Tight ends had a field day against the Detroit Lions' defense the first four games of the year. Detroit's defense gave up a whopping six touchdowns to the position in the first month alone.
During the team's three-game winning streak heading into Sunday, they allowed just one touchdown to tight ends.
In Sunday's 20-13 loss in Houston, tight ends once again gave the Lions fits.
C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson were targeted 12 times and finished with 10 receptions between them for 94 yards and a touchdown.
"Really been kind of a combination of different things," head coach Jim Caldwell said after the game when asked why defending tight ends has been an issue this season.
"There's been different guys that have been maybe a hair off here or there, they had a couple nice catches there. Those guys that are on the interior playing inside are catching a pretty decent number of balls. We just didn't make enough plays."
The Lions utilized tight end Eric Ebron as an effective weapon as well throughout the game. Ebron led the Lions with seven receptions for 79 yards.
"Both sides, it's kind of the way the game was going," Caldwell said.
But somehow, some way, the Lions have to figure out how to defend the tight position more consistently moving forward.
OUT OF SYNC
Something didn't seem right about the Lions' offense Sunday. They were just a little off.
Detroit's receivers weren't getting the separation we've seen the last few weeks.
Back-shoulder throws were falling incomplete as Stafford and his receivers didn't seem to always be on the same page.
"We couldn't really get it going enough to put points on the board," receiver Golden Tate said. "Thought we moved the ball pretty well, I just think penalties, field position just kind of hurt us today.
"Felt like we were always on the ten or the 20. Felt a lot of times their offense was starting at the 30, 40, 50 sometimes. But, we knew it was going to make a tough game coming in to it, we knew that we would have to bring our own energy. We just didn't make any big plays."
Stafford was shaking his head a couple times on incomplete passes to receivers on a few third downs.
Tate, Marvin Jones Jr. and Anquan Boldin accounted for just 79 total receiving yards in the game.
The Lions were just 3-of-11 on third down, and had just two plays of more than 20-plus yards – a 34-yard catch by Ebron and a 23-yard reception by Theo Riddick.
"We just hurt ourselves," Ebron said. "Penalties, we just hurt ourselves. Every game we've lost, we've hurt ourselves. So, we've got to, just got to clean up our act and win."
Through the first seven weeks of the season, Lions punter Sam Martin led the NFL in net punting average with a mark of 46.8 yards per punt He also ranked fourth in gross punting average at 50.3 yards per punt.
Both numbers were significantly down Sunday as Martin had a very average game for his standards.
His gross was down to 44.6 per punt, and the net was just 37.6. All five of his punts were returned by the Texans.
Martin seemed a little off his game punting the football, and then wasn't able to get the right bounce on the onside kick late in the game to give the Lions an opportunity to recover the ball and try to tie the game.
Starting right tackle Riley Reiff missed two practices this week with an undisclosed illness, and was questionable coming into the game because of it.
Reiff started the game, but had to leave for a couple series during the course of the game. He was replaced by Cornelius Lucas.
Give Reiff credit for gutting through most of the game obviously not 100 percent because of a what seemed to be a pretty nasty bug.
-- Lions cornerback Johnson Bademosi made a nice interception late in the second quarter to keep points off the board and set up a Lions field goal right before the half. Bademosi was making his first career start filling in for the injured Darius Slay, and did a pretty nice job on the outside.
-- Armonty Bryant continues to be a nice playmaker upfront for the Lions. He recorded his third sack of the season, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit.
-- Penalties crept up as a problem again for the Lions. They were flagged eight times for a total of 75 yards.
One of those penalties, a hold by linebacker Antwione Williams, wiped out a 56-yard kickoff return by Andre Roberts in the second quarter. That doesn't show up on the penalty yards total, but it was a big one.