Allen Park — With the way the Lions lost Sunday’s game to the Atlanta Falcons — an overturned call and a 10-second runoff using up the remaining clock — there are a lot of fans struggling to accept the result. The same can’t be said for coach Jim Caldwell, and his priority is making sure the sting of the unusual defeat doesn’t linger with his players.
Social media is laced with still frames trying to find flaws with the officials’ game-ending ruling. Some will argue wide receiver Golden Tate’s knee wasn’t down, or he wasn’t touched before crossing the goal line, despite overwhelming video evidence to the contrary.
Others, presenting a more intriguing possibility that there were more than 10 seconds on the clock, seem to have strong visual evidence Tate was touched down with 11 ticks remaining, but there are factors not considered.
First, the broadcast clock isn’t always synced up with the game clock during a play. To imply quarterback Matthew Stafford took the snap, passed to Tate and the receiver was tackled in under two seconds, is far-fetched. Second, since Tate was going to the ground, the play isn’t over until he completes the process of the catch — terminology Lions fans should know all too well, given it was spawned from a Calvin Johnson reversed touchdown years ago.
Tate being down by contact and completing the process are separate events. He was touched down short of the goal line, but he didn’t complete the process until he proved he maintained possession all the way through going to the ground.
While he declined to comment on specific play’s timing, Caldwell said the average play takes four seconds. And he wasn’t interested in hearing any of the nuanced complaints about the game’s ending.
“I think everybody can split hairs, look at it differently and all that kind of stuff,” he said Monday. “I like to deal with the reality. The reality of it is, it doesn’t do any good to complain about it. It doesn’t do any good to say maybe or perhaps. It’s over and done with. We lost the game. They applied the rule as the rule stood, correctly. That’s it. End of story.”
As for the play call itself, Caldwell doubled down on the decision and was only willing to blame himself, not the on-field execution, for its failure.
“I’m not going to get into the details,” Caldwell said. “We just didn’t get it done. That falls on me. We didn’t get it done. We had our opportunities. I have to do a better job with it. I think that’s the bottom line.”
And now, the Lions must move on, get past the sour taste in their mouth and get mentally prepared for this week’s divisional game with the Minnesota Vikings.
The team’s mental preparation is arguably Caldwell’s strongest suit. You see it so often game-to-game, the poise the roster shows in the numerous pressure situations they’ve navigated the past two years.
From a broader perspective, you witnessed it with the way the team bounced back from its dreadful 1-7 start in 2015, going on to win six of the final eight games. But during that late-season stretch, the Lions lost a gut-wrenching home game on an Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary, aided by a facemask call giving the Packers a final play after time had expired. The following week, the Lions laid an egg, falling to an inferior St. Louis Rams team, 21-14.
That’s the reason for concern — all losses aren’t created equal and bouncing back from the tough ones is more challenging. Caldwell acknowledges this.
“We’ll see how we bounce back,” Caldwell said. “The idea is to get it behind us as quickly as we can. A lot of that has to do with guys making up their mind that it’s over and done with. But the close ones make you think about it a little bit more. That’s what we’ll do today. We’ll look at the film today, go over it and make our corrections, then we’ll put it behind us and move one.
“That’s part of what this league is all about, how you handle it.”