Dan Campbell's brain freeze cost the Lions, who kicked away an amazing opportunity | Opinion

Minneapolis — Heck yes, they have regrets.

All of them.

Jared Goff blames himself for how the Detroit Lions lost, 28-24, to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

“I wish I would have gone over there and demanded to stay on the field and I guarantee he would have let us, so we all have our regrets in some way, shape or form,” Goff said.

Instead of going for it on fourth-and-4 from the Vikings 36, instead of begging to get another chance, instead of grabbing the win instead of trying not to lose, Lions coach Dan Campbell had a brain freeze and went for the field goal.

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Of course, Austin Seibert missed the kick. Of course, the Vikings scored the go-ahead touchdown after getting tremendous field position.

Lions head coach Dan Campbell looks on during the fourth quarter Sept. 25, 2022 against the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Lions head coach Dan Campbell looks on during the fourth quarter Sept. 25, 2022 against the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.

And if you are second-guessing Campbell, get in line.

Because this game falls on him more than anybody.

“As far as me, I frickin' regret my decision there at the end,” Campbell said. “Should have gone for it on fourth down. I told the team that. I should have gone for it.”

Yes, he was kicking himself for kicking.

Beating me to it.

Campbell was both the reason why the Lions had a chance to win this game — most of his fourth-down gambles paid off and he should get credit for that — but he is also the reason they lost it.

“It felt like, let's kick a field goal,” Campbell said. “We go up by six and force them to score a touchdown for the win. They had no timeouts.”

Of course, that’s crazy talk. That’s how you blow a game.

Vikings safety Josh Metellus intercepts a pass intended for Lions wide receiver DJ Chark during the fourth quarter Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Minneapolis. The Vikings won, 28-24.
Vikings safety Josh Metellus intercepts a pass intended for Lions wide receiver DJ Chark during the fourth quarter Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Minneapolis. The Vikings won, 28-24.

Because this Lions defense should never be trusted to make a stop.

If you can win the game on one play, you want the outcome in Amon-Ra St. Brown’s hands? Or do you want to put in on one of the defensive backs?

That’s why you pour all those resources into the offensive line, even if it is banged up. That’s why you put so much focus on the offense. For this moment.

But Campbell took the ball away from them.

“I wish I would have put it back in their hands,” Campbell said. “I do feel like I cost our team.”

That decision loomed large only because of his earlier decisions.

On their previous drive, the Lions had a 24-21 lead with under 4 minutes to play. On fourth-and-1 from the Minnesota 30, Campbell could have gone for the field goal.

Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye breaks up a pass intended for Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson during the first half on Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Minneapolis.
Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye breaks up a pass intended for Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson during the first half on Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Minneapolis.

The reason to kick it: they could have gone up six points.

The reason behind going for it on fourth down: that six-point lead didn’t exactly seem safe.

So he gambled and went for it, as the Lions went with a handoff to Jamaal Williams. But it went for no gain. But the risk made sense.

“You're going to win some and lose some,” Campbell said. “Hopefully the ones you win, you'll get points out of them.”

There were countless plays that the Lions wasted.

Shoot, they had a 24-14 lead in the third quarter.

And they twice drove inside the Vikings 36, but didn’t come away with points.

Some of that is on Campbell’s decisions.

But the players should not escape blame.

Get a few more first downs, get just one more defensive stop, and this would have played out entirely differently.

The definition of 'close'

“We're close, we're close,” Goff said.

It’s a theme several players repeated.

“We're there,” Goff said. “We just have to get a first down here and execute on one more play here. Throw one more better ball, and it's over. That game should have been over long before they were able to get back in it.”

I’m gonna disagree with him.

Yes, they were close to winning this game.

But they are nowhere near close to having a complete team. They are not close.

They might be exciting, might be fun, but they still have too many flaws.

They took the lead with smoke and mirrors. Going for it on fourth down this much (4 of 6) is not sustainable. It is incredibly unconventional. Good teams don’t do this because they don’t need to.

But Campbell is playing with the hand he is dealt.

The Lions’ lack of talent at some positions leaves them with a razor-thin margin for error. So being risky makes sense.

Simply put, they have to score because their defense can’t stop anybody.

Not even grabbing a jersey would work on Sunday.

The Lions secondary had seven penalties. Amani Oruwariye had five himself.

Seven.

And if there is a reason why they lost this game, it’s because that defense still has so many weak spots.

It got to the point where the Vikings best offense was just throw the ball in the general direction of a wide receiver and wait for the flag.

But there is one more thing to remember. This team has finished in last place in the NFC North for four straight seasons.

The offense has improved. At times, it feels like it can score at will. And that's progress.

But until that defense improves, there will be more days like this.

More gamble-filled dramas.

Sometimes they will win.

But far more than not, they will lose.

Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) runs from Lions safety JuJu Hughes after catching a pass during the second half, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Minneapolis.
Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) runs from Lions safety JuJu Hughes after catching a pass during the second half, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Minneapolis.

Wastin' away again

The thing that makes this loss sting the most is that the Lions wasted an amazing opportunity.

They had a chance to start the season 2-1 and build even more momentum. Ahead of schedule.

They had a chance to steal one on the road.

They had a chance to beat the team that beat Green Bay.

They had a chance to take the excitement level up another notch — and man, I just want games to matter in a few months. That would be progress. This young core needs to taste success. It needs to learn how to start stacking wins.

And when you look at the upcoming schedule — against Seattle and at New England — they had a chance to start this season on an incredible hot streak.

But they kicked one away.

Quite literally.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to www.freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions kicked away great chance on Dan Campbell's brain freeze