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Lucky Lions Acknowledge Getting Away With Facemask

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(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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LARRY LAGE,AP Sports Writer

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Sure, the Detroit Lions will acknowledge they got a break when linebacker DeAndre Levy grabbed the facemask of Minnesota quarterback Joe Webb on the final play in Sunday’s win.

The Lions held on to beat the Vikings 34-28 after avoiding a flag on Levy that would’ve given Minnesota one more shot to win with no time on the clock.

“We grabbed the facemask,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said Monday. “But there’s probably about three or four other plays in that game where guys got a facemask or guys got a hold. There were a couple fourth-down plays where I think we’re getting held that they convert fourth down.

“If they don’t convert that play, that thing at the end doesn’t even matter.”

Schwartz said officials get it right and wrong on almost every play because it is a fast-paced game that is difficult to officiate in real time without the benefit of slow-motion replay to review after every snap.

“I dare say, 90 percent of the plays that are played in the NFL, there’s something that goes on somewhere that somebody either gets away with or gets called unrightfully so,” he said. “That’s not to be critical, that’s just saying it’s a very, very difficult thing.”

Detroit’s good fortune on the last snap against the Vikings guarantees the franchise won’t have a losing record for the first time since 2000.

The Lions (8-5) are in position to earn an NFC wild card to put them in the playoffs for the first time since the 1999 season, but they don’t have an easy path to the postseason.

They play at Oakland (7-6) on Sunday, then host San Diego (6-7) before closing on the road against the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers (13-0) who may be playing to complete a perfect regular season.

“We’ve got a three-game schedule,” Schwartz said. “A significant portion of that schedule is the Oakland Raiders. That’s the only thing that we can worry about right now.”

Detroit should get a boost against the Raiders with the return of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. He is eligible to play after serving his two-game suspension for stomping on a Packers lineman in a loss on Thanksgiving.

Schwartz said he spoke to Suh on Monday and he’s confident the second-year pro won’t have after-the-whistle problems or be negatively affected by the league’s discipline.

“I’d be very surprised if it showed up on his radar again,” Schwartz said. “He is a very prideful person. He wants to do anything he can to do help the team.

“You certainly don’t want to try to coach guys to play scared or to avoid penalties. You want them to play as hard and as physical as they can. You want to be smart before the snap. You want to be smart after the whistle. Those are the things we expect from Ndamukong.”

Schwartz said Suh looked good and sounded excited about being back.

Is he energized by having two weeks off?

“That’s a positive way to look at it,” Schwartz said.

NOTES: Lions CB Aaron Berry injured his right shoulder against the Vikings, another setback for an injury-ravaged secondary, but Schwartz said initial tests seem to indicate he can come back this season. … RB Kevin Smith (right ankle), S Louis Delmas (right knee) and CB Chris Houston (left knee) were among the injured inactive players on Sunday and Schwartz said none of them has season-ending injuries, adding some of the team’s banged-up players are going to be at least close to playing at Oakland. … Detroit gave players the day off Monday along with their usual day of rest Tuesday before Wednesday’s practice.

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Follow Larry Lage on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/larrylage

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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