Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell facing job-security questions again

By The Sports Xchange  |  Dec. 27, 2017 at 11:02 AM
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ALLEN PARK, Mich.-- The Detroit Lions have considered making a coaching change each of the past two seasons, only to bring Jim Caldwell back for another year.

After Sunday's disappointing 26-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Caldwell might not be so lucky a third time.

The Lions were eliminated from the playoff race over the weekend and are now guaranteed their third straight season with fewer than 10 wins.

Caldwell said he has not talked with ownership or the front office about his future, and Lions president Rod Wood declined an interview request after Sunday's game.

"Anytime that you lose in this game, everything's up for consideration," Caldwell said. "So what we have to be concerned about obviously is getting our team focused again, ready to go. We can end up 3-1 in the quarter. It's not where we want to be, but obviously it ends up at a pretty decent clip just in terms of if you can get to 3-1."

Whatever solace Caldwell might take in a 3-1 finish won't erase the blemishes on his coaching ledger.

The Lions have gotten progressively worse running the ball in Caldwell's four seasons as coach. They had a pair of gaffes this year where they played key defensive plays with 10 and nine men on the field. Caldwell's 4-23 record against teams that finish above .500 is an eyesore on an overall mark that shines in comparison to some of his predecessors.

At 35-28, Caldwell has the second highest winning percentage (.556) of any full-time Lions coach in the Super Bowl era.

Caldwell said at his weekly news conference Tuesday that his only focus for now is on Sunday's season finale against the Green Bay Packers. He declined to reflect on his accomplishments with the Lions so far, but did acknowledge that his team fell short of its goals this year.

"The great thing about the National Football League, all you have to do is look at your record and we're just a little bit above average and a little bit above average is not good enough," Caldwell said. "There are no bowl games in this league, so we've got to get better. We've got to get better in every area. It's a team sport. There's not anything that we just absolutely excelled at, I think, all across the board."

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Perhaps the most inexcusable part of the Lions' 26-17 loss to the Bengals was their sloppy play that led to nine penalties, six of them in the decisive fourth quarter.

Don Barclay, who was diagnosed after the game with a concussion, had three penalties in the final 12 minutes, and two of the Lions' best defensive backs, Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs, had drive-extending penalties that helped set up the Bengals' game-winning field goal.

Diggs' penalty was especially costly as he was flagged for defensive holding on third-and-12 with the Bengals at their own 35-yard line.

The nine penalties were the Lions' most since a Week 3 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

"Too many," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "It was just both sides of the ball we had them. Guys offsides, guys jumping offsides offensively. Just not sharp. When you don't play well, you got to own it. You got to be -- I'm responsible for that, so just not our best day."

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Marvin Jones reached 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career Sunday, and though he hit the milestone playing against his fomer team, Jones downplayed the feat.

"It really doesn't mean anything right now," Jones said. "After the season, I'll look back at my accomplishments. I needed 30 yards. I would've hit it anyway."

Jones now has 57 catches for 1,020 yards on the year. He leads the Lions with eight touchdowns, and he has 14 catches of at least 25 yards.

NOTES: OG Don Barclay became the third Lions offensive lineman this year to be diagnosed with a concussion after playing every snap in the previous game. The Lions placed him on injured reserve Tuesday and signed tight end Hakeem Valles off the practice squad. ... CB Nevin Lawson left Sunday's game with a concussion. He remains in the NFL's concussion protocol. ... DE Ziggy Ansah had his second three-sack game of the season Sunday. Ansah has a team-leading nine while playing in just 13 games.

REPORT CARD VS. BENGALS

--PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus - The Lions struggled to move the ball at times against the NFL's 32nd-ranked defense, and Matthew Stafford had his worst passing performance (203 yards) since a Week 2 win over the Giants. Stafford completed just 19 of 35 passes and wasn't particularly sharp with his ball placement. He was under relatively consistent pressure playing behind a makeshift offensive line, and his lone interception came when running back Theo Riddick could not pick up a blitz. Eric Ebron had team-highs of five catches and 83 yards, but Golden Tate had just three catches for 14 yards.

--RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus - The Lions had a balanced rushing attack as Riddick had eight carries, Tion Green seven and Ameer Abdullah six, though none had a particularly banner day. Green did run for a team-high 43 yards, with 28 of those coming on one fourth-quarter drive that he capped with a touchdown. Riddick saw his playing time diminish after his missed block, though his lack of production (16 yards rushing) had as much to do with poor line play as anything. Left guard Joe Dahl did open a hole for Green when he ran for 12 yards on fourth-and-1.

--PASS DEFENSE: D-plus - Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay has fared well against some of the NFL's top receivers this year, but he struggled against A.J. Green (six catches, 81 yards). Both Slay (pass interference on Green) and Quandre Diggs (defensive holding) drew costly penalties on Cincinnati's go-ahead fourth-quarter drive. Ziggy Ansah had three sacks on Andy Dalton, and Diggs had an interception. But Glover Quin gave up a touchdown to C.J. Uzomah on the goal line.

--RUSH DEFENSE: D - The Lions seemed to catch a break when Joe Mixon left in the first quarter with an injury, but they couldn't capitalize as Giovani Bernard ran for a season-high 116 yards and scored the game-clinching touchdown on a 12-yard run. The Bengals converted two fourth-and-1 plays by running over defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson, and they had success running at linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin against the Lions' nickel package. Robinson and Akeem Spence did combine for 15 stops, and rookie Jarrad Davis had a tackle for loss on Bernard in the second half.

--SPECIAL TEAMS: F -- Sam Martin has a bad habit of shanking punts at important times. On Sunday, he managed just a 33-yard punt late in the fourth quarter with the Lions backed up in their own end zone. Martin (35.8 net yards punting) didn't have a great day overall, and the usually reliable Matt Prater missed a 50-yard field goal. Jamal Agnew was a non-factor as the Bengals made him fair catch all four of their punts.

--COACHING: F -- The Lions needed a win Sunday to keep their playoff hopes alive and instead came out flat and turned in a dreadful performance. That doesn't reflect well on Jim Caldwell, whose job is clearly in jeopardy with one game to play. The Lions' repeated inability to stop the run is confounding, and there's no excuse for their performance Sunday against a broken down offensive line and the worst rushing offense in the league. To top it off, the Lions were too conservative offensively, punting twice and trying two field goals on fourth-and-shorts in the first three quarters.

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