The Lions and Steelers both played hot potato with the idea of a win, with each team earning three possessions in overtime, coming away with zero points. The sloppy, wet battle at Heinz Field ultimately ended in a 16-16 draw, sparing Detroit from their ninth straight loss.
For the first time all year, Dan Campbell had the ability to talk to his quarterback during the game, as he was the one sending in the plays to Jared Goff. It wasn’t clear if Anthony Lynn was the one picking the plays, but based on the Lions’ usage of 13 personnel, with Matt Nelson playing as that third tight end, it seemed that Campbell’s influence was on display. Prior to this game, the Lions had run seven plays using 13 personnel.
With Jamaal Williams out for the day, the Lions used a running back by committee approach, spreading the ball between D’Andre Swift, Jermar Jefferson (prior to his injury), and Godwin Igwebuike. It was a total success. The Lions recorded their highest rushing yards total of the season, 229 yards.
The running game was the only bright side of the offense as Goff was battling a lower back/hip injury. The passing game was non-existent after Goff was not able to hit Kalif Raymond on a deep shot in which Raymond had a few steps on Joe Haden.
After that deep shot, the Lions only attempted screen passes and throws to the flat. Goff finished the day with 11 passing attempts before the Lions’ final drive of regular time. The passing game came alive during that final drive and through overtime, even though it wasn’t that efficient. Goff finished the day 14/25 for 112 yards, no interceptions or touchdowns.
The Steelers started to expect the run in the fourth quarter, bringing more players around the line of scrimmage (filling that box), completely neutralizing the run game of the Lions. Without Matt Nelson in the game (left the game with an ankle injury), the Lions had to abandon their newly minted 13 personnel grouping.
The Steelers’ passing game was also limited as they were led by backup Mason Rudolph. Rudolph had accuracy struggles in the rain and the Steelers, like the Lions, elected to lean on Najee Harris and the run game.
Rudolph wasn’t able to convert on a few third-down completions to open receivers. Either the ball was high and outside or the ball was dropped. This allowed the Lions to stay in the game, and to possess the ball with under two minutes remaining, which ultimately didn’t bite them in the behind.
This was a game riddled with injuries, seeing the following players exit the game: TJ Watt, Trai Turner, Kevin Dotson, Joe Haden, Tracy Walker, Trey Flowers, Jerry Jacobs, Matt Nelson, Jermar Jefferson.
Both teams shied away from stealing a victory before regular time expired, allowing the game to slip into overtime.
Overtime only accelerated the weirdness in the game, with Jared Goff opening up the extra quarter with a 30-yard pass and catch to an uncovered Amon-Ra St.Brown. That drive ended up stalling, and the Lions had to punt. A few plays later Rudolph hit Johnson near the sideline who beat Gilbert on the route and started running down the field. Gilbert chased him down and forced a fumble, recovered by Amani Oruwariye.
Two plays later, Goff has a ball intercepted. Called back for a defensive holding. The Lions dip and dunk their way into field goal range and Ryan Santoso misses the 48-yard would-be game-winning touchdown. A high snap (an issue that was happening all game) finally sailed over Rudolph’s head, setting up a 3rd and 26. Giving the Lions another chance to put the game away, ultimately squandered.
The Steelers seemed to be headed towards a game-winning field goal attempt as time was expiring in the overtime quarter. Flowers (who came back from injury) had other plans, who recovered the Pat Freiermuth fumble on the edge of field goal range, forced by Will Harris.
Frankly, this was a tough game to watch. As the rain picked up in the second half so did the sloppiness. The rushing game experienced a huge boost from Taylor Decker back in the lineup and the use of 13 personnel, but it wasn’t good enough to steal a victory today. A tie will have to do.
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