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Twentyman: What we learned in Sunday's OT win at Philadelphia

Posted 6 hours ago

The Lions may have saved their season Sunday with a 26-23 come-from-behind victory in overtime against the Eagles.

They made the plays they needed to down the stretch to win the game and, in the process, we learned a lot about the character and fight of this football team.

Here are some other things we learned:

1. It goes to show how finicky special teams play can be

After giving up kickoff return and punt return touchdowns in each of the last two contests against the Titans and Vikings (both losses) special teams was a major cause for concern heading into Sunday's game at Philadelphia.

So much so, in fact, that the Lions made special teams coach Danny Crossman available to the media last week due to overwhelming request by the media.

On Sunday, the Lions special teams coverage units held the Eagles to an average of 4.0 yards on punt returns with a 24.4 average on kickoff returns.

Rookie linebacker Travis Lewis joined the unit this week along with safety Erik Coleman and safety John Wendling has turned his focus strictly back to special teams since Louis Delmas' return from knee surgery last week.

The Lions even got a 48-yard punt return from Stefan Logan that set up the Lions first field of the game in the first quarter.

It just goes to show that a weakness one week (or two in this case) doesn't always remain a weakness.

2. Cornerback Chris Houston is playing at a Pro Bowl level

Houston matched up with Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson one-on-one for much of the day, Sunday, holding him to five catches for 74 yards (30 of those on one play).

“Chris is playing at a really high level,” said Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. “He matched DeSean Jackson the whole game and I think he did a great job on him.

"When it was man, he was battling every play. Coming into this game, we knew that the Eagles were going to try to take deep shots against us – that's a big part of their offense.”

Houston had a big interception in the fourth quarter defending a deep pass to Jackson. It was Houston's first of the season after leading the team with five last year.

“Not only could it change the field, it could go for a touchdown,” safety Louis Delmas said of Houston's interception. “He stepped up as a man and as a player. Playmakers make plays on balls and that's what we did.”

Houston missed the first two games of the season with an ankle injury, but has been nothing but terrific since returning for the last three weeks.

3. The Lions still have some discipline issues

The Lions reverted back to the undisciplined ways Sunday that plagued them in so many games last year with 16 penalties for 132 yards. Ten of those were pre-snap false starts and encroachment calls.

“There might be a lot of penalties, but the only ones I'm really disappointed in are the false starts and the defensive offsides,” Schwartz said.

Rob Sims almost took the Lions out of field goal range in overtime with a holding penalty.

Gosder Cherilus earned a unnecessary roughness penalty that moved the Lions from the Eagles 13-yard line back to the 28 and forced a Lions field goal three plays later.

Schwartz probably doesn't mind explaining penalties after a win, but they were fortunate so many didn't help result in a loss.

4. Kevin Smith's role has diminished rapidly

Running back Kevin Smith opened this season as the team's starting running back the first two games of the season with Mikel Leshoure suspended and Jahvid Best on the Physically Unable to Perform list. In a victory over the Rams in Week 1, Smith had the game-winning touchdown catch with five seconds left.

Things have certainly changed over the course of a month.

Smith was among the seven inactives Sunday for the Lions. His role has been declining steadily over recent weeks with the return of Leshoure and the emergence of Joique Bell, but Smith wasn't even a part of the game plan this week.

It's unclear if that was just a matchup decision against the Eagles or if we can expect him not to play much of a role moving forward. With Best potentially coming off PUP this week, Smith's role could potentially diminish altogether.