With special teams like these, Lions deserve to be 1-3

by | Oct 1, 2012 | Detroit Free Press, Sports | 0 comments

One week is a freak. Two weeks, you freak out. In a special-teams collapse of historic proportion, the Lions once again spent Sunday with their heads on a swivel, watching an opponent return kicks for scores – which, sadly, is also how they spent LAST Sunday.

The Lions have now surrendered a punt return touchdown AND a kick return touchdown two weeks in a row, the first time an NFL team has done that since before World War II. Four special-teams touchdowns? In two games? Twenty-eight points in less than a minute of playing time?

“We deserve to be 1-3,” Jim Schwartz said.

At that rate, how do you avoid it?

By the way, these weren’t some squib-kick, lucky-bounce, 40-yard scampers. Nuh-uh. The punt returns were 65 and 77 yards. And the kick returns were 105 yards each! If they started any farther back, they’d be in Canada.

On Sunday afternoon at Ford Field, Minnesota’s Percy Harvin took the ball deep in his end zone and shredded through the Lions’ special seams – er, teams – for a score, just as Darius Reynaud had done for Tennessee the week before. Only Harvin’s happened on the opening kickoff!

Hey, Lions, if you’re gonna drive fans to drinking, give them enough time to buy their first beer.

“One of our major points this week was what we needed to do on kickoffs,” Schwartz said after the Lions’ 20-13 loss.

I don’t think this was the answer. I’m not sure what Schwartz is telling Danny Crossman, his special-teams coach, right now. But I’m pretty sure the guy could do one of those Southwest Airlines commercials. You know? “Want to get away?”

There’s a reason for the record

Sunday started ugly. It ended ugly. In between, it was mostly ugly. Five sacks of Matthew Stafford? Two costly pass-interference penalties on Bill Bentley? A critical fumble by an anemic Mikel Leshoure? Besides, when your first play goes 105 yards the wrong direction, you’re already in a ditch.

And that is where our local football team resides this morning. You are what your record says you are. Bill Parcells was right. It doesn’t matter what the preseason pundits proclaimed, doesn’t mater how sexy Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson looks on highlight reels. Save the talk about talent and potential. The standings don’t lie.

The Lions, a quarter way through the season, are last in their division.

They scrambled to beat a lousy St. Louis team, then lost to San Francisco, a game they’d love to have won, lost to Tennessee, a game they should have won, and lost to Minnesota, a game everyone figured they’d have won.

“We look at every game and say, ‘Aw, man, without those four plays, we win,'” wide receiver Nate Burleson lamented.

But every losing team can say that. Four plays in the NFL is a novel, a feature film, an entire plot line all to itself. Consider how tough it is to drive the length of the field for a touchdown. Do that on one kick return – one play – and the result is just as dramatic.

Well. The Lions have seen opponents do that four times in two weeks – games that were ultimately lost by three points and seven points.

“There’s a reason we’re 1-3,” Schwartz said. “It hasn’t been bad luck.”

A week to regroup

After the game, Stafford, normally composed, looked almost shell-shocked. Other teammates shook their heads in can’t-believe-this disgust, as if they’d just discovered the spare tire was flat, too.

If you didn’t know better you’d almost say this team started the season too cocky. But if you live in Detroit, “cocky” and “pro football” can’t be said in the same sentence without laughing gas.

“I’m glad we got the bye (week) here,” Burleson mused as he dressed by his locker, one of the last Lions to do so. “This team has two weeks to think about how terrible we feel. I want us to… not enjoy our bye. I want us to have our minds on football, foaming at the mouth ready to get back because that’s what we need. We need to play with that violent passion that we had last year and the year before.

“So this is good for us.”

Well. We’re glad it’s good for someone. And maybe, in hindsight, it’s good for the fans, too. After all, one week is a freak. Two weeks, you freak out.

But if this were to happen again this Sunday, the kick return man could just keep on running, up the tunnel and straight out of the building. Because Lions fans would be right behind him.

Contact Mitch Albom: 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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