Lions' Caldwell argued for key time added back to clock

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Jim Caldwell's subtle argument for time to be put back on the clock proved to make a difference.

Minneapolis — Two seconds.

In a 60-minute football game, two seconds rarely mean anything, but in the final minute of regulation of the Detroit Lions' 22-16 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, two seconds meant everything.

That's how much time was left on the clock when quarterback Matthew Stafford spiked the ball following a 27-yard completion to Andre Roberts. That allowed kicker Matt Prater to blast home a 58-yard field goal, sending the game into overtime.

You can thank Lions coach Jim Caldwell for those two seconds.

Caldwell has a reputation for suspect clock management, and his extreme conservation of timeouts, although it has worked in the team's favor twice this season, has been hotly debated. But on the Vikings' touchdown drive immediately preceding Stafford’s, Roberts’ and Prater's heroics, Caldwell bought the Lions two seconds.

After the Vikings converted a fourth-and-4 from the Lions 11-yard line with an eight-yard pass from Sam Bradford to Stefon Diggs, Caldwell called a timeout. But as the clock often does in the NFL, a couple seconds ticked off after the whistle. During the stoppage of play, Caldwell pleaded his case, and the officials decided to add two seconds back on. It was never noted during the broadcast.

“It’s not an unusual conversation,” Caldwell said. “Typically, when you call a timeout, by the time they get it relayed to get it done, sometimes a couple seconds will elapse and usually you just tell them, ‘Hey this is what I saw, I think we had a few more.’ Oftentimes they may not give you any back, but they were able to give us two back, which was good.”

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A lot happened between that play and the spike to set up Prater's kick, including a clock management error by Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who called a timeout with 27 seconds remaining, just prior to his team punching into the end zone to temporarily take the lead, 16-13. He easily could have milked another 10 seconds with minimal risk.

The Lions also failed to petition for three seconds that rolled off the clock after the Vikings scored, in the confusion after the ball was jarred free from tight end Rhett Ellison’s grasp immediately after he crossed the goal line.

On Monday, Caldwell revealed he gets clock management assistance from director of football research Randy Edsall and offensive assistant Evan Rothstein. The pair are up in the coaches’ box during games.

“Evan Rothstein and Randy Edsall and those guys do a great job with the calculations and those kinds of things, and the calculations adjust and change as we go, but I think they have a good feel for those,” Caldwell said.