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Amid Lions first-place run, Jim Caldwell deflects praise

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Just as Lions coach Jim Caldwell is getting some much-deserved credit, he's deflecting it back on his football team.

"You have to attribute it more to team, willingness, preparation, toughness, grittiness all the way across the board at every skill position and your lines as well protecting," Caldwell said, via The Detroit Free Press. "So I think that more so than anything else is probably what (it's) attributed to. It doesn't have a whole lot to do with me."

Caldwell was asked specifically about the Lions' success late in games. They've trailed in the fourth quarter in every single one, meaning that all seven victories were come-from-behind. While some may attribute that to fantastic luck, Caldwell's level presence must have something to do with Detroit's success late in games. It is at least fair to ask that question.

"There are times when people panic at the end of games and this chaos breaks loose and you can't quite get your focus and bearings," Caldwell said. "We try not to get in that situation as often as we possibly can. There are some times where it is a little bit chaotic, but I think if you work at it and you prepare enough, you at least give yourself a chance. And I just think we've given ourselves a chance."

As we've noted in the past, the success of Caldwell and Titans coach Mike Mularkey this year set up an interesting offseason. Once thought to be bridge coaches for new general managers getting their bearings, both are squarely in the playoff hunt and are making a push for a much longer residency.

Caldwell had to have more pressure than just about any other coach coming into this season. With the knowledge that he could have been let go at the end of last year (or the middle, when Caldwell made the decision to change offensive coordinators) comes tremendous pressure. Self-doubt can creep in easily.

Instead, they are leading the Packers and Vikings atop a previously impenetrable NFC North. If Caldwell is the reason, what does Detroit do with him now?

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