Pass or fail: Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell explains failed fourth-and-1 attempt

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — When the Baltimore Ravens needed a fourth-and-1 conversion to clinch their Sunday night win over the Kansas City Chiefs, they kept the ball in the hands of their quarterback and trusted the muscle of their steamrolling offensive line.

When the Detroit Lions needed a similar conversion to stay alive in Monday night's game against the Green Bay Packers, they took to the air with far different results.

Jared Goff threw incomplete on fourth-and-1 from the Green Bay 25-yard line with just under 6 minutes to play in Monday's third quarter, and the Packers followed with a backbreaking 75-yard touchdown drive that iced their 35-17 win over the Lions at Lambeau Field.

Green Bay Packers cornerback Eric Stokes (21) and safety Henry Black (41) celebrate a stop after an incomplete pass by Detroit Lions tight end Darren Fells (80) during fourth quarter of the Green Bay Packers game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021.  -  Photo by Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK
Green Bay Packers cornerback Eric Stokes (21) and safety Henry Black (41) celebrate a stop after an incomplete pass by Detroit Lions tight end Darren Fells (80) during fourth quarter of the Green Bay Packers game against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. - Photo by Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK

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Lions coach Dan Campbell defended the play call after the game, saying the Lions were trying to get the ball in the hands of their best offensive weapon, tight end T.J. Hockenson.

"We were hoping we were going to be able to get a single with T.J.," Campbell said. "And if not, it’s really (Quintez Cephus has) got to win or T.J., and you’re hoping it’s T.J. Well, it didn’t and you’re going out to your X and it didn’t work."

The Lions, trailing 21-17 at the time, lined up in a shotgun formation with Cephus split wide to the left and Hockenson flanked to the right, between receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and Kalif Raymond.

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Hockenson, who was covered by a Packers defender at the line of scrimmage, with a safety shaded his way 15 yards down field, ran a vertical route toward the end zone.

Green Bay Packers outside linebackers coach Mike Smith hugs cornerback Eric Stokes (21) after they stopped the Detroit Lions on fourth down during the third quarter of their game Monday, September 20, 2021 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. The Green Bay Packers beat the Detroit Lions 35-17.
Green Bay Packers outside linebackers coach Mike Smith hugs cornerback Eric Stokes (21) after they stopped the Detroit Lions on fourth down during the third quarter of their game Monday, September 20, 2021 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. The Green Bay Packers beat the Detroit Lions 35-17.

Goff did not appear to look that way once the ball was snapped and instead threw a 7-yard comeback to Cephus, who was matched in single coverage against rookie Packers cornerback Eric Stokes.

Goff threw the pass low and away, to avoid Stokes, but the ball glanced off Cephus' hands and fell harmlessly to the ground.

“I thought I had a good matchup with Q, just didn’t hit it," Goff said.

The Lions (0-2) are now 2 of 7 on fourth down tries this season, and 1-for-3 in non-conventional fourth down situations.

Last week, the Lions lost 1 yard rushing on a fourth-and-2 play from the San Francisco 49ers' 35-yard line in the first quarter, then converted a fourth-and-1 from the San Francisco 17 with a short pass.

Campbell — who said his aggressive decisions depend on myriad factors, including opponent and game situation — acknowledged Monday an argument could be made that he should have run the ball against the Packers.

"But hey, ultimately you’re playing your odds that you’re hoping you’re going to get that to T.J. and it didn’t work out," he said. "Well, you still got a one-on-one and now your guy’s got to win and it didn’t work out. It’s easy to second-guess it, certainly, but it didn’t work out."

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions' Dan Campbell explains failed fourth-and-1 try

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