Four Downs: Caldwell's reluctance throw red flag baffles

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Lions coach Jim Caldwell shakes hands with his players before the game.

First down

The biggest call of the game might have been Jim Caldwell’s decision to not use his red challenge flag on a third quarter incompletion.

After Lions cornerback Johnson Bademosi appeared to force a fumble recovered by teammate Tavon Wilson, the officials conferred and determined Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins didn’t establish possession before losing the ball, ruling it an incomplete pass.

Being the road team, the Lions had a tough time getting an immediate look at a replay. Caldwell pulled the red flag out of his back pocket and even began the throwing motion before opting not to challenge the play.

After the game, he explained the guys upstairs got a late look and discouraged him from challenging.

“I think they applied the rule correctly in that regard and it would have been determined an incomplete pass, so we saved it,” Caldwell said.

Retaining possession, the Texans were able to drive into field-goal range and extend their lead in the third quarter, 17-3.

Maybe Caldwell’s right, maybe it wouldn’t have been overturned. But given the Lions were already down 11, the opportunity to net a turnover and swing momentum seems like a risk worth taking.

Second down

Speaking of Bademosi, he had a fine performance filling in for Darius Slay, who missed the game with a hamstring injury.

There was reason for consternation, given the Texans ability to stretch the field with speedy wide receivers Will Fuller and Hopkins, but Bademosi more than held his own in coverage on the outside.

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Not only did he get credit for the pass breakup, instead of a forced fumble, he also halted a potential scoring drive at the end of the first half, intercepting a pass intended for Hopkins.

It was Bademosi’s first pick of his career.

Third down

You had to know, coming into this contest, the officiating was going to be tight with Brad Allen’s crew drawing the assignment.

Allen and company threw 29 flags when his crew officiated the Lions-Titans game earlier this season. They showed a little more restraint in this one, but still hit the teams with 14 infractions for 124 lost yards.

Four of those penalties were assessed to the Lions’ offense, leading to three stalled drives. Another two negated quality returns by Andre Roberts — a 17-yard punt return and what would have been a season-long 56-yard kickoff return.

Fourth down

Matthew Stafford’s MVP candidacy had some cold water thrown on it in Houston. It’s not that the Detroit quarterback had a bad game, but he was far from transcendent, throwing for 240 yards and a touchdown in the loss.

New England Patriots quarter Tom Brady, on the other hand, continued to dismantle opposing defenses following his return from a four-game suspension. In a 41-25 victory over the Buffalo Bills, he threw for 315 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Brady still hasn’t throw a pick, and already has 12 touchdowns in four games. He’s completing 73.1 percent of his passes and the Patriots have won all four games by double-digit margins. At this rate, he’s going to run away with the award.

Twitter: @justin_rogers