Four Downs: Logan's mental mistake, failed defensive stops, Schwartz's call and timeout

Posted Dec 22, 2012

Too many times this season the Lions defense has failed to come up with the key stop in the fourth quarter to give the offense a chance to either take the lead or get back in the game.


Good kick returners do two things. They always hand the ball over to their offense following a return attempt and they always know where they are on the field.

Over the last two weeks, Stefan Logan has broken both rules.

His fumble on a punt return cost the Lions six points in a loss to the Cardinals last week.

This week, it was inexplicably downing a kick at his own 4-yard line with 1:21 left in the game following a safety and the Lions trailing 31-18.

“He thought he was in the end zone,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said of the play after the game. “That’s (the) job as a returner. He thought he was in the end zone, wasn’t going to burn any clock and figured the time he would have taken to get back to the 20 just would have been burning the clock.

“But he got lost and that’s the returner’s job. The returner’s job is to know where he is on the football field.

"We had gone for it on fourth down, didn’t get it. Our defense did a good job of getting us the stop right there and if we get good field position we can take shots at the end zone. We’d still need an onside kick and some things to go our way, but at least we had a chance. At that point, it allowed Atlanta just to be able to play prevent defense and wind the clock out. That took away any chance that we had late in that game.”

Logan averaged just 16.8 yards on four kickoff returns in the game. There was also a bit of controversy in the second quarter when he was ruled to have called a fair catch when he thought he was just waiving his blocker away. He had plenty of room to run after fielding the punt at the Lions 41-yard line.

Unfortunately, there’s been too many of these types of moments with Logan and not the kind that help win football games.


Too many times this season the Lions defense has failed to come up with the key stop in the fourth quarter to give the offense a chance to either take the lead or get back in the game.

It was more of the same Saturday night in a 31-18 loss to the Falcons. After pulling to within 21-16 with 13:26 left in the fourth quarter, the Falcons proceeded to march 78 yards in 11 plays and cap off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 28-16 with 6:14 remaining.

The Falcons converted a key third-and-4 on the drive.

“That was a big third down when we blitzed and (Matt) Ryan threw off his back foot and just sort of floated one and Roddy White came down with a great catch,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. “That’s a play that was a big momentum play. Because we had just pulled it to five points or whatever it was and we had a chance to get a stop right there – we’ll get the ball in decent field position and then have a chance to go ahead with a touchdown and that kept their drive alive. That gave them life. I thought that was a really big play in the game.”

The Lions’ defense has allowed 10 drives in the fourth quarter this year of 10-plus plays. They simply haven’t been able to get off the field enough late in games.


The boo birds were out in the fourth quarter when Schwartz chose to kick a field goal trailing 21-13 with 13:26 left on the clock instead of going for it on fourth-and-goal at the 2-yard line.

Schwartz made the right call in kicking the field goal, no matter how unpopular it might have been to the 60,000-plus fans in attendance.

The right call with that much time on the clock was to take the points, knock the lead down to five points so a touchdown can give them a win and hope the defense can make a stop.

“It’s an eight-point game at that point,” Schwartz said. “We make the field goal, we had gotten a lot of stops on defense. We had a little bit of momentum there and our offense had been driving the ball.

“The only thing that really stopped us was turnovers. So we had a lot of confidence that we’d be able to go down and score again. We didn’t think that would be our last opportunity early in the fourth quarter in that situation. So we had a lot of confidence in our offense and kicking a field goal there sounds a little bit backwards, but we had confidence that we could get the ball back."

It had to be a tough call for Schwartz, though, because he’s had a front row seat to watch his defense fail to make that stop.

That’s exactly what happened and the Falcons extended the lead to 28-16, but Schwartz has to coach with the mindset that his defense can make a stop, especially with that much time left in the game.

“When we gave up the score on defense, that sort of took away from that strategy,” he admitted afterward.


The Lions were forced to use a timeout on the second play of the game when right tackle Gosder Cherilus had to leave the game because of a problem with his shoe.

Reserve tackle Riley Reiff was in the game on the first play as an eligible receiver and was not able to slide over into Cherilus’ spot without incurring a penalty.

“The reason the official threw the flag is because Riley went from eligible to ineligible in consecutive plays,” Schwartz said. “The timeout and the way they administrated, they got it right. But that’s why I took the timeout, so that we could get the guys back on the field.

Dylan Gandy had run out there, but we were going to be in a situation where we had a guard playing tackle and – particularly early in the game – we didn’t want a negative or anything like that. Just thought it was best to take a timeout in that situation. It allowed us to get Riley in there and then Gos got his shoe fixed and was in on the next play.”  

The loss of a timeout ended up hurting the Lions late in the second quarter when they ran out of time and were forced to kick a field goal with seven seconds left in instead of stopping the clock much sooner and taking a few shots at the end zone.

It’s one of those little things that doesn’t seem too significant at the time but counts in the grand scheme of things.