Burning questions – Going for it on offense, one big stop by the defense at the end of the first half and another to clinch the game, the bottom line and strategy decisions in the Detroit Lions' 31-28 victory over the Los Angeles Rams at Ford Field:
Question: How big was the win, and what does it mean?
Answer: It isn't a stretch to say it's the biggest win of the season so far because of what a loss would have meant. The Lions are 3-3 and in business for the last 10 games of the regular season. A loss would have made them 2-4 and on the fringe of any realistic contention to make the postseason.
It doesn't guarantee anything going forward, but at least they're at break even with another home game coming up against Washington.
Q. Bottom line: What was it for this game?
A. The Lions played complementary football, something head coach Jim Caldwell often talks about. The offense took care of its end, with some tough, gritty throws and catches, and just enough production in the running game from Zach Zenner.
When the defense couldn't afford to bend any more, it didn't. It made a stop at the end of the first half to force the Rams to settle for a field goal, and it clinched the victory at the end.
The stats for the defense aren't great, and for most of the game the Rams' Case Keenum looked like one of the all-time greats in Rams history – no matter what city they played in.
But the bottom line reads Lions 31, Rams 28.
Q. Trickeration: In the last two minutes, the Lions had fourth and inches inside the Rams' 17 and lined up like they were going to go for it. It was a gambit to get the Rams to jump offside and get a first down. The Rams didn't jump, and the Lions called time to set up the field goal. Was it worth trying?
A. No harm, no foul. It was absolutely the right thing to do.
Q. Take the field goal: Was that the right call?
A. Yes. Absolutely right again. No matter what, take the points, take the lead, and put the hands in the defense to clinch the win.
And the defense did that, with an interception by Rafael Bush on the second play after the kickoff.
Q. First half: How would you describe the way it ended in a 14-14 tie?
A. I'd call it a strange sequence at the end, with the Lions stopping the Rams on fourth and one on the last play of the half.
Q. Big play: Who made it for the Lions on the handoff to Rams running back Todd Gurley?
A. I have to see the film ...
Q. Be serious.
A. After watching replays – like everybody else – defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker got penetration up the middle. That let Stefan Charles come in from Walker's right and stop Gurley dead before he got a chance to make any kind of move.
It was a good play by the interior linemen to get a surge and not give Gurley a chance to change direction.
Q. Rams strategy: Any question about the Rams going for it on fourth and one? Or the play selection?
A. No argument going for it on fourth and one, and I didn't have an issue with the Rams letting the clock run down to three seconds before calling time to make it a last-play proposition.
It's hard to argue with giving the ball to Gurley, but the way QB Case Keenum walked into the end zone on a run around right end to score the Rams' previous touchdown makes it easy to question why that play wasn't used again.
Q. Caldwell, fourth downs: The Lions had fourth down twice in the first half and went for it both times. How can those decisions by head coach Jim Caldwell be interpreted?
A. To make it clear, these aren't Caldwell's words, but it looks like the Lions go for it because they don't have a lock-down defense that they can rely on. That means the offense has to carry the load, and it also means being aggressive on fourth down.
Q. Fourth-down calls: The Lions went for it on fourth and one at midfield on their first possession, and on fourth and two in the third quarter. Right decision on both plays?
A. The Lions converted both times – a first down at midfield, a TD on fourth and goal – so that makes it right.
I would have gone for it at midfield, and that kept the possession going to end in a touchdown. I'd have taken the field goal on fourth and goal at the two. I thought it was important to guarantee getting points to cut the Rams lead to 14-10.
Instead, the TD pass to Andre Roberts made it 14-14.
There was more to come, and the Lions ultimately had the answers.