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FOUR DOWNS: Coaching decisions


The difference in a one-score game in the NFL typically comes down to just a few plays.

There were two plays in particular that went Houston's way in their 20-13 win that were the topic of a lot of conversation in head coach Jim Caldwell's postgame press conference.

The first was a third-quarter pass from Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler to receiver DeAndre Hopkins that was very close to being a fumble, but was ruled incomplete on the field. Hopkins caught the ball, took two steps, and then had the ball knocked out before it looked like he could make a "football move," which is required for it to be a fumble.

It was close. So close, in fact, that one official let the play go as a fumble while another blew his whistle signaling an incomplete pass. Lions safety Tavon Wilson recovered the ball and started back down field before the whistle blew it dead.

Caldwell opted not to challenge the play.

"I can tell you our guys upstairs had a chance to look at it and did not think that it was a catch," Caldwell said after the game.

"We got a late look at it and the way we looked at it, it did not look like it would be one that would be overturned, because I think they applied the rule correctly in that regard.

"It would've been determined an incomplete pass, so we saved it. That was from the look that we got. Everybody's got their opinions on it and that kind of thing, but we didn't think it was a completion."

The Texans ended up kicking a field goal on the drive.

After the Lions trimmed the lead to 20-13 with 2:53 left in the game, Caldwell opted to kick an onside kick with his full complement of timeouts and the two-minute warning still in play.

"You could either kick it deep and use your timeouts and we hadn't been stopping them very well on the run," Caldwell said of the decision.

"They controlled the line of scrimmage on us the last segment (midway through third quarter on), so we wanted to take another shot and if they were in the right look, which they were, we had the kind of numbers that we wanted, we just didn't get the right bounce."

It turns out Caldwell was right in that his defense couldn't stop Houston's run game. The Texans ran out the clock out after recovering the onside kick by rushing for two first downs.

Caldwell knew after the game that he was likely to take some heat for both decisions.

"Win or lose, you're typically, certainly going to be criticized in that regard," he said. "That's the way it goes. It's usually what happens after the decision is made.

"We didn't execute, we didn't get it done. So, I take that on. It's the way it is. You don't like it? You'd better get into another sport, better get in another line of work. I don't mind it."


A team is only as good as its record says it is, and the only honest conclusion we can come to when looking at the first half of the 2016 season is the Lions are an average football team with a 4-4 record.

"When you look midway through the season and you're 4-4, you're playing average, you know, and average is not going to get it, so we've got to play better," Caldwell said.

Stafford opted to look at the 4-4 start with a half-glass-full mentality

"It means we've got eight more to play, we've got to play well," he said. "We'll look back at this season when it's over, in totality, you know, we play the season in quarters. We were 3-1 in the second quarter. Got to continue to try and stack wins."

The Lions have put themselves in a spot where they'll probably have to duplicate last year's 6-2 second half to get themselves into the playoff conversation.


The Lions entered the game converting on 45 percent of their third downs this season, good for fifth best percentage in the NFL.

They weren't nearly that good Sunday against a pretty good Texans defense. The Lions were just 3-of-11 on third down (27 percent). Eight of those were 3rd and 6 or longer.

"A lot of third and longs," running back Theo Riddick said. "Penalties. Those are pretty hard to convert week in and week out when it's a lot of third and six-plus."

The Lions simply put themselves behind the chains too many times to be effective on offense.


Running back Theo Riddick returned to the Lions backfield and showed again why he's one of the toughest man-coverage busters in the NFL.

He caught eight of his 11 targets for 77 yards, including Detroit's lone touchdown, a one-yarder from Stafford in the fourth quarter.

Riddick also rushed 11 times for 53 yards (5.1 average).

The Lions had 289 total yards on offense, and Riddick accounted for 133 of those.

Tight End Eric Ebron, who missed the last three games with ankle and knee injuries, led the Lions in receiving with seven catches and 79 yards. The seven catches were a career high for Ebron.

"You know, obviously they're talented players," Stafford said of Riddick and Ebron. "We miss them when they're gone, so when they're out there it was nice to see them play like they did."

Ebron wasn't too excited to talk about personal accolades after the loss.

"It don't mean (blank), to be honest" he said. "What I did today doesn't mean nothing. We didn't win. When I was out, they were winning. Maybe I should have sat my butt out. I came back and we lost, so my personal performance doesn't mean anything."

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