Communication the primary culprit in special teams mistakes

Posted Sep 17, 2013

Special teams coordinator John Bonamego puts responsibility for missed field goals and return troubles squarely on his own shoulders

Sam Martin had a career day punting the football in Arizona, Sunday, but it was overshadowed by a host of special teams gaffes that led to a performance the Lions would just as soon like to forget about.

In a close game they ultimately lost, 25-21, a missed field goal and another field goal attempt that was blocked proved to be two crucial plays in the game.

"Anytime something like that happens, we're all responsible," special teams coordinator John Bonamego said. "Ultimately, the responsibility falls on me as a coach."

David Akers missed a 52-yard field goal wide left in the first quarter when he was run into by a Cardinals' player. His second chance five yards closer went wide right.

"Nobody feels more responsible than David does, I can assure you that," Bonamego said. "He's a consummate pro and that's the first thing he said. He expects to make those kicks.

"Quite frankly, on the second one, he probably got rattled a bit. He got hit pretty hard there and wasn't probably feeling the best and he probably overcompensated a little bit.

"Ultimately, we can't allow our kickers and punters to get hit like that. It's like in offensive football, you don't let your quarterback get hit. We have to do a better job in that area and we will. It'll be addressed."

Especially after Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel came off the edge to block Akers' second field goal attempt later in fourth quarter.

"There's really no excuse for that guy on the edge getting that ball blocked," head coach Jim Schwartz said during his Monday press conference.

Bonamego said poor footwork and technique were the biggest culprits which led to the block.

"When you get a kick blocked, it's usually a combinations of a number of things that aren't quite good enough," he said. "We knew we were facing two elite rushers in (Patrick) Peterson and (Justin) Bethel. That was something, believe it or not, that got stressed during the week. Not only by myself but Jim (Schwartz) stood up in a team meeting twice and talked about the importance of that aspect of it.

"Our footwork was poor at the end and wing positions and our operation time was a bit slow. That enabled him to come in and get a block. It was a technique breakdown. We didn't execute."

When the Lions lost Jason Fox to a groin injury last week, they had to change some things up on special teams with Corey Hilliard moving into the starting lineup.

Israel Idonije, a backup defensive end, was the farthest player along the right side of the line on the attempt that was blocked.

"There were some really big plays in the game, the missed field goal and the blocked field goal ... just look at the way the game went," Schwartz said.

"We make those two plays, the game has a true opportunity to really look the other way and those are plays that we should consistently make over the course of the season. We got a lot of trust that David will make those plays for us."

Bonamego also touched on a couple other trends from Sunday's loss:

Michael SpurlockReturner Michael Spurlock (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions).

On the less-than-stellar return game, especially the negative punt return by Micheal Spurlock in the third quarter that put the Lions in a hole: "Micheal knows better. He came right off and apologized.

"There was a little miscommunication there at the end as far as the direction of the return. He had gotten the call, which was the correct call, and then I gave him a signal and he thought I was waiving it off. That was a miscommunication error where we weren't on the same page. Again, that's just something that can't happen."

On the punting of Sam Martin: "Unfortunately, we made enough mistakes in the kicking game between missed field goals and getting one blocked and making a poor decision to bubble back on a return and two penalties, the job that Sam did both kicking off and punting kind of gets overshadowed by those things.

"One of the things we felt we had to accomplish this week was not letting Peterson get started because he's a very dangerous punt returner. We wanted to limit his touches as much as we could and pin him to the sideline and Sam, along with the rest of the guys on our punt team, did a very good job of that."