Golden Tate's season of struggles sunk to new depths Sunday in a loss to the previously winless Chicago Bears.
The Lions' supposed 1B receiver entering the season caught one pass for one yard on four targets before adding a late-game two-point conversion.
It's not unheard of for a top-flight receiver to get shut down -- Kelvin Benjamin caught zero passes in Week 3; Dez Bryant caught one pass for eight yards in Week 1. Tate's problems go beyond a one-game aberration.
The 28-year-old hasn't earned more than 41 yards in a single game this season. His yards-after-catch shiftiness has dwindled to the point the Lions would rather call wide receiver screens for 36-year-old Anquan Boldin.
Tate's rapport with Matthew Stafford is almost non-existent. The most emblematic play of Tate's terrible season came late in the first half on Sunday. He missed a signal from the quarterback and ran the wrong route, which led to an interception and wiped away a chance to put points on the board going into halftime.
No. 4 receiver Andre Roberts started the first drive of the second half in Tate's place and took most of the snaps the rest of the way.
To the common person, that would be considered a benching for Tate -- at least a 'get your head out of your rear' moment. Jim Caldwell, however, insists that it was the plan to take Tate out of the game for spells.
"We move him around quite a bit," Caldwell said of Tate, via ESPN. "We gave Andre an opportunity. Andre obviously deserves it and it was our plan beforehand. You know, but he came back in. He was back in there and he'll do well."
Ahhh, yes, anytime you can take your No. 2 receiver out of the game and replace him with a man that offers no discernable threat and has caught two receptions for 16 yards on the season, you have to make that move.
Some coaches are awful. Some coaches are smug. Caldwell's brand of smug awfulness enrages common sense.
Entering Sunday's contest Tate had played 86.8 percent of the snaps. Against the Bears, he played just 57 percent (nine snaps more than Roberts). Tate played only five snaps in the second half, all in the red zone, per the Detroit Free Press. Whether Caldwell planned to curtail Tate's snaps beforehand or decided mid-game, it's a demotion. Coaches (at least good ones) lacking playmakers don't take the few they possess off the field without reason.
When asked if it felt like a benching, Tate replied:
"Um, it was a feeling I've never had before, for sure," Tate said. "But I just stayed ready and that was that."
Caldwell added Monday: "He's still an integral part of what we do and things will turn around for him."
Whether the Lions want to call it a benching or not, Detroit needs Tate to snap out of his funk before the season spirals even more out of control.