Coordinator Cut-Up: Cunningham says defense can't get turnovers at the right time

Posted Nov 27, 2012

There are a lot of reasons the Lions came out on the wrong side of a 34-31 Thanksgiving Day loss to the Texans last week.

There was the Brandon Pettigrew fumble in overtime. Jason Hanson’s missed field goal. The bogus 81-yard touchdown given to the Texans by the officials and then aided by head coach Jim Schwartz when he threw the challenge flag.

But there was also the 15-play, 97-yard scoring drive by the Texans towards the end of the fourth quarter that tied the game at 31-31 and ultimately sent the game into overtime.

During that drive, the Texans converted a third-and-8, third-and-10 and fourth-and-7 -- all to receiver Andre Johnson.

"The thing I don't understand about our players, we had six three-and-outs in that game,” Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said. “It's amazing to me that we couldn't stop them. We had two or three opportunities and you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.”

Players haven’t done as good of a job bailing out Cunningham when he’s been in a bad situations, as they did last year. They simply aren’t making the same type of impact plays with turnovers as they did just a season ago.

“We cannot get a turnover at the right time now,” Cunningham said.

“That's probably more frustrating than reads or than anything else we've done. Hopefully it'll get better as we go. And I kept feeling the balls coming out, and it was, we've had some sack strips and we still can't get it. That's what we need in a game like that and we didn't get it.”

They couldn’t get the key stop, either, which was the frustrating part for Cunningham

The NFL made the right call when it decided not to suspended Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh when his foot struck Texans quarterback Matt Schaub in the groin on Thanksgiving, according to Cunningham. But he thinks a fine -- which is still on the table according to the NFL -- shouldn’t be in the discussion, either.

“I pulled it up on the internet after I watched the tape and they had a clear shot of it,” Cunningham said. “So I went in the defensive meeting and I said 'Well, if you kicked him, now you have something else going for you, now you have eyes in the back of your head.

“I talked to Dom Raiola today - he said, 'My God you have to do whatever you can to get to the quarterback, fight, scratch, you know, crawl, however you get there. That's all he was doing. He was making a great effort to get the quarterback.'”