Schwartz, Bonamego say special teams penalties need to stop

Posted Sep 24, 2013

Special teams coordinator John Bonamego says the penalties the Lions have been racking up on special teams are unacceptable

The Detroit Lions are much improved in a lot of areas on special teams this year, but there's one trend these first three weeks that has special teams coordinator John Bonamego concerned.

Through the first three games, the Lions have had two special teams penalties accepted in each game.

"Penalties in general right now are completely unacceptable," Bonamego said. "They are completely within our control."

The Lions have had two chances to return kickoffs this year.

The first came in Arizona and resulted in a good return out to the Arizona 28-yard line by Micheal Spurlock. However, a holding penalty brought the ball all the way back to the Lions 8-yard line.

This past Sunday in Washington, the Lions had another chance at one, but missed a block at the point of attack and the play was blown up at the 15-yard line.

Penalties and mistakes.

It's been more of the same on punt returns.

The Lions have been penalized four times in the punt return game, three times for holding and once for being offside.

Detroit is feeling the loss of veterans like Montell Owens and Cory Greenwood to injuries early on. Those players were going to be huge contributors for the Lions on special teams.

Owens still has a chance to come back off short-term injured reserve, and the Lions are looking forward to that day, but in the meantime, they have to get better play from some of their first- and second-year players.

"It's a lack of attention to detail," Bonamego said. "Those things can come back and haunt you and get you beat.

"It hurt us a week ago in Arizona and it backed our offense up again this past week. They are just unnecessary. They are 100 percent avoidable. We coach against it. We look at examples and try to educate our guys as much as humanly possible. That message just has to be accepted, and it's got to sink in quick, because we can't keep hurting our football team like that."

Head coach Jim Schwartz even addressed it during Monday's press conference.

"We have a lot of young guys playing on special teams, particularly on our return units," he said. "We need to play better in our return units. Our coverage units have been better, but our return units need to improve."

Players simply need to play within themselves on special teams, according to Bonamego.

"Sometimes guys want so badly to succeed that they step outside of what they know they should or shouldn't do," Bonamego said.

"They don't want to be the guy whose man makes the tackle, because we track all those things. They don't want to let their guy be the first guy downfield. Chalk it up to poor decisions. Decisions they should know better."

Bonamego also spoke on a couple other trends from Sunday game:

On the coverage units that now rank sixth in punt coverage and 15 in kickoff coverage, respectively, after Sunday:

"Everything is still a work in progress. We have a young group of core players and we're learning every time out. We're obviously getting help by our kicker and punter (Sam Martin) and that makes a difference. I think Darius Slay has done a good job in punt coverage, having him out there the past two games. He's become available to us and he's done a good job out there. He's another big-body guy with speed that can tackle."

On preparing for the Bears and their dynamic returner Devin Hester:

"They are playing at a very high level. Hester looks like he's regained his form. He's as dangerous as ever. We'll have to be hitting on all cylinders this week to keep him contained. I was hoping the Bears were going to trade him."