Lions’ Jim Schwartz won’t back down from fake FG call, despite criticism

DETROIT — After a day of reflection and nonstop scrutiny, Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz wasn’t backing down from his decision to try a fake field goal early in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 37-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“We got the look that we wanted. We thought it was there,” Schwartz said. “We have a chance right there to really put a dagger in that game and go up 11. We didn’t get it done.”

Schwartz called for a fake field goal on fourth-and-5 from the Steelers’ 10-yard line with 12:56 to play and the Lions clinging to a 27-23 lead.

Holder Sam Martin tried to sneak through an opening on the left side of the Steelers’ unbalanced line, but nose tackle Steve McLendon diagnosed the play perfectly, shed a block from long snapper Don Muhlbach and stopped Martin for a 3-yard gain.

The Steelers recovered a fumble at the end of the play, marched 97 yards for the go-ahead touchdown on the ensuing drive and never trailed again.

Schwartz said the Lions executed the fake poorly but vowed to continue being aggressive when opportunities present.

“If we think there’s something there special-teams-wise next week, I’m not going to be afraid to call it,” he said. “If you’ve got quarterbacks that are afraid to throw interceptions, you’re never going to complete any passes. If you have defensive backs that are afraid to give up passes, you’ll probably never make an interception. And I think the same thing goes for coaching. If you’re afraid about what might happen you’re never going to make a call. And we were confident in our call. It didn’t work.”

While some players were surprised by Schwartz’s decision to pass up sure points and go for the fake, Martin, kicker David Akers and others on the field-goal unit said the play would have been converted if it was executed properly.

The Steelers used a similar unbalanced line on each of the Lions’ first two field-goal attempts, with four players on one side of Muhlbach, six on the other and a safety that motioned to the heavy side of the field.

Martin took the snap, sprang to his feet and followed a lead block from pulling guard Larry Warford through the left side of the Steelers’ defensive line.

Warford cleaned out a free defender, cornerback William Gay, who dropped into a safety position from his spot as an edge rusher. But the 320-pound McLendon came free as Martin weaved behind the line of scrimmage and jarred the ball loose with an assist from defensive end Cameron Heyward.

“We got the picture that we wanted,” Martin said after the game. “The guy who made the play made a great play. It was a great play on him.”

Though Sunday marked the first time the Lions have run a fake field goal during Schwartz’s tenure as coach, Akers said they have had fakes prepared before but either “didn’t see quite what we wanted to see or the coaches just decide not to” run it.

Schwartz wouldn’t say how often he has considered running fakes in the past, but he bristled at the notion that he’s a conservative coach.

“If we’re successful in that situation and we go up 11 right there, I know what you guys would write,” he said. “You guys would write, ‘It’s a different attitude. Lions, they’re going for the win. They’re not trying to just settle for field goals. This is a big day.’

“And regardless of what happened in the play, the mentality was still the same. We were aggressively trying to take what the defense gave us. And we thought that we had that play. We didn’t execute it great, but doesn’t change that.”

As for pundits who questioned the wisdom of the play, Schwartz said he doesn’t pay much attention to voices outside the Lions’ locker room.

“The only way to be right is to win,” Schwartz said. “When you win, you’re always right.”

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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