The Detroit Lions have taken another step in a well beaten path that leaves them tantalizingly close to getting their first win and agonizingly subject to questions about their strategy.
They got both again Sunday in a 24-14 loss to the Chicago Bears.
Although they trailed the entire game after the Bears scored a touchdown on the first possession of the game, the Lions had enough chances on offense to win – even after the Bears stretched their lead to 21-0 on their first possession of the second half.
The strategy in question for the Lions were the two decisions by head coach Dan Campbell to pass up short-range field goals and go for it on fourth down. Both failed.
This week's Monday Countdown looks at those two possessions and how they are a part of issues facing the Lions' offense as a whole.
There's also a look at big plays that continue to hurt the defense, takeaways on offense, defense and special teams, who's trending and the bottom line.
We start with questions on strategy:
1. Fourth and go:
The Bears had scored on their first two possessions to take a 14-0 lead when Campbell passed up a field-goal attempt on fourth and goal at the Bears' five—yard line.
Quarterback Jared Goff's pass meant for running back D’Andre Swift in the back of the end zone was tipped.
There were still nine minutes left in the first half, and the Bears had not stopped the Lions on their first two possessions.
The Lions had first and goal at the Bears' eight on their first possession but fumbled the ball away when center Frank Ragnow snapped the ball before Goff was ready.
The Bears recovered, ending the threat – and drove 89 yards to their second TD to take a 14-0 lead on the first play of the second half.
The circumstances were different the second time the Lions went for it on fourth and one.
The Lions had scored touchdowns on consecutive possessions and were driving for a third with the Bears holding a 24-14 lead.
It was fourth and one at the Bears' eight-yard line, with 4:19 left.
Campbell passed up a field goal that would have made it 24-17 – a one-score difference. Goff's pass meant for rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra. St. Brown was incomplete. The Bears ran out the clock, clinching the win.
Campbell did not express regret over his decisions in is postgame press conference. His only regret was not having the offense huddle for the play.
"Fourth and a little bit less than a yard," he said. "How do you know you're going to get back to fourth and a little less than a yard (on the next possession)? We took those odds.
"We probably should have given him a better play. That my fault. Yeah, we talked about it. It was just, 'let's let it ride.'
"It didn't work out."
2. The offense:
It wasn't the main culprit Sunday, but it's had a glaring lack of consistency in all four games. The Lions score in streaks – and they sit in neutral for extended periods.
They weren't exactly in neutral Sunday. They got to the red zone five times, starting with their first three possessions. But they didn't score on any of them.
There is no payoff for getting close.
3. Defense, big plays:
The Bears didn't ask rookie quarterback Justin Fields to carry the offense on his back in his second pro start. He threw only 16 passes, completing 11 for an average of 12.3 yards per attempt.
Five of his completions were for 21 yards or longer, with a high of 64 yards.
The troubling part, Campbell said, is some players are repeating the same mistakes.
- Good work – again – by running back Jamaal Williams to get 66 yards on 17 carries. But surprising to see Swift held to 16 yards on eight carries.
- Goff was often under duress, with four sacks and seven hits, but still managed to pass for 299 yards. He spread the ball around to seven receivers. Four had a catch of at least 22 yards.
- In all four games, the offense has gone at least two quarters without scoring a point.
5. Takeaways, defense:
- After sacking Ravens QB Lamar Jackson four times, the Lions got to Fields once. And he only ran three times. It was a comfortable day for him, just the opposite of what the Lions wanted.
- The Lions couldn't keep the Bears from controlling the game with their running attack. The Bears rushed for 188 yards and kept the chains moving with 13 rushing first downs – despite converting only once on eight third-down attempts.
- Outside linebacker Charles Harris continued to make an impact with a sack for a third straight game and two quarterback hits.
6. Special teams takeaways:
- Punter Jack Fox had a gross average of 55.3 yards on three punts and a net of 53.3. The Bears' only punt return was six yards.
- The Lions were aggressive on kickoff returns They returned four of the Bears' five kickoffs but didn't break anything longer than 26 yards.
- Up: Wide receiver Kalif Raymond: On six targets he had three catches for 46 yards and both of the Lions TDs. That came after six catches on 10 targets in the previous game.
- Down: Fourth down. The Lions went for it five times and were successful just once.
- Even: Williams. Steady every week – 66 yards on 14 carries vs. the Bears.
8. Bottom line: There has been something good about the Lions every week, but they're still searching for their first win of the season. And they're 0-2 in the NFC North, with a road game against the Vikings next on the schedule.