When coaches try unconventional plays in big situations and the call works out, they are praised. Their decisions are endlessly dissected when they don’t.
Lions head coach Jim Caldwell decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Seahawks’ 38-yard line at the beginning of the second quarter on Saturday in a scoreless tie and the result was a pseudo-screen dump-off pass to backup tight end Matthew Mulligan, which ended up going for negative yardage.
So there was Caldwell, fresh off a 26-6 loss to Seattle, explaining why.
“It was designed to work, obviously,” Caldwell told reporters. “But they had it covered up and we didn’t get it. You got to go for it in that situation, I think, and didn’t get it. They did a better job of covering it than we did of executing it.”
Caldwell simply said “I don’t think so,” when asked if he was getting too cute, and would not say whether Mulligan was the primary receiver on that play.
“I didn’t say that (it was designed to go to Mulligan),” Caldwell said. “He has multiple options. He has multiple options. They covered it well.”
Lions fans will groan about this call for days but personally, I have no problem with a coach on the road trying to establish some aggression. According to Elias, Matt Prater became the first kicker in NFL playoff history to hit more than one 50-yard field goal in the same game (or all of the Lions‘ points). So the argument could be made that Detroit should have taken the chance to grab an early lead and play from there.
The truth was that Caldwell knew trips inside midfield would be few and far between against this defense and he needed to maximize those opportunities.
There are far crazier ideas than trusting Matthew Stafford and a slew of talented short-yardage receivers to run a play called by one of the better offensive coordinators in the league.