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O'Hara's Burning Questions: A weird punt penalty and a weird challenge

Posted 10 hours ago

Nate Burleson’s video, the committee of running backs, defensive rollercoaster, the resurgence of Brandon Pettigrew and Titus Young and more.

Burning questions – Nate Burleson’s video, the committee of running backs, defensive rollercoaster, the resurgence of Brandon Pettigrew and Titus Young, a weird punt penalty and a weird challenge by the Seahawks – in the Lions’ 28-24 win over the Seahawks at Ford Field on Sunday.

Q. Nate TV: What impact did the inspirational video made by Nate Burleson have on the Lions?

A. It’s hard to quantify something like that, but it didn’t hurt, and the fact that the Lions won the game may have given it some lasting value.

Burleson is one of the most popular players on the team, and he went out for the season with a broken leg sustained in the loss at Chicago on Monday night.

At the offense’s meeting Saturday night, the players were surprised by a video made of Burleson from his hospital room, where he is recovering from surgery.

"It looked like his leg was amputated," center Dominic Raiola said, laughing about the video. "It was awesome."

Fans see Burleson as a showman, but in practice and in the locker room, he has his teammates’ respect for his work ethic and how he applies himself. They felt his loss during the week and wanted to play well for him.

“We know what we were talking about all week,” Raiola said. “Play with his passion.”

Young responded with his first good game of the season, catching nine passes for 100 yards and two TDs, including the game-winner.

Q. Running back committee: Mikel Leshoure started for the fifth straight game, but Joique Bell was in for the last drive. And Kevin Smith got some playing time. What is the status of the running-back rotation?

A. The backs are being matched to situations. Leshoure is the starter and gets most of the work. He had 10 carries for 46 yards and caught three passes.

Bell has good power and balance and terrific hands. He had four catches for 33 yards. He had one of the biggest plays of the winning drive – an 11-yard catch on 3rd-and-10 to make it 1st-and-goal at the one.

Smith has been inactive lately and played only briefly, running once for a yard and catching a pass for seven yards.

“All those guys are a little bit different style,” coach Jim Schwartz said.

Q. Defensive ups and downs: The defense had some big moments, but it also had two big letdowns. One was as 77-yard TD run by Marshawn Lynch in the second quarter. The other was giving up a 12-play, 87-yard drive to a go-ahead TD in the fourth quarter.

Which was worse – the long run, or the long drive?

A. The long drive. The Lions had a 21-17 lead when the Seahawks got the ball at their 13-yard line. A three-and-out could have given the Lions control. Instead, rookie quarterback Russell Wilson picked them apart and ended the drive with a TD pass to Zach Miller for a 24-21 lead.

Aside from the TD, the two biggest breakdowns were an 18-yard completion to running back Robert Turbin on 3rd-and-10 at the 13, and a six-yard completion to Golden Tate on 4th-and-two to the Lions’ 26.

Nobody picked up Turbin out of the backfield, and Tate got inside Alphonso Smith to take a quick pass from Wilson.

Q. Punt penalty: The Lions were penalized on a Seahawks punt in the first quarter. The call was for an illegal formation. What was that about?

A. The penalty was for a member of the punt-rush team lining up over the long-snapper. It isn’t a new rule, and it was put in to protect the snapper from getting hit in the head by the rusher.

The snapper is defenseless on those plays. There is no reason for a player to line up over the snapper. The rule is clear.

Q. How damaging was the penalty?

A. It let the Seahawks keep the ball for another eight plays, and they wound up kicking a field goal. It was three points the Lions shouldn’t have given away – and couldn’t afford to give away.

It was another instance of special teams giving away points. On Monday night at Chicago, a fumbled punt put the Bears in range for a field goal. In losses to Tennessee and Minnesota, the coverage unit gave up TDs on punt and kickoff returns in both games.

Q. Young and Pettigrew: Both had big games. Young had nine catches and scored two TDs. Pettigrew had seven catches and gave Stafford an outlet receiver over the middle. How important was their play?

A. Young is under the gun to pick up the slack left by Burleson’s loss. He responded, but he has to keep it up. Rookie Ryan Broyles got more playing time and had three catches and his second TD.

Pettigrew has been in a bit of a funk lately. He had some lapses early in the season, but if he’s back to how he played most of last season, he’ll be a real asset for the offense.

Q. Challenge flag, penalty flag: The Seahawks challenged a catch by Titus Young in the second half. Also on the play, the Seahawks were called for holding. The Lions declined the penalty because the catch was nine yards, and the penalty was five.

The challenge upheld the call on the field of a catch, but what would have happened if the call had been reversed after the Lions had declined the penalty and taken the catch?

A. Schwartz explained the rule,  saying the Lions would have been able to take the penalty.

“It was going to be a first down either way,” Schwartz said.

Q. Last question. The Lions are at Jacksonville next week, and the Jags are one of the NFL’s worst teams. Will the Lions win to get to .500 for the first time since they were 1-1?

A. Jacksonville is 1-6, and has a points differential of minus 86. Two weeks ago the Lions won at Philadelphia against an Eagles team that has talent.

The Lions should win at Jacksonville against a team with almost no talent.

Prediction to come.