Detroit Lions players react to linking arms for national anthem

Eight Lions took a knee; Caldwell issues strong words

DETROIT — Lions players and coaches linked arms during the national anthem before the 30-26 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Ford Field.

Owner Martha Firestone Ford and her daughters were at the center linking arms with the players.

Eight of the Lions took a knee. They included Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tahir Whitehead, Ameer Abdullah, Steve Longa, Jeremiah Ledbetter,  Akeem Spence, A’Shawn Robinson and Cornelius Washington.

Prior to the game, Lions president Rod Wood said the team supported the players. Mrs. Ford issued a statement echoing that thought on Sunday morning.

Reaction from the Lions afterward:

— Eric Ebron  “I just see things differently. Some people might condone it, I don’t. One of my biggest pet peeves is disrespect and I feel like we were disrespected as an organization. It’s not a form of protesting. Like I said, I just don’t deal with disrespect, and I felt like what came out of the mouth of our leader was disrespect.”

— Jim Caldwell: “I’ve been in the league a while and I know the players in this league, there are no SOBs in this league. These are men that work hard, with integrity, they’re involved in our communities, they’re fathers, they’re brothers, and their mothers aren’t what he said they were. Our guys believe in unity, civility and also First Amendment rights to peaceful expression and freedom of speech which you guys know a little about. So that’s really all I want to say about it, it’s taken up too much time, too much energy. We’re trying to focus on things that help us grow and develop, not things that tear us down and divide us. … It wasn’t in protest of the flag, it was unity.’’

— Ebron on having Mrs. Ford link arms with them: “It meant a lot. She’s a wonderful person. She believes in us, she trusts in us, she’s always there for us whenever we need it. You know, all we can do is just be thankful for the ownership that we have of this organization and this team. She brings a lot for us and we play for a lot because of that.”

— Akeem Spence on President Donald Trump’s statements over the weekend:  “I mean, it’s just crazy and it’s wrong. You know, it shouldn’t be like that.  There are hard-working people who give back to the community.  Our owners are the same way and they have the utmost respect for us and we have the utmost respect for our country, our flag and everything like that.  So for our head guy to say something like that about our owners, what they should do – No man, that’s something I can’t.  Right is right, wrong is wrong. So I feel like he was wrong in that sense. You know, we just came out and acted in unity together and just made a statement.”

— Spence on deciding to kneel during the National Anthem: “We had a conversation and everyone felt a certain way.  Right is right, wrong is wrong and it was wrong so we came together and just made a statement.  Nobody is taking that stuff, man, it’s wrong.  That shouldn’t be accepted in this country for nobody.”

—  Matthew Stafford: “I think the majority of the team was (linking arms) if I’m not mistaken, I didn’t look all the way up and down the line. To show solidarity, we’re a team. It’s just what we decided to do, what we thought was best.” He said the decision to link arms was just talked about among players, no big meeting or anything. The word spread.

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Five standouts in Detroit Lions’ loss to the Atlanta Falcons

Secondary comes up big with 3 interceptions

DETROIT — Through the years, the Lions have often found different ways to lose.

Sunday was different.

The Lions lost 30-26 to the Atlanta Falcons, the defending NFC champions.

It ended on a call that Jim Caldwell said was according to the NFL rules, but left many in the crowd stunned. After the Golden Tate touchdown call was reversed, the game was over due to a 10-second clock runoff.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The Lions are 2-1 and play at the Vikings (2-1) next Sunday.

This ending will be a distant memory for the players and coaches but probably not for the fans.

Five standout efforts:

1. Glover Quin intercepted Matt Ryan and returned it for a touchdown while Darius Slay finished with a pair of interceptions. It was Quin’s second interception in the first three games. In Atlanta’s first two contests, Ryan had not thrown a pick. The Lions have recorded two interception return touchdowns in the first three games of the season for the first time since 1967. The team has now accomplished this for the third time in team history, including 1967 (two) and 1950 (two). Typically a team that wins the turnover battle — the Lions forced three, the Falcons forced none — wins the game. Well, that didn’t happen but it’s a good sign the secondary is playing well.

2. Safety Miles Killebrew earned a separate category since he was making his first start. It seemed like he was everywhere. With eight tackles (seven solo), Killebrew was tied with Quin for most tackles for the Lions. Tahir Whitehead was right behind with seven tackles. He started in place of Tavon Wilson who is out with a shoulder injury.

3. Matthew Stafford took the blame on that final pass to Golden Tate. The quarterback said he should’ve thrown the ball higher to make it easier for Tate to get into the end zone.  Stafford got a slow start but went 25 of 45 for 264 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked twice and hurried often. Part of that could fall on shoulders of the makeshift offensive line. With Travis Swanson (ankle) out, Graham Glasgow shifted from left guard to center. With Joe Dahl (lower leg) out, Zac Kerin started at left guard. Zac who? He was acquired off waivers from the Vikings on Sept. 3.

4. Matt Prater. Amazing. He kicked field goals of 55, 57, 40 and 35 yards. He became the second player in NFL history to make at least 10 career field goals of 55 yards or more. He now has 11. With the Lions, Prater has now made five field goals of at least 55 yards. Prater joins Jason Hanson (1992-2012) as the only kickers in team history to make two 50-plus-yard field goals in at least two different games. For his career, this marks the fourth game he has registered two 50-plus yard field goals. It was the third time since he joined the Lions in 2014 that he has made at least four field goals in a game

5. Golden Tate didn’t finish with gaudy numbers — seven catches for 58 yards. But on many plays he’s the go-to guy. He gets open and hold onto the ball. Of course he came up a half-yard short on the final play, but that call looks like it could have gone either way. “It hurts, it hurts. It hurts to lose one like that at home, especially when your defense just kept coming up with turnovers, it hurts,’’ Tate said. “But I think if anything, guys are going to — we’re going to find a way to learn from this and try to bounce back next week on the road.” Tate surpassed 300 receptions since joining the Lions in 2014, and now has 301 with Detroit. He reached 300 receptions faster than any player in team history by accomplishing this feat in 51 games. He broke the previous best of 66 games to 300 catches by Calvin Johnson.

Five thoughts on controversial ending in Detroit Lions’ loss to Atlanta Falcons

Eight seconds were the difference

DETROIT — For a good chunk of the fourth quarter, fans at Ford Field were on their feet. The Lions had a chance to beat the defending NFC  champion Atlanta Falcons .

With two minutes left and 89 yards of turf in front of him, the ball was in Matthew Stafford’s hands.

This is the quarterback who has led the Lions to 29 wins when they were down or tied in the fourth quarter. He is exactly the guy you want to have the ball.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions.)

It looked like the Lions pulled out another huge win when Golden Tate made a diving catch on third-and-1 at the goal line and the line judge threw up his arms signalling a touchdown.

All scoring plays are reviewed and this one was overturned because Tate was down before crossing the goal line.

The clincher is that because only eight seconds were left, the official ruled a 10-second runoff so the game was over.

The Falcons won 30-26.

The fans were stunned, feeling the officials, once again, had torn victory out of hands of the Lions.

Five thoughts on the final play:

1. Jim Caldwell said the players were obviously disappointed because it’s hard any time to lose. “So what happens in that situation is that if you don’t have a timeout left you can get a 10-second runoff. (That’s exactly what happened.) If you have a timeout left, you can use that and give up the timeout. Without any timeouts off they ran off the time of the clock — eight seconds remaining — and game is over.”

2. Caldwell wouldn’t really bite when asked if the Lions didn’t get the bad end of the deal because it was the officials who made the mistake — originally saying it was a touchdown on the field. If they had ruled it short, the Lions would have had 8 seconds to run a play from one yard out. Eight seconds isn’t much but Caldwell said they could’ve gotten off a play. He said they practice it all the time. He seemed to have no doubt about it.  “You can kind of look at it that way if you want. They ruled it correctly and that’s the way it is,’’ Caldwell said. “Our guys fought hard, they have a really good football team, there were a lot of things we could have done better that we didn’t do well. We have to pick up the pieces, it’s one ball game, we have to get ourselves together. We have a tough one next week on the road against the Vikings.’’ The Lions are 2-1.

3. Caldwell wouldn’t say for certain if the rule should be changed. “I don’t think so, it’s tough to digest that all right now. In terms of how it works, we all kind of know what the situation could/would be.  In hindsight we can complain all we want but they administered the rule exactly the way it’s written,’’ Caldwell said.

4. While many fans and several media members didn’t know the rule, the important people did including Caldwell and Stafford. “I did (know the rule) but it wasn’t in my head at the time. But looked up at the clock and knew it was either going to be a positive or negative right there,’’ said Stafford who was 25-45, 264 yards, one touchdown and a 80.2 rating.

5. “It’s not fun. Obviously wish I would have thrown it a foot higher maybe help GT (Tate) stay up, a game of inches,’’ Stafford said. “Tough one to lose, great effort from our team … offense we have to convert a little bit more on third down early and when our defense gets turnovers we have to put some points on the board.’’ Glover Quin scored a touchdown on an interception return. The Lions could not capitalize on the two interceptions by Darius Slay.

BONUS: Stafford said he can’t rank the odd endings he’s been involved with in his career in Detroit. This is definitely one of them. “I don’t know there’s a bunch of them. That’s the way it goes, you just play and let the chips fall where they may,’’ Stafford said.

Detroit Lions inactives vs. Falcons include Swanson, Dahl; Ansah active

Davis, Washington, Wilson were declared out Friday

DETROIT — The Lions’ offensive line will be short-handed versus the Atlanta Falcons today without center Travis Swanson (ankle) and Joe Dahl (lower leg). Both were questionable on Friday’s injury report.

Graham Glasgow will likely start at center. It’s possible Zac Kerin could start at left guard for Glasgow.

Defensive end Ziggy Ansah (knee) is active. He was questionable on Friday’s injury report.

Linebacker Jarrad Davis (concussion), safety Tavon Wilson (shoulder) and Dwayne Washington (quad) were declared out on Friday.

Zach Zenner will be active for the first time this season in place of Washington.

Safety Miles Killebrew is expected to get his first NFL start in place of Wilson.

Other Lions inactives include cornerback Teez Tabor and running back Tion Green.

Defensive end George Johnson, who signed with the Lions on Thursday, is active. He last played for the Lions in 2014.

Falcons Inactives: WR Nick Williams, RB Terron Ward, LB Vic Beasley, LB Jermaine Grace, OG Sean Harlow, OT Ryan Schraeder and DE Courtney Upshaw.

Kickoff at 1 p.m.

Eight Detroit Lions take a knee during anthem; owner Martha Ford arm-in-arm with players

Team president confirms extension for Jim Caldwell

DETROIT >> Eight of the Detroit Lions took a knee on the sideline during the national anthem before kickoff today.

The rest of the team stood on the sideline with arms linked. In the center of the group was owner Martha Firestone Ford and her daughters. It is not usual for them to be on the field for the anthem.

Those who were kneeling were Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Tahir Whitehead, Ameer Abdullah, Steve Longa, Jeremiah Ledbetter, Akeem Spence, A’Shawn Robinson and Cornelius Washington.

Lions team president Rod Wood said before the game there will be no ramifications if players choose to protest during the anthem Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford issued a statement on Sunday morning:

“Our game has long provided a powerful platform for dialogue and positive change in many communities throughout our nation.

“Thanks primarily to our players, the NFL also has been a unifying force in our country and impactful change has and hopefully will continue to be the result of peaceful expression, done so in order to highlight social injustices of all kind.

“Negative and disrespectful comments suggesting otherwise are contrary to the founding principles of our country, and we do not support those comments or opinions.”

The reaction expected across the league today is due to Tweets from President Donald Trump on Saturday.

His first tweet: If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!

HIs second tweet: …NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.

Wood talked to Mrs. Ford, coach Jim Caldwell and the league office on Saturday.

“It’s unfortunate we’re talking about that and not football today, but I’m glad we got a statement out,’’ Wood said at an 11 a.m. press conference. “I know our players, they’re great guys, they’re great members of the community, they do great work every day and we just wanted to get something out to support them and get back to football.’’

He also had talked to Caldwell on Sunday morning. Caldwell has been consistent going back to last year that the players are free to do what they please.

“I don’t know anything that’s going to happen, I haven’t heard anything. I talked to  coach last night, I talked to coach this morning I think the players know we support them we’ll see what they decide to do,’’ Wood said at 11 a.m.

Wood also confirmed the multi-year extension for JIm Caldwell.

“We wanted him back as our oah it got leaked out so we confirmed it,’’ Wood said. “It’s something Jim and we had talked about we decided not to make an announcement at the time.’’

 

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field

Both teams are off to a 2-0 start

ALLEN PARK — Jim Caldwell trotted out his usual line that this game is the most important because it’s the next.

His approach aside, when the Lions host the Atlanta Falcons — the defending NFC champions — it will be a big test for Detroit.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

“Obviously everybody understands who (the Falcons) are. I mean that’s a heck of a team. I mean there’s no doubt about that but I mean for us, every single week there’s an outstanding team that you play with outstanding talent,’’ Caldwell said on Friday. “So, we take them one at a time as they come. This is the biggest game of the year for us because it’s the next one and that’s how we look at it.”

Five things to watch on Sunday vs. the Falcons:

— The Falcons’ high-flying offense is key, but their defense is a strength too. “Extremely fast, physical, they play hard. It’s not an overly complicated scheme, they line up and they play,’’ quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “They do some things that will make you think and make you work no question. They’ve got really good plays, they’ve got two high end corners, a really good safety, some linebackers that can fly and a defensive line that’s really disruptive, so at every level they’ve got play makers and that’s what makes a good defense and that’s what they are.”

— Ziggy Ansah and the defensive line have proven all critics wrong in the first two games. They’ve pressure quarterbacks and stopped the run. They sacked Eli Manning (who admittedly doesn’t have a strong offensive line) five times. “We don’t have a bunch of name guys, but we got a bunch of guys that work really hard, really good technicians, know how to rush the passer, they run pretty good games when we run our games, and so I think that’s why it all works,’’ defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. “I think the other thing is we’ve had an opportunity to have a little bit of a—Get in a position where we had a lead, so we’re able to turn guys lose a little bit more. So, that’s been a positive and that’s I think why they’re rushing well.”

— Starting safety Tavon Wilson (shoulder) will not play which will mean more defensive snaps for Miles Killebrew. “Miles I think is just scratching the surface of being a really good football player no matter where you put him, so I don’t worry about that. We just know we like to have him on the field and we’ll continue to use him the way we’ve used him,’’ Austin said.

— The Lions’ run game came to life with 138 rushing yards against the Giants on Monday night. It was a good sign, but you won’t see offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter jumping up and down. “It’s one game. I’m not going to – sort of a small sample size type of thing. You know we had a good game rushing, but there is a lot to clean up,’’ Cooter said. “Like I said, some zero runs, some minus runs I want to clean up. So, we’re far from a finished product in anything that we do. I’m not going to kick my feet up on the desk on any facet of our offense and say, ‘Well we don’t need to work on it. We got it figured out.’ So, I think we’re still really trying to get better. That’s run game, pass game protection. That’s a lot of details within those things. So, we got improvement to make.” Dwayne Washington (quad) won’t play but Zach Zenner will be a good replacement.

— The Lions’ offense can keep any defense guessing. While the Lions are prepared for wide receiver Julio Jones to have a big game, with Detroit it’s a guessing game because Matthew Stafford has so many weapons. “Around here we kind of spread the ball around. Different guys have different games. More catches one game, less catches the next game in the pass game, and sometimes that’s due to sort of the ebb and flow of the defense. And then, for us, it’s a little fun because you know, a couple years back you got Calvin Johnson OK? Well, you get in the red zone, who’s getting doubled? You don’t even think about it. You go, ‘OK, it’s (No.) 81. They’re doubling.’ And then you draw up whatever pass play you want to draw up after that,’’ Cooter said. “It’s a different deal now. Sometimes, it’s Marvin (Jones). Sometimes (Eric) Ebron has a big week or two and they find a way to double him. Sometimes it’s Golden Tate. It’s a bunch of guys. Kenny Golladay if he keeps making plays down the field, he could get some doubles. So, it makes it a little more fun from that perspective. But hopefully all our guys are contributing and winning their individual match ups.”

Five reasons it was smart for Detroit Lions to sign Jim Caldwell to extension

He has led Lions to the playoffs in 2 of last 3 seasons

Jim Caldwell has signed a multiple year contract extension, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Caldwell, who is entering his fourth season with the Detroit Lions, will not talk about his contract. He’s been asked about it multiple times and said the only two things he is concerned with are his men and his mission. He repeated that again when asked Tuesday. During the Monday night win at the Giants, ESPN announcers suggested that the Lions ought to get Caldwell locked up for the long run.

Caldwell, 62, was hired in January 2014 after the firing of Jim Schwartz. When Bob Quinn was hired as the general manager in January 2016, his first big decision was to keep Caldwell on board.

Schefter reported that the extension was actually signed months ago.

Five reasons this was a good signing:

1. Since Caldwell was signed in January 2014,  the Lions have made the playoffs in two of the three seasons. Caldwell has changed the culture in three years. That cannot be underestimated.

2. The Lions — rookies and veterans alike — respect Caldwell and enjoy playing for him. They don’t have to say that. You can hear it when they talk about their approach to each game and each day of practice. Their words echo Caldwell’s.

3. Caldwell has hired a solid staff including defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. It doesn’t stop there either. He has quality position coaches throughout his staff.

4. Monday’s win over the Giants was Caldwell’s 50th game. He owns a 29-21 record. Those 29 wins are for most for a Lions’ coach in his first 50 games since Buddy Parker in the 1950s. This is the first time the Lions have started 2-0 under Caldwell and the first time overall since 2011.

5. Caldwell is the calming influence daily including Sundays on the sidelines. He is unjustly criticized for not showing more emotion. That is not who he is. Plenty of successful coaches through the years have been calm on the sidelines. Caldwell’s demeanor is contagious among the players. They remain poised which is key to making comebacks and winning games.

Caldwell and the Lions host the 2-0 Atlanta Falcons at 1 p.m. on Sunday.