OAKLAND – Burning Questions: An early passing blitz by the Detroit Lions and a late rally for a tie that fell short in a 34-27 loss to the Oakland Raiders in a game when both teams took chances on fourth downs and used questionable strategy.
Question: The Lions had fourth and goal at the Raiders’ one-yard line with eight seconds left on their final play, but quarterback Matthew Stafford’s pass in the end zone meant for backup tight end Logan Thomas was broken up near the back of the end zone.
Right play for the Lions in that situation?
Answer: It was a chancy call at best, and the Lions did not go down with their best. They’d gotten big plays all game from wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr., but on that play decided to go with a tight run formation and use a play-action fake.
It didn’t work. The Raiders had the play covered.
Another option would have been to spread it out and use four receivers. It’s a decision that certainly can be questioned, and for one reason: It didn’t work. However, the ball was spread around throughout the game.
The Lions had 26 first downs and 473 yards, but they couldn’t get the yard they needed to tie the game.
View photos from the Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders Week 9 game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019 in Oakland, Calif.
Q. What’s the bottom line on the game that left the Lions with a 3-4-1 record?
A. They were close – again. And close isn’t good enough. Their .500 record is evidence that they have not been good enough in the first half of the season. They took chances throughout the game and played like a desperate team at times.
In the end, they fell short.
Q. Message, 4th and go: On fourth and goal at two on the Lions’ first possession, head coach Matt Patricia passed up going for a field goal and went for the touchdown. Stafford hit Jones for the touchdown.
What was the message?
A. My take: The Raiders scored on their first possession for a 7-0 lead, and it looked like one of those games where the teams would trade yards and points. The way the Raiders tore through the Lions’ offense with their running game in their first possession to take the lead, the Lions had to keep up with touchdowns, not field goals.
Q. But is it right to take that chance that early?
A. Do what you have to do, when you have to do it. It could change later, but at the moment, the Lions needed a touchdown – and they got it on Stafford’s pass to Jones. It’s what I would have done.
Q. Second quarter, 73-93: What the heck does that mean?
A. On a second-quarter possession, the Lions gained 93 yards on an official 73-yard drive. It started at their 27-yard line and ended in the end zone on Golladay's 59-yard catch and run of a pass from Stafford.
Q. Extra 20: Where did the extra 20 yards come from?
A. The Lions had two 10-yard penalties in the possession. Stafford made up both of them with pass completions. And made it look easy, first on a pass to Jones, then on the TD pass to Golladay. Both were on first and 20.
Q. Fourth and go, Raiders: They passed up going for a field goal in the second quarter when they had fourth and three at the Lions’ 35. What was the message from Raiders head coach Jon Gruden?
A. Pretty much the same message that Patricia sent early. The teams were exchanging yards and points, and the Lions had a 14-10 lead. He wanted to keep pace in a scoring contest. Derek Carr’s pass was incomplete, and the Lions kept the lead.
Q. Raiders driving, TO Lions: Patricia called time late in the first half when the Raiders had first and goal and driving for their third TD of the half. Why call time?
A. Patricia was playing the percentages, as he often does. It was not a concession – although the Raiders did score on the next play – a three-yard run by Josh Jacobs for a 17-14 Raiders lead with 1:12 left.
The Raiders also were receiving the second-half kickoff. Calling time gave the Lions one more possession. They got to midfield before the possession ended on a third-down sack.
Q. Fourth and fake, Raiders: Did the Lions’ dodge a bullet when they got fooled on a fake punt by Oakland on the first possession of the third quarter?
A. Absolutely. Derek Carrier ran 27 yards for a first down, and there was nothing exotic about the fake punt. He was one of the up backs, and he ran for 27 yards around his left end for a first down.
The Raiders stalled out and got nothing out of the opportunity when Daniel Carlson missed a field-goal attempt.
The Lions took over and drove to a field goal that made it 17-17.
That’s the way the third quarter ended – but with the Raiders threatening with third and goal at the three.
The threat turned into a TD – on Foster Moreau’s catch for a 24-17 lead.
Q. Run to nowhere: After the field goal, the Lions called two straight running plays by Ty Johnson – for a two-yard loss and a two-yard gain. Stafford had to get rid of the ball on third down under heavy pressure.
Any reason to run twice in a row there?
A. Not what I would have done. Period. But running the ball is part of Bevell’s schemes, and the Lions used a mix of runs in their game-tying drive later in the fourth quarter that ended in a 26-yard TD pass to J.D. McKissic.
Like so many other times this season, it didn’t hold up.