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Jim Caldwell: We anticipated lateral play, not Hail Mary

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Following the Detroit Lions' failure to stop the longest game-winning Hail Mary in NFL history Thursday night, many questions arose.

Why wasn't 6-foot-5 Calvin Johnson on the field to help knock the ball down? Why rush only three and allow Aaron Rodgers to get out of the pocket? Why were Ezekiel Ansah and Quandre Diggs chilling at the 40-yard line instead of in the end zone with the rest of the defenders?

Lions coach Jim Caldwell gave us the reason for these odd decisions after the game, saying he expected another lateral play -- like the one that resulted in the facemask penalty on the previous play -- not a Hail Mary.

"In that situation we have a couple different things that we do," Caldwell said, via the Detroit Free Press. "That was one where you're kind of looking for more of that pass back and forth kind of thing because of the range. He ran around there so long, moved up, gave himself a chance to get it in the end zone. We had plenty of guys back there. We had plenty of guys, we just didn't make the play. They did."

What is that phrase? "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt."

Caldwell's admission that he expected a lateral play seems to mean that he overlooked Rodgers' ability to get the ball to the end zone -- with a Hail Mary having clearly a better success rate than a hook-and-ladder play, it was the obvious choice.

It's not the first game-management situation the coach has botched.

"I know there's a lot of things that they'll say, 'Hey, why didn't you do this or that?'" Caldwell added. "And there's always been hindsight and that kind of stuff that you look at it and there's probably a number of things that we could look at someone could come up with a little different idea. But the fact of the matter is, I'm proud of the way our guys played. They played tough, we were ready for a big game and I think we played that way up until all of about a couple flashes of that ballgame."

Bad coaches generally lead on "hindsight" when things go awry. Good coaches prepare properly for every possibility and place their players in the best position to make plays. By expecting anything but a Hail Mary at the end of the game, Caldwell is admitting he didn't put his players in the proper position to win the game.

The loss is another gut punch for Detroit fans in prime time. Some will blame the facemask penalty, but the simple fact remains that the coaching staff didn't anticipate the right play and the players didn't make a play to win.

If there is one silver lining for Lions fans, it's that the loss will likely end the chatter about Jim Caldwell surviving the offseason as Detroit's coach.

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