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FOUR DOWNS: Penalty problems


The two plays that directly resulted in the Lions' 16-15 defeat at the hands of the Tennessee Titans Sunday included the defense's inability to knock the ball down on the late Andre Johnson touchdown on 4th and 4, and then Matthew Stafford's interception at midfield as the Lions tried to get into field goal range for the come-from-behind win.

But the 17 Lions penalties for 138 yards are the real reason they dropped to 1-1 on the season.

Detroit had three touchdowns wiped off the board because of penalties.

"Seventeen penalties is disappointing," head coach Jim Caldwell said. "We have to get that straightened away and get it straightened away quickly."

An Ameer Abdullah touchdown run in the first quarter was called back for a hold on Eric Ebron. The Lions still managed to score two plays later on an Anquan Boldin touchdown catch, so that one didn't kill them.

But later in the second quarter, Ebron was flagged for offensive pass interference after catching a 1-yard touchdown. The very next play, Boldin had an 11-yard touchdown cleared off the books due to a Laken Tomlinson hold. The resulting penalties after initially having a 1st down and goal at the 1-yard line ended up forcing the Lions to kick a 46-yard field goal.

In a close game, having to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns makes all the difference.

"It's tough to win a game that way," Stafford said. "It's tough to get in a rhythm. We did it to ourselves out there."


Detroit pass catchers weren't credited with a single drop in last week's win over the Colts.

That certainly won't be the case when the new stats come out on Monday. There were about a half dozen footballs that hit receivers' hands that ended up incomplete -- and everyone had a hand in it.

"As receivers, we believe any ball in our area code we need to catch them despite where it is," receiver Golden Tate said after the game in which he caught just two of his nine targets. "I look back and speak for myself and there were some balls that I just should have flat out caught. I should have caught them.

"One thing we'll address tomorrow. One place I know I can be better."

The Lions ranked in the top five in the NFL last season with just a 3.9 percent drop rate. Sunday was not their best effort.


Over the first two weeks of the 2016 season, tight ends have given the Lions' defense problems.

Last week in Indianapolis, Detroit's defense surrendered seven receptions for 88 yards and three touchdowns to the position. The fact that the Lions won the game softened that blow a bit.

But with Tennessee All-Pro tight end Delanie Walker racking up six more catches for 88 yards and one score, helping the Titans to a victory, Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has to be concerned about this early-season trend.

The Lions were short-handed at linebacker without DeAndre Levy vs. Tennessee, but Austin will never use that as an excuse.

The NFL is a copycat league. Teams will continue to attack the Lions from the tight end position as long as they show they can't defend it. So far they've surrendered 13 receptions for 171 yards and four touchdowns in the first two contests to the position.


Stafford's streak of completing at least 60 percent of his passes, which dated back to the playoff game in 2014, came to an end Sunday after he was 22-of-40 passing for 260 yards with a touchdown and a pick vs. Tennessee.

His streak of four consecutive games with at least a 115.0 passer rating is also done after finishing with a passer rating of 72.9.

Stafford said after Sunday's loss that he wished he could take back his last throw, the interception to Perrish Cox that ended the comeback effort, but Stafford didn't have a lot of help Sunday.

The numerous penalties and dropped passes didn't do him any favors. The defense was unable to ice the game with a late stop, conceding a 13-play, 83-yard drive and a 9-yard touchdown on 4th and 4.

Stafford had a couple near misses down the sideline to both Marvin Jones and Golden Tate he probably wishes he could have back as well, but he made plays with his feet (31 rushing yards), and was good in the pocket extending plays most of the game. He wasn't the biggest reason the Lions lost Sunday.

"Guy made a good play," Stafford said of the Cox interception. "He was guarding Anquan (Boldin) on the outside and just kind of sloughed off, and that's a tough one. Ebron had some tough outside leverage, so he kind of had to cut his route short and it was the right job by him. Obviously, hindsight's 20-20, I wish I wouldn't have thrown it. But he was guarding somebody else and came off and made a play."

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