LIONS INSIDER

Twentyman: The Lions have the talent to dig out of the 1-3 hole they've put themselves in

Posted Oct 8, 2012

Through the first five weeks of the season, the Lions rank in the top-10 in the NFL in both offense (3rd) and defense (9th), yet they find themselves at the bottom of the NFC North with a 1-3 record.

Over the next 12 games, if somehow the Lions can find a way to get out of their own way, they have the talent to dig out of the 1-3 hole they've put themselves in to start the season.

Through the first five weeks of the season, the Lions rank in the top-10 in the NFL in both offense (3rd) and defense (9th), yet they find themselves at the bottom of the NFC North with a 1-3 record. It just goes to show how costly some of the little details like special teams and penalties can be sometimes.

“They are all things that we can correct,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said last week of the problems that have led to the Lions' poor start. “We’ve had four non-red zone scores. That’s not us. We’ve dropped I think four different touchdown passes. We have guys that have good hands that will catch those balls. We only have nine sacks so far. We have a very good defensive line and we’ll get more. We have zero interceptions so far. We’ve given up four special teams scores.

“There have been a lot of things that have happened that are not indicative of where this team will be after 16 games and like I said we need to get those corrected.”

After losses to the Titans and Vikings over the last two games, no one is taking special teams for granted anymore. The Lions have allowed two-kickoff return and two punt return touchdowns over the last two weeks and rank last in punt coverage and second-to-last in kickoff coverage.

“It is my job to get them to play good, end of story,” special teams coordinator Danny Crossman said last week. “To find ways to help our team win games. This game is only fun if you win, doesn't matter anything else. And as a coach your only job is to help win games, end of story."

We'll find out Tuesday when the Lions return to the practice field what exactly that entails. The Lions need to tackle better on special teams and get players who can get off blocks on those units.

Besides the special teams gaffes, dropped balls and penalties have also helped lead to three losses.

The Lions lead the league in dropped passes with (15), according to Stats LLC, which is an alarming number considering they've played one fewer game than most of the other teams on the list because their bye week came early this season. Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew has four, which is second most in the NFL. He had a crucial drop last week in the end zone in a 20-13 loss to the Vikings.

“It's huge. Two weeks in a row,” Pettigrew said of his drops after the Vikings loss. “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.”

Penalties have also been a consistent problem in all three Lions losses.

In their Week 1 victory over the Rams, the Lions committed three penalties for 27 yards with one of those being a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on receiver Titus Young. Over the last three weeks – all Lions losses – they are averaging nearly eight penalties per game and 77 penalty yards. Some of those penalties came at very inopportune times, too.

Special teams, drops and penalties have plagued the Lions in their three losses.

Sure, the offense is struggling to put the ball in the end zone in the red zone, but those kinds of things figure themselves out. In my opinion, they aren't fundamental flaws with the offense.  

It's been little things like holding onto the football after a long run in the opponent’s territory. Or taking a holding penalty on defense on a 3rd-and-long in overtime that keeps a drive alive. Or dropping passes in the end zone. Or forgetting how to tackle on special teams.

If the Lions could just find a way to get out of their own way they might be okay.

“We have the talent to be able to do it,” Schwartz said of digging out of the 1-3 hole.