By: Will Burchfield
There are those who believe the decisive call in Sunday’s Lions-Falcons game went against the Lions because, well, they’re the Lions — and not the Packers, Patriots or Cowboys.
There are those who believe the Lions, due to their place on the NFL totem pole, don’t get as much respect as some of the more glamorous teams in the league.
“In terms of officiating?” Jim Caldwell asked. “No, I don’t believe that.”
It’s true the Lions have a history of being on the wrong side of controversial calls. It’s apparent they have a knack for bringing flawed rules to light.
It happened again on Sunday, when the team saw a dramatic win turn into a crushing loss thanks to an overturned touchdown and a 10-second runoff that ended the game.
“We didn’t even get a chance,” said Golden Tate. “We didn’t get a shot to do anything.”
The Lions’ fate was ripped from their hands through no fault of their own. Worse, they were probably doomed no matter what. It’s hard to say they were cheated, because rules are rules, but it’s fair to say they were victimized by a perfect storm of events.
“It seems like the Lions are always the ones that are on that side, the wrong side of success in that,” said Tate.
It’s a dangerous narrative to buy into, fueling a defeatist mentality, but it’s also a difficult one to dismiss. Just think: The complete-the-catch game versus the Bears, the pass-interference game versus the Cowboys (in the playoffs, no less), the batted-ball game versus the Seahawks.
And now the 10-second-runoff game versus the Falcons.
The evidence is enough to make some believe there’s an officiating bias against the Lions. Short of that, they say, how does one explain it?
“I don’t worry about explaining it, because I don’t have that woe-is me-attitude,” said Caldwell.
By refusing to play the victim, the coach sets the same standard for his players. The Lions aren’t jinxed, nor are they treated differently due to their lack of pedigree. End of story.
“Labels get put on people for whatever reasons they are. You can take them and live with them, make excuses for why you’re not successful and blame whoever for your mistakes and problems, or you can attack the situation and go win ballgames and forgot about all that other stuff,” said Caldwell. “That’s what we have to do.We just have to win.”
The Lions so often find themselves in controversial end-of-game scenarios because they so rarely win big. What happened on Sunday isn’t evidence of a conspiracy or a curse. It’s the cost of continually playing tight football games.
“There’s no magic about it, there’s no hocus-pocus. Good teams can win consistently and they don’t need calls by the official to go their way in order to win. They make a difference, and that’s the way we’d like to approach that,” said Caldwell.
Win or lose, Caldwell never dwells on the past. He turns the page on yesterday as soon as tomorrow arrives. It’s a mindset he’s carried for a long time, one that’s served him well. And it’s starting to trickle down to his players.
“All the good teams I’ve been around, you couldn’t tell the difference on Monday whether they won or lost a game when they sat in the meeting room for the first time,” Caldwell said. “I think that’s a great trait because of the fact that if they lost a game, they’re using that particular fuel to get themselves ready. If they won the game, they know that one is behind us and they can’t rest on their laurels.
“You can’t get caught up in flattery when you do well. Flattery is much like flowers — you can smell them but you can’t eat them. I would anticipate our team is sort of catching on.”
The NFL season is much too short to either hang your hat or hang your head on a single game. The game moves much too fast to look anywhere but ahead.
“Excuses are tools of incompetence,” Caldwell likes to say, “used by monuments of nothingness.”
His blueprint calls for the construction of something real.