By: Will Burchfield
Had the Lions been given the chance, there’s no doubt in Jim Caldwell’s mind they could have run a play before the final eight seconds ticked off the clock in Sunday’s 30-26 loss to Atlanta.
“Certainly,” Caldwell said. “We practice it all the time.”
Those eight seconds were wiped clear by a 10-second runoff, and the Lions were forced to swallow a bitter defeat, victimized by the rulebook. Just moments before, it looked as if Golden Tate had landed in the end zone with the game-winning touchdown.
“Immediately after the play I didn’t think anything of it. I thought touchdown, and that was it,” Tate told Fox 2. “And then after watching it a few times I thought it could go either way. I didn’t personally find out about the 10-second run-off until I was actually speaking to the referees and they brought it to my knowledge. And that’s when I was kind of like, ‘OK, this could be interesting, we’ll see.’
“But tough, man. It’s a tough way to lose.”
Said Glover Quin, “You go from a super high to a super low really quickly. It’s definitely a gut-wrenching feeling, but that’s the rule.”
The rule, fair or not, was enforced correctly. A 10-second runoff is called for after any video review inside of two minutes that stops a running clock. The Lions could have avoided the runoff by spending a timeout, but they didn’t have any left. And Tate was indeed down by contact, if ever so slightly, before the football crossed the goal line.
For the Lions, the frustration is in the belief that they could have run another play — a potentially game-winning play — if the refs had made the correct call in the first place. As the team itself pointed out, the offense got a snap off in seven seconds in last year’s game-tying drive versus the Vikings.
In a way, it feels counterintuitive to punish a team for a referee’s mistake.
“Yeah, you can kind of look at it that way if you want, but they ruled it correctly,” said Caldwell. “They ruled it correctly, and that’s the way it is. Our guys fought hard.”
Said Quin, “I just think it’s hard to punish a team for a 10-second runoff on their (the officials’) review. I can understand if we wanted to review it and slow the game down, but it’s like, you guys wanted to review it. Why do we get punished 10 seconds?”
Defensive end Cornelius Washington said he felt cheated by the call. Quin, though he wouldn’t go that far, suggested the rule was designed without proper forethought.
“I can’t say I feel cheated, that was the rule. It’s a 60-minute game. We can’t blame it on the last 10 seconds and say we got cheated. We had plenty of opportunities throughout the game to make a difference. If that’s the rule, that’s the rule. Sometimes rules are made and they’re not always thought through completely, and it takes a situation like this for them to say, ‘Hold on, now. We need to take a look at this rule,” Quin said.
Should the rule be changed?
“I don’t think so,” said Caldwell. “I mean, it’s tough to digest all that right now in terms of how it works. We all kind of know exactly what the situation could and would be. In hindsight, we can complain all we want, but they administered the rule exactly the way that it’s written.”
Said Quin, “Obviously you’d like to see it changed if you’re on the (receiving) side. I’m pretty sure Atlanta doesn’t want to see it changed.”
Caldwell said he doesn’t regret the final playcall, a short dig route to Tate, nor does he think the Lions should have tried to run it in on the final series. They were set up with first and goal from the one-yard line with 19 seconds to play — but, again, no timeouts — and threw three straight passes.
“In terms of running on first down, if you wanted to run some more clock that would be the only thing in that situation,” Caldwell said. “I think you either have to get out of bounds or you have to give yourself a chance where you’re not rushed to get several shots in the end zone. And you eat up a lot of time when you don’t have any timeouts and you run a football in that situation.
“Hindsight’s 20-20, but if we had to do it all over again we’d do it exactly the same way in terms of throwing the ball in that situation. Got to give yourself as many shots as you can, and I think we gave ourselves a number of shots at it. That’s really the bottom line.”