By Ashley Dunkak
ALLEN PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Penalties and the Detroit Lions, an apparently inseparable pair, teamed up again Sunday, and this time Detroit could not escape the implications of its mistakes.
Just a few days after players revealed they had instituted half-gassers as punishment for the entire team for each personal foul committed, the Lions did not commit more than they did the last week, but they still managed to rack up 101 penalty yards over eight infractions. The previous Sunday, Detroit had committed 11 penalty for 88 yards.
The Lions won the first game and lost the second, and in both, they gave up almost the entire length of the football field in penalties.
“It’s certainly too many for us, but we’re two games into the season,” head coach Jim Schwartz said. “There’s probably a dozen teams in the NFL that would probably say the same thing. I haven’t checked the stats of where we fall in the league in penalties, but there’s some really good teams that get penalized an awful lot that win a lot of games.
“Last year, our penalties decreased significantly and we won four games,” Schwartz added. “The year before, we had a lot of penalties and went 10-6. I don’t want to make it sound like we’re trying to get penalties because we’re certainly trying to avoid them, but you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to that, too.”
RIght now, though, there is no baby, to follow Schwartz’s analogy. The Lions are not winning, and it stands to reason that decreasing their penalties – which Schwartz himself says happen when players use poor technique or are out of position to make a play – can only help the Lions, not hurt them.
Part of the reason for this is that even when the Lions commit penalties that are not completely irresponsible – like defensive end Willie Young getting up in the face of New England quarterback Tom Brady or safety Louis Delmas taunting an opponent over on the sideline – the penalties have been so costly.
In the season opener, penalties wiped out a touchdown and a forced fumble. Sunday, Young wiped out a forced fumbled by Ziggy Ansah (who also caused the fumbled wiped out by a penalty in the home opener) because he was called for hands to the face, so instead of a turnover, Arizona continued its drive and ended up with a field goal.
“That was a huge, huge play in the game,” Schwartz said. “You can’t get your hands to the face, and if you do, you’ve got to get them out. He never got it out. That’s going to get called.
“A lot of the other ones you can overcome and things like that, but that one – and again, you’re trying to put your hand right down the middle of a guy’s chest plate, and it slides up and you catch him in the neck or in the head, it’s hard to get it out of there when your momentum’s going, but you’ve got to find a way to do it,” Schwartz continued. “That’s on us as coaches, that’s on us as players to get those corrected.”
The Lions surrendered more than 1,000 penalty yards in both 2010 and 2011. Last year it dipped down to 944 thanks to 25 fewer penalties than the previous season. Right now – granted, as Schwartz said, it is only two games into the season – the Lions are on pace to amass a mind-boggling 1,512 yards in penalties.
Far less than that number could still derail the Lions, though, and they might be wise to consider penalties more of a threat.