By: Will Burchfield
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has made it clear: You can put the blame on me.
After Jim Caldwell accepted responsibility for the Lions defending with just nine players on a critical play in Sunday’s loss to the Ravens, Austin said on Thursday it falls on him.
“It’s me. I’m in charge of the defense, so if there’s not enough guys out there that’s me,” said Austin.
The play occurred early in the fourth quarter with the Lions trailing 20-13. After an incompletion by Joe Flacco that looked like it could have been a fumble, the quarterback quickly ran up to the line and snapped the ball before Detroit’s defense could get reorganized.
On third and seven, Flacco hit wide-open receiver Chris Moore over the middle of the field for a 23-yard gain. Running back Alex Collins found the end zone two plays later to double Baltimore’s lead.
It was the second consecutive game in which the Lions’ defense failed to get 11 men on the field at a crucial moment. They were burned in Week 12 versus the Vikings when they defended a touchdown pass with just 10 players.
The Lions have used a myriad of defensive combinations this season, constantly shutting players on and off the field. But Austin, who calls plays from the booth, said that’s not part of the problem.
“We’ve had two issues, probably, all year, and it happened to be in the last two weeks. I don’t think it’s a problem, we just had a miscommunication. It falls on me. It’s my job to get it fixed, and it will be fixed,” Austin said.
Anthony Zettel was walking off the field during the mishap on Sunday, leaving three defensive linemen in the game. Austin declined to explain why.
“There’s no need to hash that thing over, it’s done,” he said.
Safety Glover Quin, the leader of the Lions’ defense, said he wasn’t aware they were short two players because no one was missing among the defensive backs.
“It’s generally guys that are missing their guys who can tell,” he said. “If we didn’t have another safety, then I’m like, ‘Hold on, hold on, we don’t got enough guys,’ because where’s my safety? D-linemen don’t know if we got enough secondary guys in, I don’t know if we got enough D-linemen in. I’m not paying attention to all that stuff.
“But a defensive end should know, ‘Heck, I don’t got a tackle. Hold on, we don’t got enough guys,'” Quin said.
On Monday, Caldwell pointed the finger squarely at himself.
“Completely my fault, have to get it straightened out,” he said. “Not acceptable — horrendous, actually. I have to get that straightened out. I have to be better.”
Said Austin, “I understand Jim’s in charge of the whole team, so obviously as a head coach if I was ever in that position I would take it for my team,” Austin said. “But bottom line is, I’m in charge of the defense and what I put out there, whether they play well, play poorly, have enough (men), don’t have enough (men), at the end of the day that falls back on me.”