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Lions eliminated, and Jim Caldwell should have challenged a key play

Not all challenges are created equal. You might think you’re definitely going to win a challenge on a 2-yard catch on first down in the first quarter, but it’s not worth burning one on it.

It was probably worth it for Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell to burn a challenge on a play that might have kept his team’s playoff hopes alive.

Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell saw his team lose at Cincinnati, eliminating them from playoff contention. (AP)

The Lions faced third-and-28, trailing the Cincinnati Bengals 19-17 with less than four minutes remaining. Matthew Stafford heaved one to Golden Tate, who had it wrestled loose. It was called incomplete. But the replay was close.

Again, not all challenges are equal. The Lions had all three timeouts. And even if Caldwell thought there was a slim chance of winning that challenge, the reward was great. It would have put the Lions at about midfield after converting a third-and-28 with less than four minutes left in a game they trailed. If there’s ever a chance to take a shot on the NFL control center granting a favorable challenge (and as we know, what the NFL overturns or not is very unpredictable), that was it.

Instead, the Bengals took the ball after a punt and scored, the Lions lost 26-17 and their playoff hopes are done. Also, Caldwell’s job status has been a regular question around Detroit. He had a great spot to win out and make the playoffs and practically ensure he’d be back, but an upset loss to the Bengals throws everything into question. He’ll get some criticism for not challenging that incompletion to Tate, and that won’t help as the Lions brass makes its decisions about his future.

Detroit Free Press Lions beat writer Dave Birkett reported this parting scene:

The challenge might not have worked, but Caldwell might really regret not trying.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!