ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell did not disclose a timetable for Nick Fairley’s return after the defensive tackle injured his right knee in a win over Atlanta on Sunday.
Coach Mike Smith isn’t shying away from criticism as the Atlanta Falcons fall apart for the second straight year. In Smith’s first five years with the Falcons, they were 56-24, won two division titles and advanced to the playoffs four times. Atlanta is 6-18 since, but Smith says he’s not concerned about job security with eight games remaining. Losing at the buzzer to Detroit in London extended the Falcons’ skid to five games.
That familiar refrain ”Same Old Lions” has been quieted lately. Detroit’s star-crossed NFL franchise is now alone in first place in the NFC North thanks to a pair of improbable victories the last two weekends. Sunday’s win in London over the Atlanta Falcons was particularly remarkable. The Lions prevailed 22-21 on a last-second field goal by Matt Prater – after a miss by Prater was nullified by a delay-of-game penalty against Detroit.
Matt Prater took advantage of another second chance. Prater missed a 43-yard field goal with 4 seconds to go, then got another try because of a delay-of-game penalty. He nailed that one from 48 yards, giving the Detroit Lions a second straight comeback victory, 22-21 over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Wembley Stadium. Detroit gave Prater a second chance this month after Denver cut ties with the star kicker just as he was about to be eligible to return from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Note to all you youngsters out there looking to follow in the footsteps of your NFL heroes: don’t do this. Don’t ever do this. The Chicago Bears were on the wrong end of a 51-24 tail-whipping courtesy of the New England Patriots when defensive end Lamarr Houston scampered in and sacked backup Pats QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Now, most players would be so humbled that they were part of a defense that gave up 38 first-quarter points, a dubious Chicago record, that they’d just go about the final minutes of their work. Not Houston, though. He decided to celebrate his astonishing feat, and in so doing injured himself to an as-yet-undetermined degree. Brilliant. It’s reminiscent of a similar ill-advised play earlier this season by the Detroit Lions’ Stephen Tulloch; that play put Tulloch out for the rest of the season. Houston made headlines earlier this month when he told Chicago fans who couldn’t offer their unconditional support to “eat dirt.” He also signed a five-year, $35 million free-agent deal before the season. So, yeah … not a lot of sympathy likely to come Houston’s way. We’re all in favor of celebrations. Just, please … celebrate responsibly. ____ Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter. Follow @jaybusbee And keep up with Jay over on Facebook , too.
The Falcons have now smeared their stench on two continents. The Atlanta Falcons fell to the Detroit Lions 22-21 early Sunday morning in the latest NFL export to London, a game that showed we’re apparently not still over that whole “no taxation without representation” thing. How else to explain the utter garbage that America foisted on England? This wasn’t just a bad game, this was the bad game, absolute Peak Falcons. Atlanta took a 21-0 lead into the half. Never before had Atlanta lost a game when leading by three touchdowns at halftime. Surely not even the Falcons could blow this one, right? In the first half, the Lions were the Oasis to Atlanta’s Beatles, a weak-sauce imitation, overmatched and scarcely worthy of being on the same field. That all changed in the second half, when Matthew Stafford went full AMERICA and began slinging downfield passes that actually found their targets. Chief among those: a 59-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to Golden Tate that may have traveled 60-plus yards in the air. Detroit couldn’t convert several of its Red Zone visits into touchdowns, including two second-and-goals from the 4 and the 2. But in the battle of who could stink less, Detroit came out the winner, largely because Atlanta now seems predestined to produce a historically awful NFL season. Consider, for example, the interception Atlanta QB Matt Ryan threw at the end of the third quarter. Flushed out of the pocket, the normally steady Ryan slung a ball across his body into a region of the field completely devoid of red jerseys. This was hideous, a pass thrown with all the direction, velocity and foresight of a wet towel. And although Detroit only turned that interception into a field goal, closing the Lions to within 21-13, the writing was on the cathedral wall. Atlanta surrendered another touchdown, managed to evade getting justly penalized on the conversion attempt, and then mismanaged its final possession badly enough to leave the door open wide for Detroit. Atlanta’s defense then demonstrated all the mobility of the Queen’s Guard, and Detroit walked down the field in moments to set up for a potential game-winning kick. In an appropriate underlining of the utter futility of the Falcons effort, Detroit won on that field goal, the aspect of the game that’s bedeviled the Lions all season long. This, then, is a Falcons team in absolute freefall. Since coming within one play of reaching the Super Bowl at the end of the 2012 season, Atlanta is 6-18, a mass of defenseless disunity that lacks all sense of direction despite possessing some of the league’s top talent at key positions. Falcons owner Arthur Blank is the very embodiment of steadiness in the NFL ownership ranks, sticking with his hires even when all around him are lighting the torches and sharpening the pitchforks, but even Blank can’t rationalize away the complete loss of cohesiveness for this team. Head coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff may not even return to America with jobs, and you’d find few, if any, Falcons supporters shedding tears over that. Regardless, Blank and the Falcons need to get this mess of a franchise righted, or at least pointed in the right direction, soon. The Falcons will be moving into a new stadium in three years, and the idea of four- and five-figure Personal Seat Licenses for this team is laughable. (Unless the Falcons are paying the four- and five-figure fees, that is.) There are bad teams and there are pathetic teams, and on Sunday morning in London, the Falcons crossed over from the former to the latter. ____ Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter. Follow @jaybusbee And keep up with Jay over on Facebook , too.
Dear British fans: This is not how the final few minutes of a game are supposed to go. However, these are the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions, so all bets were off on Sunday. Both coaching staffs made fascinating and curiously awful decisions late in the game. In the end the Falcons’ putrid game management was more gobsmacking than their opponent, and the Lions — down 21-0 at the half — came back for a 22-21 win at Wembley Stadium on a Matt Prater field goal at the buzzer. It was only the second time in franchise history that the Falcons have blown a 21-point lead, the last coming in 2003. That drops them to 2-6, and it puts head coach Mike Smith squarely on the hot seat. Smith’s coaching errors, almost too many to count, tangibly and clearly cost them this game. With the sad NFC South still in doubt, a win would have put them squarely (and inexplicably) in the playoff race. But this loss underscores just how far the Falcons have fallen the past two seasons. The Lions chipped away at the three-TD lead, possessing the ball almost 19 minutes in the second half, with two Prater field goals and a Golden Tate 59-yard touchdown from Matthew Stafford. At the end of a 13-play, 69-yard drive under the four-minute mark in the fourth quarter, the Lions cut the lead to 21-19 on a Theo Riddick 5-yard catch. The subsequent two-point conversion was no good, but it appeared the officials missed a pass-interference call on which Tate appeared to he held with the ball in the air. The Falcons got the ball back and, fueled by a great play call against the Lions’ run blitz, took the ball to the Lions’ 40-yard line on a Julio Jones screen play at the two-minute warning. That looked to be the final spike in the Falcons’ sides. But Smith did his best to give the Lions a chance. After a first-down run, the Falcons ran it again and were flagged for an offensive hold. That (not Smith’s fault) cost the Falcons a chance to run off 40 or so seconds. But third down was the coach’s fault. The Falcons called a pass (!), which of course fell incomplete. In three downs, the Falcons were able to milk a mere 14 seconds, with the Lions calling only one timeout. Amazing execution there. After the Falcons punted, the Lions started from their own 7 and Stafford hit Tate for 32 yards and Riddick for 20 more — both brilliant catches against the Falcons’ pudding-soft defense. The Lions moved to the Atlanta 31-yard line as time continued to tick, and all indications were that Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell was playing for a 48-yard field goal. Mind you: Prater had been 2-of-4 on field-goal attempts, the Lions’ kickers colectively this season have been a stunningly bad 9-of-19 on tries this season, and the Wembley pitch field appeared like it had hosted a week’s worth of cow grazing. Again, Smith felt generous. The timeout-less Lions called for a Joique Bell run, and Smith called timeout. Did he have 10 men on the field? Was there an injured player? We could see no evidence of this? The Lions were playing for a low-percentage kick, and the Falcons felt like helping them out. Inexplicable. On third down, the Falcons defense sensed a theme and decided to make the try easier. First, of all, running the ball with 24 seconds and no timeouts was risky as heck for Detroit, having to run the kicking team onto the field in 12-14 seconds and get set for a tough kick. But Falcons defensive tackle Paul Soliai was called for a defensive hold, and it moved the Lions five yards closer and gave them a first down. What’s amazing is that the Lions tried their best to lose the game as well. On third down, Prater lined up a 43-yard try and missed it, but the football gods were not about to let Smith off the hook. A delay-of-game call superceded Prater’s miss, and his longer attempt — from 48 — was, naturally, good. Smith, like the Oakland Raiders’ Dennis Allen a month earlier, will have a long flight home. One in which his life, and his Falcons career, could flash before him. We won’t delve into a long discussion about the actual vs. the perceived strength of the Falcons’ roster, which actually doesn’t matter. Two things do, however: One, owner Arthur Blank clearly believes his Falcons should be more successful than they are a year after Smith barely kept his job, and two, Smith clearly cost his team a win today — on many levels. Although the Falcons not named Smith did their best to give this game away, with Tate’s long TD coming on a 3rd and 25 and Matt Ryan throwing a terrible second-half interception, the coaching errors at game’s end were just too hard to overlook. – – – – – – – Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm