There are two things coaches hate more than anything – turnovers and penalties.
The Lions were plus two in the turnover department in Friday’s 27-26 loss in Oakland, but the latter played a part in nullifying the turnover battle win.
Detroit was flagged 11 times for 74 yards total, which is a sharp increase over last week when it recorded just five for 32 yards.
“They make the biggest difference, I think,” Caldwell said of penalties. “When you look at all the other categories, you probably look and say we were playing pretty well.
“The big problem was extending drives with penalties. Any time you do that, you could be playing really well and it sort of takes away from it. It is kind of unforced errors – so, we have to do a better job in that area. We have to coach it better and we have to play better.”
The Lions had a too-many-men-on-the-field penalty on a Raiders 4th and 1 that ended up putting four extra points on the scoreboard for Oakland.
Cornerback Jonte Green was flagged for a holding penalty on a 3rd and 9 play that kept the Raiders’ final game-winning drive to continue.
The referees have made it a point of emphasis this year to crack down on the illegal contact and the holding by defensive players on receivers past the five-yard cushion of the line of scrimmage.
The Lions were flagged for two defensive holding penalties (two others were declined) and an illegal contact penalty.
“It’s tighter. It’s an emphasis,” Caldwell said. “They came in – had the officials there in the early part of camp just before our mock camp. They explained it thoroughly how they were going to call it and they’re doing exactly what they said they were going to do.
“We did adhere to it well last week. Each week is a little different. We didn’t do so well this week. We have to make sure we get that straightened away and we are better at it next week.”
WINNing THEM OVER
Running back George Winn has earned a reputation as a hard runner in training camp and his exploits over the last few weeks haven’t gone unnoticed by coaches.
They’ve earned him more reps come game time, which Friday was a place on the No. 1 kickoff unit.
“Last week he played well, ran hard, ran tough,” Caldwell said of Winn’s 8.5 yards per rush average last week vs. Cleveland.
“Anybody that is in that position is going to also have to have some special-teams duties. We put him on special teams to see what he can do and he made a couple plays, but we’ll look at it. That’s the reasoning.”
Winn made two fine tackles on special teams vs. Oakland and also added a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
He’s making a case for inclusion in the 53-man roster.
Things got off to a rough start Friday night for rookie kicker Nate Freese.
The Lions’ seventh-round draft pick missed his first extra point attempt from 33 yards when he banged it off the right upright.
The NFL is experimenting with extra points being 33 yards instead of the standard 20 yards, and so far there’ve been a number of missed tries through the league.
The NFL wants the extra point to be a more competitive play and it looks like moving the attempt back did just that.
Freese bounced back nicely after the extra point miss, however.
He connected on a 55-yarder into the wind with just eight seconds left in the first half to give the Lions a 16-10 advantage at halftime.
“That was the great thing about it,” Caldwell said of the field goal right before the half. “You saw him come back, step back up there -- and a difficult kick into the wind at a very crucial time as well, so I think that was good for him and good for us to see.”
KNOWING HIS SURROUNDINGS
Don’t think for a minute players on the field don’t know what’s going on around them in terms of the crowd noise or even the scoreboard.
The Raiders had a quiz between two fans to win a prize in the second half and it took place on the video board. One of the questions was a true or false question asking whether Raiders safety Charles Woodson has more than 12 career NFL return touchdowns.
“He’s a really smart player and he’s got I learned today 13 defensive touchdowns.,” Stafford said after the game. “I’m sure one of those by me.”
Calvin Johnson, Ziggy Ansah and TJ Jones were inactive.
Defensive end George Johnson started in place of Ansah and Durham started for Calvin Johnson.
C.J. Mosley also started at defensive tackle in place of Nick Fairley, who played with the No. 2 defense.
Safety DeJon Gomes left the game in the fourth quarter with a neck injury and did not return. Gomes laid a vicious hit on Raiders tight end Scott Simonson at the Lions’ 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter that jarred the ball loose. It was recovered by linebacker Brandon Hepburn.