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After coaching shakeup, Lions head to London to face Chiefs

October 31, 2015

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The previous time Jim Caldwell was part of a midseason swap that made the quarterbacks coach the new offensive coordinator, it resulted in a Super Bowl trip for the Baltimore Ravens.

Caldwell is hoping for a similar run of good fortune for his Detroit Lions.

And with good reason: That quarterbacks coach was him.

“Yeah, you know, I think you had a group of guys that decided to play better than they had been playing,” said Caldwell, who took over for Cam Cameron in Baltimore in 2012, and helped the Ravens to a victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.

That change was made in December. Caldwell’s shakeup in Detroit earlier this week comes seven games into the season, and just before heading to London for Sunday’s game against Kansas City.

Out as offensive coordinator is Joe Lombardi, who couldn’t seem to get the Lions (1-6) on track all season. In is Jim Bob Cooter, who has never called plays in the NFL.

“There’s going to be some tweaks. Obviously, he’s his own play caller, he’s his own person. What that looks like on Sunday, you’ll see,” Lions quarterback Matt Stafford said.

“It won’t be earth-shattering stuff I wouldn’t think given the one week of preparation we’ve had. So we’re just going out there and trying to execute whatever he calls to the best of our ability.”

With so much upheaval, at least the Lions won’t be experiencing an NFL game in London for the first time. They went there just last year, beating Atlanta 22-21 at Wembley Stadium.

This will be the first time the Chiefs (2-5) have played abroad.

“We look forward to going over there and seeing what it’s all about,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “I don’t know what it’s all about, but (fans) are showing up, they’re enjoying it. It’s not new. Teams have been going over there for a few years now.”

The Lions headed over after last week’s loss to the Vikings, but the Chiefs — who snapped a five-game skid with a win over Pittsburgh — waited until Thursday night to depart.

Reid said he looked at the history of teams playing in London and found that teams don’t fare any better or worse depending on when they arrive. So, Reid decided to keep things as normal as he could, which meant a regular week of work most of the week at the Chiefs’ training facility.

Keeping this nice and calm?

Sounds as if Reid is trying to make the Lions jealous.

“You really can’t change a lot,” Detroit tight end Eric Ebron said of the upheaval within the coaching staff. “You can just take what we’ve been doing great and make it better. If you put your own taste to it, that’s what you do, but right now, we’re just going to execute better.”

Here are some other things to watch going into Sunday’s game:

OTHER CHANGES: The Lions also fired offensive line coaches Jeremiah Washburn and Terry Heffernan on Monday. Tight ends coach Ron Prince is now handling the offensive line and assistant special teams coach Devin Fitzsimmons is working with the tight ends. “When you’re not winning, things like that happen,” Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson said, “but at the same time, we’re moving on. He’s getting us well-prepared so far and we’re getting ready for Kansas City.”

SETTING RECORDS: Stafford is expected to make his 85th regular-season start for the Lions, passing Greg Landry for the most by a quarterback in franchise history.

MACLIN’S RETURN: The Chiefs will have wide receiver Jeremy Maclin back after missing last week’s game with a concussion. Maclin passed the league’s protocol late last week, but the Chiefs’ training staff decided to hold him out as a precaution.

WEST HEADS EAST: The Chiefs’ Charcandrick West had a career-best 110 yards rushing and his first NFL touchdown last week against the Steelers. But while taking on more of the load with Jamaal Charles out with a season-ending injury doesn’t concern him, the trip to London this week is a different matter. “Not looking forward to the flight, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “That’s a long time for a plane to be in the air without a pit stop.”

SPEAKING OF LONDON: Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has been to London once before when San Francisco played Denver in 2010. But Smith didn’t play in the game after hurting his shoulder the previous week against Carolina. “We went over the whole week before,” Smith recalled, “but I think guys know what to expect as far as the flight and have a good idea of the schedule.”

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