Four downs: Caldwell should have challenged Beckham's ‘catch’
On the third play of the game, Odell Beckham Jr. caught a four-yard pass on first down, but replays showed the New York Giants receiver clearly dropped the ball before trapping it between his legs. The Lions didn’t challenge the completion and the drive ended seven plays later with a touchdown.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell was asked why the team didn’t challenge the blown call.
“It’s four yards,” he said. “You’re not going to challenge that play. It was late when we saw it, but wouldn’t have challenged it anyway.”
That logic just doesn’t hold up. While Caldwell is known for being conservative with his timeouts, there’s absolutely no chance the Lions would have lost this challenge. And while four yards might not matter against some more prolific offenses, the Giants aren’t particularly potent. Facing a second-and-10 would have been a more difficult challenge to convert than second-and-6.
There was also little risk of running out of challenges. Caldwell has thrown the red flag just three times this year, losing two and winning one. He hasn’t challenged two plays in a game since Week 15 of last season.
Caldwell had a more difficult decision at the end of the first half, when his team faced a fourth-and-6 from the Giants’ 40 with 50 seconds remaining.
The Detroit coach has historically shown a willingness to go for it on fourth down, but given the close score – it was 10-3 at the time – and the fact his team was getting the ball back to start the third quarter, he didn’t want to risk giving Eli Manning and the New York offense a short field.
After the punt, the Giants moved the ball 33 yards in five plays. If the Lions went for it and failed to convert, that would have been enough to put the Giants in field-goal range.
With the loss, the Lions still hold pole position in the NFC North, but surrendered the No. 2 seed in the NFC, and the playoff bye that goes with it, back to the Seattle Seahawks.
Getting a bye probably becomes a pipe dream after falling to New York. Seattle closes out the season with a home tilt against Arizona and a trip to San Francisco, two games where they’ll be clear favorites.
The Lions are going to need at least one more win to get into the postseason, and they’ll probably need to beat the Packers in Week 17 to win the division. The only way that changes is if the Lions upset the Cowboys on the road next Monday night and the Packers stumble at home against Vikings on Saturday.
For what it’s worth, expect that Week 17 game for the NFC North crown to be moved to primetime.
The Lions’ recent red-zone woes continued against the Giants. With two turnovers inside the 20, the team failed to score a touchdown in three trips. For the past three games, the Lions are now 3-for-12 and have dropped to the bottom half of the league with their efficiency in that area.
That’s been a frustrating fall for an offense that ranked second in the NFL last season.