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TWENTYMAN: What coaching change means for Lions special teams

One day after Detroit's special teams committed three more penalties in Minnesota and allowed another long punt return, Lions head coach Matt Patricia relieved special teams coordinator Joe Marciano of his coaching duties on Monday.

In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Patricia explained the decision.

"It's never really an easy decision when you have to try and make a move in the middle of the season," he said. "But just kind of taking a look at the evaluation and everything so far and what we've done so far in the season and moving forward, I just thought it was the best thing for the team right now to make that move and kind of go forward without Joe."

Assistant special teams coordinator Devin Fitzsimmons will take over the majority of the duties on special teams moving forward, but Patricia did say it will be a group effort among a lot of different coaches helping out on special teams. This is Fitzsimmons' fifth season in Detroit as an assistant on special teams.

The Lions had one of the NFL's best special teams units last season, when Jamal Agnew returned two punts for touchdowns and led the league with a punt return average of 15.4 yards per return.

But in only a year's time the Lions have become one of the worst special teams units in the league midway through this season. It certainly hasn't helped that Agnew suffered a knee injury last month and was put on IR, but the coverage units have not been consistent enough either.

The Lions allowed a punt return touchdown in their season opening loss to the Jets, and penalties have been a big problem. The Lions have the third most special teams penalties in the league (14) at the midway point in the season.

Opponents are averaging a league best 20.6 yards per punt return against the Lions this year. Detroit is 25th in allowing 25.1 yards per kickoff return. Punter Sam Martin is netting a career low 36.9 yards per punt.

One bright spot for those units has been that they have the league's seventh best kick-return average at 25.5 yards per return.

Patricia said his decision was based on an overall feel of where the special teams were headed, and not one particular area that prompted this move.

"Just general production," he said. "I don't think there's one specific play or one specific situation, just needed a change and hopefully improve it overall."

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