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NOTEBOOK: Caldwell says slow starts 'all coaching'

Posted Dec 3, 2017

Tim Twentyman covers all the news from the Lions' 44-20 loss to the Ravens including slow starts, Diggs at safety and more.

BALTIMORE – The Detroit Lions had 10 days to prepare for Sunday’s game in Baltimore after playing on Thanksgiving vs. Minnesota.

Baltimore, on the other hand, was coming off a Monday Night Football game, which means they were on a short week.

Yet it was the Ravens who came out looking like the more prepared football team as they sprinted off to a 20-0 first-half lead, and ran away from Detroit late for the 44-20 win that keeps them in the AFC playoffs at 7-5.

The loss drops the Lions to 6-6 on the year, backing them into a situation where they’ll likely have to win the rest of their remaining four contests to get into the NFC playoff conversation.

“Yeah, wasn’t pretty,” Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said afterward of his team’s performance. “I’ll just tell you I didn’t do a very good job, and we just didn’t do a good job of starting, missed field goals, a couple drops here, miscues in scoring territory. 

“Fought our way back in it in the third quarter. It was a pretty hot quarter for us. I think on defense we were stopping people. Offense we were moving the ball. Get within one score and then the bottom falls out again, same thing. I’ve just got to do a better job. It’s not good enough.”

Caldwell said the blame for Detroit’s terrible starts the last month, and the predicament it’s now put them in, is all on him.

“It’s all coaching,” he said. “You’ve never heard me say anything differently. I’ll tell you the exact same thing today, tomorrow. We’ve got to do better.”

It’s Caldwell’s job to figure out what’s been ailing the Lions early in games and get it corrected. There is no more room for error moving forward, so it has to be fixed starting next week in Tampa Bay.

“This is something I haven’t felt for this team since I’ve been here,” wide receiver Golden Tate said after the loss. “Over the years I’ve been here we’ve done well late in the season. We had been playing with a lot of confidence and finding ways to get wins, and just don’t have that feeling this year and it’s clearly not happening for us right now.

“We’ve got to just keep working, keep grinding, but it sucks.”

PRATER MISSES

Matt Prater has been just about as automatic as they come kicking the football for the Lions this season.

The veteran kicker entered Sunday’s game 24-of-27 kicking field goals, and was perfect (17 for 17) inside 50 yards.

So, it was a little surprising to see Prater miss from 43-yards in the second quarter vs. Baltimore, and then later miss an extra point attempt. Both missed left.

“Typically, when I do miss, I usually push the ball more then I pull it, so I just kind of wrapped the ball and it went left,” Prater said after the game. “And like I said, watch the film and learn from the mistakes and hopefully it won’t repeat itself.”

DIGGS AT SAFETY

When starting strong safety Tavon Wilson was put on IR this week, a popular name to replace him in the starting lineup was Miles Killebrew. At least that’s what the Lions did earlier this year when Wilson missed a start.

But the Lions threw a bit of a curveball at Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ offense by putting nickel cornerback Quandre Diggs at safety to start the game.

Diggs played safety a little bit in the preseason, but hasn’t played it in the regular season before Sunday. He played the majority of the game there, with Killebrew working in some.

The film review Monday will ultimately dictate how Diggs fared, but he finished the game on the stat sheet with five tackles and one pass defended.

A good nickel quarterback is instinctive and tough against the run, and almost plays like an extra linebacker that can run. That’s really what the strong safety role comprises of.

“He’s smart,” Caldwell said of Diggs. “He adjusts to anything. He can solve problems for you. And also, obviously, he can thump. He’s a guy that gets himself in position to make good plays. So, that’s why we put him in that spot.”

EXTRA POINTS

-- Right tackle Rick Wagner suffered an ankle injury Sunday and did not return. Wagner was putting little pressure on the ankle walking back to the sideline after being down for some time after suffering the injury. Caldwell had no updates on Wagner after the game.

-- Wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. continues his terrific play this year, especially as a deep threat for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Jones caught four passes for 90 yards, including two passes in one-on-one coverage for 46 and 42 yards, respectively.

--The Ravens entered the game leading the NFL in takeaways with 26. They added three more Sunday (two interceptions and one fumble recovery). They bested Detroit 3-0 in that department.