Four downs: Cooter goes for it; players love it

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
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First down

Late in the first half Thursday, offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter showed the aggression that has endeared him to players over the past month.

The Lions faced third-and-17 with 17 seconds left in the first half. With a 17-7 lead and the ball at the 25, the Lions could’ve gone for a short gain to improve Matt Prater’s chances of making a field goal.

And apparently, that was the original plan as Cooter initially called for short slants before changing his mind.

“He said, ‘Aw, screw that. Let’s go be aggressive,’ ” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “He called four verticals, and I was fired up for it. I loved it.”

Sure enough, Stafford threw a 25-yard touchdown to wide receiver Calvin Johnson on the play, giving the Lions a 24-7 lead at halftime before they eventually won 45-14.

Thursday’s game was just the fourth for Cooter, 31, as a play-caller, but Stafford said they have a good relationship and communicate well with each other.

“He’s young in his job, but he’s not afraid,” Stafford said. “He’s aggressive, and that’s fun. That rubs off on guys when a guy is aggressive and trusts us as players to go out and make good decisions.”

Second down

Cooter also showed some creativity to go along with that aggressiveness.

On first-and-goal at the 2 midway through the second quarter, wide receiver Golden Tate motioned into the fullback spot before catching a touchdown.

Clearly, the Eagles lost track of Tate from that spot as he ran his route, made cornerback Walter Thurmond miss and walked into the end zone.

“We’ve practiced that one a little bit, and just never got it off the call sheet,” Stafford said. “It’s kind of one we carried week to week, ‘Hey, when’s it going to be the right time.’

“(Cooter) called it up today, and Golden scored. It was great.”

Johnson enjoyed watching the score, too.

“I told G, ‘Swag on them a little bit. They can’t touch you,’” he said.

Third down

After losing a third straight game, including the last two with 45 points allowed, the Eagles had to take questions similar to those asked of the Lions during their 1-7 start.

A popular one: Did players give up?

Linebacker Connor Barwin said the Eagles lost mostly due to self-inflicted wounds, and other players denied that anyone gave up.

And even though there are questions about coach Chip Kelly’s future and how he’s handled the roster since taking over personnel duties, he didn’t think effort was an issue.

“I don’t think they’re trying to prove a point or anything like that,” Kelly said. “I just think we got out-coached today and didn’t do a very good job.”

Fourth down

In addition to questions about the players, there were several about the Eagles coaches.

Kelly was asked if Bill Davis would remain the defensive coordinator, and he said yes.

Players were asked if there are major schematic issues leading to the problems.

“I will never doubt Chip Kelly, and I will never doubt these coaches,” center Jason Kelce said. “That’s the only way that you can go about this business, in my opinion.

“People that don’t trust their teammates, people that don’t trust their coaches, those are losers in my opinion. That’s the way you lose games.”

Now, with the losses piling up, the Eagles will have to consider changes, but when someone pointed out that the Lions started winning games after firing three assistant coaches and two executives, Barwin didn’t like the idea.

“I wouldn’t like to see anything like that happen,” he said.

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