After a furious rally, the final and deciding play of the game occurred on the Titans' own seven-yard line. The Lions were faced with a fourth-and-one situation and elected to keep their offense on the field.
The Lions needed three points to tie and seven to win. So it appeared as if head coach Jim Schwartz made a gutsy call.
Schwartz was attempting to gain the first down and – with the Lions offense on the door step – win the game with a touchdown.
The ball was snapped, quarterback Shaun Hill attempted to push forward but ultimately was driven back.
The game was over.
Schwartz termed the play a "miscommunication" after the game and clarified that the Lions intended to draw the Titans offside and planned on calling a time out and kicking a field goal had they failed to do so. Back-up Shaun Hill blamed himself, and earlier this week, center Dominic Raiola said he misread Hill's lips, hence the botched snap.
As it turns out, the fourth-down attempt was more blunder than bravery.
To me, the problem isn't the fact that they snapped the ball and went for the conversion; rather it's the fact that a quarterback sneak wasn't the plan all along.
The Lions defense was struggling. They had given up 437 yards to the Titans and had only forced one punt – which occurred back in the second quarter – all game. Of the Titans 11 offensive possessions, the Lions forced a turnover or punt on only three, meaning the Titans either scored or attempted a field goal on over 72 percent of their drives.
If the Lions elect to kick a field goal, they must put their defense back on the field in a sudden-death situation. There would be no room for error, with even a field goal surrendered resulting in a loss.
According to research from thebiglead.com, NFL teams had converted at least 65 percent of all fourth-and-one scenarios between 2007 and 2010. That number dropped to 55% in 2011 but that was due to a sharp decline in success with running back dives.
Quarterback sneaks on fourth-and-one continued to be effective in 2011, with a success rate of over 80 percent.
The math makes it seem obvious: go for the quarterback sneak.
However, the coaching staff, quarterback and offensive line were not on the same page and when watching the fourth-down attempt it is all painfully obvious.
Had the Lions decided to go for it – and assuming that was clearly understood amongst the entire offense – the execution of the play would have had a significantly higher success rate.
The Lions should have attempted a quarterback sneak. The problem is – even though the play happened - that's not what they decided to do.