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Detroit coach Dan Campbell took fourth-down aggressiveness to a new level last week.
In an era when more coaches are embracing analytics, Campbell helped deliver the Lions a win over the Los Angeles Chargers thanks in part to some bold decisions that even the usually aggressive computer models deemed risky.
The biggest one came when the Lions faced a fourth-and-2 from the Chargers 26 with 1:47 remaining in a tie game. Instead of opting for the field goal that would have given Detroit the lead but allowed Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert plenty of time to drive for a tying or go-ahead score, Campbell went for it and was rewarded when Jared Goff completed a 6-yard pass to Sam LaPorta.
Detroit ran down the clock and won the game on a field goal on the final play.
The Lions were the fourth team ever to bypass a field goal in a tie game from inside the 30 in the final two minutes of regulation, according to Sportradar records that go back to 2000. Detroit was the first to do it when needing more than 1 yard for a first down.
The entire game was a clinic in fourth-down aggressiveness, with Campbell and Chargers coach Brandon Staley going for it frequently to great success.
The Lions converted 4 of 5 fourth-down tries, with the Chargers going 3 for 3 — not counting another fourth-down conversion that came on a penalty — to tie for the second-most converted fourth downs in a game since at least 1991. Only a New England-Buffalo game in 2021 had more successful fourth-down tries with eight.
The Chargers got three of their five touchdowns on fourth down, becoming the first team to do that in a regular-season game since at least 1991. Pittsburgh did it in a divisional round loss to Jacksonville following the 2017 season.
In all, there have been 416 fourth-down tries this season — seven off the record-setting pace through 10 weeks set in 2021. Teams have converted 51.2% of those attempts with more than half of the drives — 103 out of 201 — that have a successful fourth-down try ending in touchdowns.
C.J. Stroud might have been the No. 2 pick in the draft by Houston, but he ranks No. 1 through 10 weeks among all quarterbacks with 291.8 yards passing per game.
That mark would be the highest ever for a rookie, topping the 289.1 for Herbert in 2020. If it holds, Stroud could become the first rookie quarterback since before World War II to lead the league in yards passing per game.
According to the NFL, the only rookies to lead in yards passing per game when playing at least 75% of the games were Davey O’Brien, who averaged 120.4 yards in 1939, and Sammy Baugh, who averaged 102.5 yards in 1937.
If Stroud keeps up his recent level of play, he also could be in the mix to join Jim Brown as the only rookies to win MVP. Brown did it in 1957 for Cleveland.
The Dallas Cowboys will be sad to be done with the playing the New York Giants this season.
The Cowboys swept their longtime NFC East rivals, winning 40-0 in the opener and 49-17 on Sunday. This was the seventh time in the Super Bowl era that a team outscored an opponent by at least 72 points in a season. New England was the last to do it, in 2007 when the Patriots outscored Buffalo by 77 points.
Dallas outgained New York by 468 yards in the game on Sunday for the biggest differential since Nov. 4, 1979, when the Rams outgained Seattle by 482 yards.
The win over the Giants extended impressive streaks for Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott and receiver CeeDee Lamb.
Prescott had his third straight game with at least 300 yards passing and three TD passes. Only Steve Young (five straight in 1998), Patrick Mahomes (four straight in 2018) and Peyton Manning (four straight in 2012) have had longer streaks in a season.
Lamb became the sixth player since the merger with three straight games with at least 150 yards receiving. He joined Josh Gordon (2013), Isaac Bruce (1995), Andre Rison (1990), James Lofton (1984) and Roy Green (1984) as the only players to do it. He can become the first to do it four straight when Dallas faces Carolina this week.
Pittsburgh keeps finding ways to win on the scoreboard even if it might get outplayed on the field.
The Steelers became the 22nd team since 1960 to get outgained in each of their first nine games of the season, but they still have managed to post a 6-3 record.
No team ever has had a winning record this deep into a season when getting outgained every game. The 21 teams that previously got outgained in the first nine games since 1960 had a collective record of 33-152-4 for a .185 winning percentage.
Coach Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots are in uncharted territory for his successful tenure that has delivered six Super Bowl titles since he arrived in 2000.
New England is in sole possession of last place in the AFC with a 2-8 record that is the worst for the franchise since Belichick’s first season. With one more loss the Patriots will have back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1992-93.
Belichick now has 173 losses in the regular season and playoffs — five shy of the most ever held by Tom Landry. The latest was a 10-6 defeat to Indianapolis in Germany, ending a 94-game winning streak for New England in the regular season and playoffs when allowing 10 points or fewer.
The last loss came on Sept. 23, 2001, when the Jets beat New England 10-3. Drew Bledsoe got hurt late in that game, clearing the way for Tom Brady to become quarterback and launch the New England dynasty.
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