Message to Marine: No guts, no glory

By Os Davis  |   Monday, December 18, 2006  |  Comments( 0 )

Detroit Lions
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Maybe I just play too much "Madden." Or maybe I've been brainwashed by this year's hip football writers rhetoric, i.e. "go for it on fourth down more often!" It could be me, I'll admit it...

But seriously, why in the name of Potsy Clark has no one informed Rod Marinelli that his fourth-down play selection needs work? How can a team spending as much time chasing the opponent as the Lions are doing in 2006 not know when to take advantage of a team-rallying fourth and short situation? Not only has Detroit taken 16 fourth-down changes, the team has converted a measly six for a 37.5 percentage, 25th best in the league.

Examining those 16 plays a bit closer is even more disturbing. Nine times the Lions have gone for it in the fourth quarter, usually in blowout situations. Of these nine, three were converted for the first down, three were interceptions, one resulted in a sack, and five represented the last play of games which Detroit had little chance of winning.

The precedent for Marinelli's fourth-down "strategy" was first set in Week 1 when, in the fourth quarter, tied 6-6 with the Seattle Seahawks, Marinelli eschewed a 54-yard field goal attempt by Jason Hanson and had the Motor City Kitties punt. "We were playing dominating defense at that point."

At the time it seemed like a good idea, but this defense hasn't been anywhere near dominant again until Sunday against the shaky-at-best Green Bay Packers.

After a near-perfect punt that had the Pack backed up to their own 1-yard line, Brett Favre's pass bounced off Ahman Green's hands for the serendipitous interception. After a bizarre series of play calls on the previous possession (pass, pass, pass, pass) and generally poor fourth-quarter performances all year, Marinelli appeared to smarten up a bit and called for a series of running plays to chip away at the red zone.

And then, the moment of truth. Facing fourth-and-3 at the Green Bay 5, down 10-6, needing a touchdown to take the lead, Marinelli called for ... a field goal?

(Pause for open note to the Lions coach: Um, mister Marine Corps guy, sir, whatever happened to "No guts, no glory?")

Now, look, I'm no "Go For It" Nazi, but several facts scream out at this point. The Lions need a touchdown for the lead. Kevin Jones is out and Roy Williams had been ineffective in this game, denying Detroit of any serious playmaking ability. The Lions have been miserable in the two-minute drill this season. Should Detroit miss converting the fourth, odds say the Packers claustrophobically start inside the 5-yard line. Favre was having a brutal game, throwing three interceptions.

Instead, though, Marinelli chose not to give his guys the psychological boost, chose to take the ultimately meaningless three points in a nearly utterly meaningless game, chose the easy way out.

Hanson's field goal made it 10-9. Packers ball.

The Lions 'D,' quickly eroding through injury, tiredly allowed a 78-yard, nearly seven-minute drive. The Lions have now been outscored 99-60 in the fourth quarter since Marinelli's fateful decision in Seattle.

And rather than taking a game they should have won (or perhaps even could have shown signs of life in), the Lions lost again.

No guts, no glory.


Fire Millen.

Semper fidelis -- even to those sad sacks known as the Detroit Lions -- at
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About Os Davis

Os Davis has taken a twisted route to get to in his nearly 17 years in professional writing, working in any number of capacities in the sportswriting, news reporting and film criticism worlds. In print media, Os has served as editor at a few publications, including Albuquerque's...
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