(SportsNetwork.com) – The Detroit Lions are supposed to be the undisciplined
team that gives away games to their opponents with boneheaded plays down the
Jim Caldwell was brought in to change that narrative, though, and the first-
year Detroit coach has done it in record time.
A week after picking the pocket of Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, the
Lions hopped the pond on Sunday and swiped another contest they had no
Matt Prater capped a furious second-half rally by booting a 48-yard field goal
as time expired to lift the Lions to a 22-21 victory over the Atlanta Falcons
at Wembley Stadium in London.
A one-sided first half saw Detroit enter the locker room down by 21 points
before creeping closer with a pair of touchdowns and a couple of field goals
in the second half, with a failed two-point conversion leaving the Lions
trailing by two in the waning moments.
The Falcons looked like they were going to be able to hold on when Matt Ryan
found Julio Jones for 22 yards down to the Detroit 40-yard line right at the
Atlanta coach Mike Smith came out of the timeout with the proper mindset,
running the ball off right end with Devonta Freeman. The play netted only one-
yard but forced the Lions to use their third and final timeout.
It was time to bleed the clock with two more running plays, punt and give the
Lions about 27 seconds to get in field-goal position from — in a best-case
scenario — their own 20-yard line.
And Ryan indeed turned around and handed it to his big back, Steven Jackson.
The Falcons, however, turned into a version of the Jim Schwartz/Rod
Marinelli/Marty Mornhinweg Lions as Atlanta was flagged for holding, a
development which stopped the clock with 1:50 remaining.
Caldwell smartly declined his good fortune, making it 3rd-and-10 for Atlanta.
Smith and his offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter had a decision to make, run
it up the gut and take about 45 seconds off the clock or get the ball in space
to one of their playmakers.
The Falcons chose the latter, running a quick slip screen to Jones, probably
the safest passing play in the team’s arsenal. Jones, an All-Pro level
talent, dropped a perfectly-delivered pass from Ryan, however, perhaps the
worst result possible, save for a deflection and interception.
The clock was halted again by Jones’ uncharacteristic miscue and Atlanta was
forced to punt from the Detroit 40 with 1:46 remaining.
Twitter was set ablaze with Falcons fans calling for Smith’s head due to his
“poor clock management” as if the veteran coach was responsible for the
holding call and an egregious dropped pass.
“I’m very disappointed in the way that we played in the second half in the
football game,” Smith admitted. “You can’t make the mistakes that we made in
the second half against a good football team, because when you do they are
going to come back and haunt you.”
Halloween did indeed come early for the Falcons as Atlanta’s poor execution in
a situational-football environment gave away 71 precious seconds to Matthew
Stafford and Co., who gladly accepted their good fortune and took full
The big plays were a 32-yard Stafford pass to Golden Tate down the middle of
the field followed by a brilliant 20-yard catch-and-run by Theo Riddick a few
plays later that advanced things to the Atlanta 41.
“Matt’s pretty cool under pressure,” Caldwell said of his veteran signal
Maybe it was apropos that Prater eventually lined up in one of the world’s
legendary soccer stadiums to end things with a kick, a potential 43-yard game-
winner. The ex-Broncos star missed it wide right, however, thanks in large
part to a low snap by Don Muhlbach.
This time, though, a little bit of sloppiness actually aided the Lions.
A delay-of-game penalty wiped out the miss and gave Prater a mulligan from 48.
Despite a second straight shaky snap, the veteran buried his do-over inside
the left upright.
“This is probably as tough a loss to take as any I’ve been a part of,” Ryan
said. ” I really feel like we had a lot of different chances to win that
ballgame and consistently didn’t make plays when we needed to.”
“We just keep finding ways to win these games,” countered Tate.
Despite being without Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush and seemingly every tight
end on the roster Caldwell and his Lions will be leaving the UK with a 6-2
record and more importantly, a new reputation.
Instead of the giveaway gang, this Detroit team has become Danny Ocean’s
loveable band of thieves, capable of stealing from just about anyone.