Lions coach Dan Campbell might have gained himself a few votes for Coach of the Year for the game management he displayed in the final minutes of Sunday’s thrilling 41–38 walk-off victory over the Chargers.
Campbell made two gutsy decisions on the Lions’ final drive, but they were well calculated based on how the game had gone for nearly four quarters. There wasn’t much defense on display, and the Chargers had just scored touchdowns on five consecutive possessions.
First, Campbell went for it on fourth-and-2 on the Chargers’ 26-yard line with the game tied and 1:47 left in regulation. After Jared Goff gained a new set of downs on a six-yard completion to rookie tight end Sam LaPorta, which forced the Chargers to burn their final timeout, Campbell called for three consecutive kneel downs to kill the clock and ensure a red-hot Justin Herbert wouldn’t get the ball back. This was risky because the Lions passed on gaining yards to give Riley Patterson an easier kick, but he drilled the 41-yard field goal as time expired to give the Lions their seventh win of the season.
Campbell didn’t trust his defense to get a critical stop in crunch time, but sometimes coaches have to be brutally honest with their players. The Lions’ defense probably understood why Campbell went for it, and it helps when the head coach has been right most of the season. The Lions (7–2) went 4-for-5 on fourth downs against the Chargers.
Campbell’s stellar game management stood out for this week’s best coaching decisions, but there were a few other calls that we liked and some that we questioned in Week 10.
Calls we liked
Raiders lean on Jacobs to defeat Jets
Interim coach Antonio Pierce didn’t waste time building an identity for the Raiders. He’s also not afraid to enforce his philosophies when his players and coaches don’t apply them sufficiently enough on the field.
A fired up Pierce said “we need to run the damn ball” during his halftime interview, as the Raiders entered the locker room trailing by three. Raiders interim offensive coordinator Bo Hardegree heard his coach and leaned on running back Josh Jacobs to spearhead a 16–12 victory on Sunday Night Football. Jacobs only had 10 carries for 30 yards at halftime and finished with 27 carries for a season-high 116 yards.
Pierce has remained committed to the rushing attack, and it’s led to back-to-back wins since the team fired Josh McDaniels. It’s no coincidence that Jacobs has rushed for 214 yards in the two victories after a previous season high of 77 before Pierce took over.
Steelers again win the fourth quarter
At some point, we’ve got to stop overanalyzing the Steelers’ offensive struggles and just give them their props for stepping up in the fourth quarter this season.
Credit to coach Mike Tomlin for having his team ready when it matters most in games. Quarterback Kenny Pickett did enough to guide the Steelers to a 23–19 victory over the Packers. It also helped that Pittsburgh’s rushing attack had a productive performance, with Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris combining for 183 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Pittsburgh’s defense shut out the Packers in the fourth quarter and forced Jordan Love into two interceptions on his final two possessions.
The Steelers have an ugly way of winning games (they have been outgained in every game this season), but their execution in the fourth quarter has them at 6–3 and half a game behind the Ravens for first in the AFC North.
Calls we questioned
Panthers take ball from Young
Frank Reich’s lack of faith in his offense took away a valuable learning experience from rookie quarterback Bryce Young, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft.
Reich settled for a 59-yard field-goal attempt instead of allowing Young to continue the final drive on fourth-and-10 from Chicago’s 41-yard line with a three-point deficit and 1:40 left in regulation. Eddy Pineiro missed to seal the Bears’ 16–13 victory.
Young has struggled throughout his rookie season, but he could have gained confidence and experience had he guided the Panthers on a game-winning drive in Chicago. Even if Young came up short on the drive, he would have at least gained a few lessons. But the Panthers (1–8) continue to coddle Young, one of many reasons why they only have one win this season.
Bengals settle for late field goal, open door for Texans
C.J. Stroud’s rookie season has gone a lot better than Young’s because he’s in the MVP conversation. But the Bengals likely didn’t expect the Texans’ rookie sensation to orchestrate a game-winning drive on the road with 1:33 left in regulation.
All Stroud needed was an opportunity, and the Bengals provided it when they settled for a field goal to tie the game 27–27 after Tyler Boyd dropped the potential go-ahead touchdown to make it fourth-and-goal from Houston’s 13-yard line. With the way Stroud has played lately, the Bengals should have known there was too much time left and probably should have gone for the touchdown. Stroud delivered and the Texans (5–4) picked up an impressive 30–27 victory over the Bengals (5–4).
Ravens have another fourth-quarter meltdown
Opposite of the Steelers, the Ravens have struggled in the fourth quarter this season, which is surprising for a team with a 7–3 record.
The Ravens blew a 14-point lead in the final 12 minutes of regulation during Sunday’s loss against the Browns. They also blew fourth-quarters leads in the losses to the Colts and Steelers earlier this season.
It’s a bit concerning that John Harbaugh’s team has failed to execute in crunch time. The Ravens have dominated in most of their wins and haven’t trailed much throughout the season. Perhaps it would do them some good playing in a game they needed to rally for a win before the playoffs arrive.