Burning questions: What a fourth-down decision and two plays meant in the outcome and other plays and issues in the Detroit Lions' 20-15 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night at Ford Field:
Question: How much did a debatable fourth-down decision by head coach Jim Caldwell impact the game and determine the outcome?
Answer: Caldwell's decision to pass up a field-goal attempt that would have given the Lions a 15-13 lead was highly questionable, but it wasn't the only play that cost the Lions.
Without doubt, it had an impact, and it left Caldwell's judgment on that play open to question. But the offense's ability to score a touchdown, and a major defensive breakdown after the fourth-down decision also played significant roles in the loss.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions' Week 8 game vs. Pittsburgh Steelers.
Q. Fourth and go: The Lions had fourth and goal at Pittsburgh's two-yard line late in the third quarter and were trailing, 13-12, when Caldwell passed up the field-goal attempt to go for a touchdown. Right call by Caldwell?
A. It isn't what I would have done. Caldwell has been aggressive in similar situations, as well as going for long field goals in key situations rather than punting. The Lions have not been a good short-yardage team. On a pass play, Matthew Stafford was rushed hard up the middle and sacked, turning the ball over to the Steelers.
Not getting the points impacted strategy the rest of the game – including the Lions' last possession, when they had a failed attempt on fourth and goal at Pittsburgh's eight-yard line. Taking the field goal earlier would have let the Lions kick a go-ahead field goal, but that option was not available because of the earlier decision.
Q. Momentum swing: The Steelers struck quickly after the defensive stand. Was that the key exchange of the game?
A. Yes, when you consider everything else that happened that put the outcome in the balance.
On third down from the two-yard line Ben Roethlisberger hit rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster with a pass over the middle that Smith-Schuster turned into a 97-yard touchdown play by outrunning Quandre Diggs and Glover Quin to the end zone.
That made it 20-12, and the Lions never got closer than five points – the final score of 20-15 – on a fifth and final field goal by Matt Prater.
Q. Style points: The Lions played tough, competitive football. Did that mean something to them coming off their bye?
A. It didn't mean as much as winning. The Lions dropped to 3-4 with a third straight loss and their third straight loss at home.
Q. JuJu's juke: How did Smith-Schuster get so far open?
A. It was just a good inside move that the rookie made on Diggs, who had played well and made some big plays. But in this situation, with the Steelers facing third and 12, from their two-yard line, the Lions might have been looking for something more conservative.
Once Smith-Schuster made the catch, he was in full stride with Diggs and Glover Quin chasing him. Quin made a dive for Smith-Schuster inside the 10-yard line but barely grazed him .
Q. First half: How would you sum up how the Lions went to the locker room with a 12-10 lead?
A. They created some opportunities and missed out on some others. The lead could have been bigger for the Lions, but the Steelers could have had the lead, too.
There weren't a lot of plays that make highlight reels, but overall it was an interesting first half.
Q. Drop zone: The Steelers marched down the field on the first possession and could have had a touchdown, but Eli Rogers dropped a third-down pass in the end zone. What did that mean?
A. It meant two things: 1. The Lions got lucky that it was 3-0, not 7-0. And Martavis Bryant, the disgruntled receiver who was made inactive for the game, probably was resisting the urge to Tweet something like: "I'd have caught it." And he probably would have.
Q. Lions answer back: On the ensuing kickoff they drove to a tying 48-yard field goal by Matt Prater. Good answer by the Lions?
A. Good to tie the score, but not the way the possession ended before the field goal. Two straight false start penalties turned third and six at the Steelers' 27 into third and 16 at the 37. A running play – yes, a running play – gained two and set up Prater's field goal.
Q. The weird: What happened on Golden Tate's fourth-quarter catch and fumble, and where did that rate with some other strange plays this season?
A. It might not have been at the top of the list, but it hurt just as bad as any other. The Lions were driving and would have been in good position when he made a catch for a 34-yard gain.
However, as he spun after the catch he was cradling the ball to make sure he had control. Instead of keeping it secure, it squirted from his grasp and the Steelers recovered at their 24.
With less than 10 minutes left, it was a big turnover – one of many plays that determined the outcome.