INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Dan Campbell wanted to make sure his team had the ball until the last second, even if it meant passing up a chance to take the lead.
With 1:47 remaining and the score tied at 38-all against the Chargers on Sunday, the Detroit Lions coach went for it on fourth-and-2 from the Los Angeles 26-yard line. A field goal would have given Justin Herbert and the Chargers a chance to win or send the game to overtime.
Jared Goff made the move pay off with a 6-yard completion to rookie tight end Sam LaPorta. Goff then kneeled down three times, Riley Patterson kicked a 41-yard field goal as time expired, and the Lions prevailed in a 41-38 shootout over the Chargers.
Goff appreciates playing for a coach who’s willing to make such gutsy calls.
“I’m sure in his head he didn’t want to give Justin the ball back with a minute and a half,” said Goff, who threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns. “It’s a lot of fun when he puts the ball in our hands to make a play.”
In a matchup between two of the league’s most aggressive coaches, Campbell and the Lions were 4 of 5 on fourth-down conversions while the Chargers converted all three.
“One of those things we haven’t done a lot of is win the close shootouts. Every time you win and get it done you learn something from it,” Campbell said. “The offense really showed up today big time.”
The Chargers (4-5) tied it at 38-all with 3:34 remaining when Herbert threw his fourth touchdown pass of the day, a 38-yarder to Keenan Allen on fourth-and-1.
Goff responded by leading the Lions (7-2) on a nine-play, 53-yard drive, culminating in Patterson’s kick.
Chargers coach Brandon Staley credited Goff with beating his defense on the fourth-down play.
“I felt like the first part of the play, we had defended, and then he was just able to kind of progress and he kind of optioned away from K9 (linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr.),” Staley said.
Los Angeles scored touchdowns on its final five drives, but even that wasn’t enough.
“I thought early on it was gonna be a shootout, and that’s what it ended up being, a shootout. You got two great offenses. No matter how good a defense is, it’s hard to stop a great offense,” said Chargers receiver Keenan Allen, who had 11 catches for 175 yards and two touchdowns.
Goff, playing in SoFi Stadium for the second time since being traded by the Rams to the Lions in 2021, was 23 of 33.
David Montgomery had 116 yards on 12 carries, including a 75-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Jahmyr Gibbs added 77 yards and two touchdowns for the NFC North-leading Lions.
Amon-Ra St. Brown had a career-high 156 receiving yards on eight catches, including a 20-yard TD to put the Lions ahead 31-24 in the third quarter. The Anaheim Hills native and former Southern California standout is the first Detroit receiver to have six 100-yard games in a seven-game span since Calvin Johnson in 2012.
The Chargers scored at least 30 points and lost for the second time this season. They fell 36-34 to Miami in their opener.
“There have been games where we haven’t put up enough points and there were big games where we put up some points. It didn’t happen today,” said Herbert, who completed 27 of 40 passes for 323 yards with the four touchdowns and an interception.
A pair of 1-yard TD runs by Gibbs put the Lions up 17-3 midway through the second quarter. His first score was set up by a 35-yard scamper where he went off right end and then made a nice cut before being tackled just short of the end zone.
The Chargers got within 24-17 on Austin Ekeler’s 2-yard carry with 23 seconds remaining in the first half. After forcing Detroit to punt on the opening series of the second half, Los Angeles tied it when Herbert threw an 18-yard bullet to Jalen Guyton.
After that, the game settled into a pattern of Detroit taking the lead and LA rallying to tie it.
Following St. Brown’s score, Chargers first-round pick Quentin Johnston scored his first touchdown on a 1-yard reception on fourth-and-goal with 11:30 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Four minutes later, the Lions’ Brock Wright was wide open down the middle on a 25-yard TD reception.
One play after Allen’s 29-yard touchdown in the second quarter, Montgomery took a handoff from Goff, went up the middle, caused three Chargers defenders to miss at the Detroit 45, and then made a cut and found a lane up the left sideline to put Detroit ahead 24-10. There was a replay review to determine if Montgomery stepped out at the LA 16, but the play was upheld.
“It was close. I started praying again. Well, luckily it worked out,” Montgomery said.
It was the Lions’ longest touchdown run since Jahvid Best went 88 yards in 2011. Montgomery is also the first Detroit player to have two rushing TDs of at least 40 yards since Barry Sanders in 1998.
Lions: WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, acquired in a trade with Cleveland on Oct. 31, was inactive.
Chargers: LB Chris Rumph II injured his foot during pregame warm-ups and did not play. … LB Kenneth Murray Jr. (shoulder) and TE Gerald Everett (back) were injured during the third quarter.
Lions: Host Chicago next Sunday.
Chargers: At Green Bay next Sunday.