation and we go up 11 right there, I know what you would write," Schwartz told the media. "You would write, ‘It’s a different attitude. Lions, they’re going for the win! They’re not trying to just settle for field goals. This is a big day.’

"Regardless of what happened in the play, the mentality was still the same. We were aggressively trying to take what the defense gave us."

Schwartz said he would always trust his game plan and the ability of his players to execute it in those situations.

"You go back to the Redskins game, certainly wasn’t a conservative play going for it on fourth-and-1 when we were up three points," he said. "We had potential to fail there and potential to give up a touchdown and lose the game. We converted it, went a scored a touchdown to put us up 10 and pretty much win the game in that situation.

"Matt Stafford a couple of weeks ago (against Dallas) wasn’t exactly a conservative situation by sticking the ball over the goal when we were going to clock it. If he didn’t make that, we had potential to lose the game right there.

"You have to trust your team. You have to trust your ability as a player. You have to trust your game plan as a coach and go out. We’re not aggressive just to be aggressive or conservative for the sake of being conservative. It’s all within the game plan."

Why was Calvin Johnson not used as much in the second half after recording a franchise-record 179 receiving yards in the first half?

Johnson was targeted 10 times in the first half and caught six of those passes for 179 yards and two scores. His targets dropped to just three in the second half and didn’t record a catch.

"We weren’t going away from him," Schwartz said. "We wanted to keep throwing. We threw the ball to him in two critical situations. One was a third-and-goal and they doubled him as we expected. We still threw the ball to him. He wasn’t able to get it down.

"And another one was on the ball we got intercepted late in the game, which was a repeat of the play that we had scored to him earlier in the game.

"We didn’t have a lot of plays on offense through that third quarter. They used up about eight minutes of the fourth quarter on that one drive. We even sort of forced the ball to him a couple times and we ended up with one incompletion and then one play that we got intercepted when we were only down three points."

The offense as a whole struggled mightily in the second half. What was the difference between the first and second halves?

The unit gained 379 yards in the first half to just 72 in the second half.

Stafford 16-of-30 passing for 327 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in the first half. He went 3-of-16 passing for 35 yards with no touchdowns and an interception in the second half.

Schwartz summarized the main problems pretty well in the press conference.

"We didn’t protect as well as we have been," he said. "The coverage they were playing, you weren’t going to get quick routes. You had to push the ball a little deeper down the field and our clock wasn’t the same.

"We had probably our worst run efficiency game of the year. We were lowest completion percentage. We were minus two in turnovers when we had opportunities on defense to get a couple.

"We were able to get a couple stops defensively, get the ball back, but we couldn’t really get anything going in the second half. I think that was obviously a key to that game. We still had confidence in our ability to move it, we just didn’t get it done."