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Four Downs: A blast from the past, repeat offenders, O-line and Levy shines

Posted 10 hours ago

It would probably be less frustrating for the players, coaches and fans if the Lions’ 1-3 start wasn’t a result of the same breakdowns week after week.

First down

Former Lions linebacker Zack Follett made a name for himself in Detroit with the way he played on special teams. He played special teams with a veracity and physicality that Lions fans could appreciate.

It didn’t hurt that he had a few highlight real hits on special teams, too.

So what did Follett, who hasn’t played in an NFL game since suffering a neck injury against the Giants in 2010, think about the Lions’ performance on special teams Sunday?

“Dang. Special teams comes down to attitude and no one on the Lions wants to be on ST and this is the result.,” he tweeted Sunday.

It’s hard to disagree with him after watching the Lions special teams units the last two weeks.

For a second consecutive week, Lions special teams units gave up a kickoff and punt return touchdown in the same game.

Here’s a record the Lions didn’t want attached to the franchise: according to Stats LLC, the Lions became the first team since at least 1940 to give up both a kickoff return touchdown and punt return touchdown in back-to-back games.

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said after the game that it wasn’t a scheme issue that’s dogged the Lions over the last two weeks, rather a physical problem. A simple case of guys getting beat.

“It’s been different things,” Schwartz said after the game. “We knew it was going to be a challenge with Harvin, but there is no excuse there (referring to the kickoff return).

“The other one, we should have that guy wrapped up. We missed a tackle, he broke the tackle, however you want to put it. They’re physical mistakes, they’re not mental mistakes. We need to play better.”

Maybe it’s gotten to a point where Schwartz needs better players on special teams. That may be players who aren’t on the roster right now or starters taking on more of a role.

Second down

It would probably be less frustrating for the players, coaches and fans if the Lions’ 1-3 start wasn’t a result of the same breakdowns week after week.

We talked about the special teams on first down, which has been a repeat problem for the Lions. But so has the offense's inability to score in the red zone. Drops by receivers in crucial situations. Bad penalties on defense. It’s been the same things the last three weeks. Unfortunately, it’s been some of the same culprits, too.

Rookie cornerback Bill Bentley was flagged for two pass interference penalties (31 and 26 yards) that set up both Vikings' field goals in the first half. Bentley had a bad holding penalty on a 3rd-down-and-16 play in the overtime last week that gave the Titans a first down and an opportunity to kick the eventual game-winning field goal.

“I just have to turn around and look for the ball,” Bentley said of the two plays Sunday. “I thought I was in perfect position. I don't agree with the calls.

“But I'm not the referee and I'm not out there and obviously the calls did happen so I have to come back and get better from it.”

Tight end Brandon Pettigrew dropped what would have been a touchdown pass late in the second quarter, and the Lions had to settle for a field goal. Pettigrew had a couple drops last week and had a fumble that resulted in a touchdown return.

“It's huge. Two weeks in a row,” Pettigrew said. “When it comes down to it, the team's counting on me, they called my number. I need to make the plays. Big time players make big time plays and right now I'm not being that.”

It’s the repeat problems that are the most frustrating part of this 1-3 start. The Lions know what the problems are, but can’t seem to get them corrected, for whatever reason.

Third down

Schwartz summed up the play of his offensive line in seven words after the game.

“We got our butts kicked up front,” he said.

Couldn’t have said it any better myself.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was on the run for nearly the entire afternoon and the line was manhandled in the run game against seven-man boxes and straight looks.

Stafford was sacked five times, hit nine times and was forced out of the pocket to be made a runner four times. There wasn’t just one culprit, either. The unit collectively played their worst game of the season Sunday.

Asked after the game what went wrong up front, center Dominic Raiola said he had to watch the tape and to ask him tomorrow.

Schwartz’s analysis seemed right on the money from the naked eye, though.

Fourth down

If there’s positive to take from Sunday’s loss, it’s the play of linebacker DeAndre Levy. In fact, Levy has played well all season.

He led the Lions with nine tackles Sunday, giving him a team-leading 30 on the season. Levy has moved from the outside to the middle and then back to the outside over his four-year career. It seems like he's settling in nicely to his current role on the outside.

Levy is having his best season as a Lion and has become a sure-tackler for the Lions defense. That was on display Sunday. He had one tackle for loss against the Vikings and was the only man between a big Vikings gain on more than one occasion and got the job done.