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Lions' Jim Caldwell insists: Our decisions were correct

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
CB Johnson Bademosi - Bademosi was asked to step in for Slay, and largely held his own in those games, although he struggled in Dallas against Dez Bryant. On special teams, Bademosi set the tone with speed and athleticism on coverage units. GRADE: C

Allen Park -- Saying, "I'm not defensive," Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell on Monday continued to defend two controversial decisions from Sunday's 20-13 loss to the Houston Texans.

The first came in the third quarter when he opted not to throw the red challenge flag on an incomplete pass to DeAndre Hopkins that could've been interpreted as lost fumble while the Lions were trailing by 11.

The second came late in the fourth quarter, when, down one score with three timeouts and the two-minute remaining, Caldwell ordered an onside kick that ultimately failed.

"You know, here's the thing, I'm not defensive – this is the way our game is," Caldwell said during his Monday afternoon press briefing, which was dominated by questions about those two situations.

"I mean, there's going to be, sometimes you're going to make a call and it's going to be right, sometimes you're going to make it and it's going to be wrong. I mean, it's just the way it is."

After the incompletion in the third quarter, the Texans went on to kick a field goal to extend their lead to 14.

After the failed onside kick late in the fourth quarter, the Texans went on to pick up two first downs on the ground and run out the clock in the victory.

The unwillingness to throw the challenge flag appears to be the most-criticized call by Caldwell. Tavon Wilson recovered the ball and took off, before officials blew the whistle and ruled Brock Osweiler's throw incomplete.

Caldwell remained confident a replay would not have overturned it.

"We spend a lot of time on that kind of thing, probably as much as anyone. Every week, we study every single call that's in question in the league. Every play," Caldwell said. "I think our guys are really, really good at it. They really take a real good look at it.

"I think they did a great job assessing it, because once I saw it on film, that thing comes out rather quickly. It's one of those bang-bang plays.

"They would not have overturned that."

Maybe not. But given the key point in the game, why not at least try?

"One of the things I think the people undervalue, which we don't, is timeouts," Caldwell said. "We value those timeouts, more in the second half than in the first.

"But we also want to try and be as judicious as we can. But we want to be right. That's the key."

Niyo: Onside kick an indictment of Lions' bad defense

As a result, the Lions (4-4) did have all their timeouts left down seven points and with 2 minutes, 53 seconds left.

That made the decision to have Sam Martin try an onside kick even more puzzling, given the Lions had four opportunities for a clock stoppage.

Kicking deep would've at least given the Lions a shot to get the ball back in decent position. Failing on the onside kick set the Texans up with a short field that, even if they were stopped from getting a first down, could've put them in position for a game-sealing field goal, anyway.

Caldwell insisted the decision wasn't an indictment on his depleted defense. But that's a tough sell.

"We don't look at it that way," Caldwell said. "We had an opportunity. We knew if we didn't recover the onside kick, we're going to have to stop them and get them stopped. Whether or not, obviously, with the onside kick, if you kick it deep and they do exactly what they did, the game still ends. Maybe on the other side of the 50 when you look at it. All they had to do was get two first downs with the timeouts we had, and the game's over with.

"So, we decided, let's see if we can give ourselves a chance, and the numbers were good. Our defense still had an opportunity. We've stopped them in those situations before."

The Texans (5-3) ran it four straight times, picking up two first downs, before going into victory formation.

Caldwell said he's "certainly" gone for onside kicks in that very situation "so many times," with some positive results and some negative results.

Making matters worse this time, there appeared to be some possible miscommunication as the Lions lined up for the onside. Caldwell disputed that, saying, "There's not truth to that."

Martin's kick didn't travel 10 yards, and he also kicked the ball to the left side of the field, where the fewest number of Lions were lined up.

Caldwell explained that, too – and like with every second-guess question Monday, he said he got it right.

"The situation that we'd like to have," said Caldwell, "was exactly the situation we got."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter @tonypaul1984