Detroit Lions special teams could use some work

By
Updated: November 4, 2013

The Detroit Lions special teams units are improved over 2012 but can still use some work.

Heading into their Week 9 bye, the Detroit Lions were sitting pretty at 5-3 and second place in the NFC North. This is the third and final installment of our three-part series in which we hand out our midseason grades.

Last week we the offense and the defense. Today we reveal our special teams marks and take a more holistic look at where the team stands at the midpoint of the 2013 season.

And of course, no midseason report card would be complete without a final prediction.

Special teams: C-

Punter Sam Martin has averaged 48.5 yards per punt (fourth in the league) with a net of 42. 5 yards (fifth). He did botch one punt that cost Detroit a tough home loss, and a bad hold in Week 1 cost the team a field goal. He has only managed 10 punts downed inside the 20-yard line, indicating he needs to develop a little more touch in his strong leg. On kickoffs, Martin is booming the ball out of the end zone, a refreshing change for Detroit.

Placekicker David Akers has been very accurate, connecting on 12 of 15 field goal tries (80 percent). Against the Arizona Cardinals he did miss back-to-back kicks in a four-point loss, however.

Protection has been bad on field goals, resulting in two blocked kicks that have cost Detroit a pair of wins.

The return game is better than last year, as Jeremy Ross and Micheal Spurlock have secured the ball and added a nice kick and punt return. There has been no signs of running back Reggie Bush on punts just yet.

Coverage has been strong other than on one big return by Dallas Cowboys returner Dwayne Harris.

Notes of interest

Detroit has converted 45.2 percent of third-downs attempts, good for seventh in the league. They have allowed opponents only a 29-percent conversion rate, which ranks them second best.

Opposing quarterbacks have completed 60.9 percent of their passes for 2,180 yards at 7.6 yards per attempt and thrown 10 interceptions (compared to 11 in all of 2012), amounting to a passer rating of 85 (16th).

Forced 13 turnovers (10 picks, three fumbles) and giving up 12 (six picks, six fumbles) means that Detroit’s turnover ratio stands at +1 — despite finishing -4 in turnover margin against Dallas.  Three of those interceptions were not the fault of quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Ironically, the Lions are 0-3 when Stafford does not throw a pick and 5-0 when he throws one or more interceptions in a game. On the other hand, Detroit is 1-3 when they tied or lost the turnover battle and 5-0 when they won the turnover battle.

Although they have only tallied 13 sacks , the defensive line has registered 31 quarterback hits and 109 hurries, which has contributed to the forced turnovers and strong third-down percentage.

The offensive line has allowed a league-low 10 sacks — amazing, considering how often Stafford throws the ball — but 20 hits and 67 hurries.

Looking forward

It’s been a great first half of the season, and there is still plenty of football to be played. Hopefully, the second half ends more like 2011, when Detroit started 6-2 and finished 4-4 to earn a playoff berth, than 2012, when Detroit started 4-4 (not too far from 5-3) and finished 4-12.

Fortunately, the final eight games do not look as daunting as they first appeared.

Detroit face three tough home games against the Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, and New York Giants; a hopefully easy home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; and four road games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, and division rivals Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings. Three of those games will be played outdoors in cold weather, always a challenge for NFL teams.

A division title and playoff appearance are still in the cards, but Detroit will have to earn them. It won’t be easy, but it won’t be as difficult as sharks fighting in the savannah either.

Detroit wins the NFC North divisional crown with a strong 6-2 home stretch, including a victory at Ford Field against Green Bay.

About the author(s)

Known as much for his in-depth analytical articles and statistically intensive style as his sometimes brash and confrontational tone, Russ Thomas covers the Detroit Lions beat for Water Cooler Sports. Feel free to contact him at .

3072 comments
Tearloch
Tearloch

What a drive here. They basically are closing out the final 10 minutes. OUCH

Maized and Confused
Maized and Confused

I like that all the Non-Packers fans other than LKP bailed as soon as GB took the lead.

redzonejones
redzonejones

another nationally televised drubbing should get schiano fired posthaste

jmac3444
jmac3444

awful pass by wallace there

TOUCHDOWN DETROIT
TOUCHDOWN DETROIT

Who said Bears not getting a TD at end of half would haunt them. Ooooooo, ooooooo the ghost of no td, ooooooooooo

redzonejones
redzonejones

field goal doesnt change the fact mccowns throwing all through the pack

Evil Donkey
Evil Donkey moderator

I've seen shit fights at the zoo more organized than this.

Maized and Confused
Maized and Confused

Watching Lacy has given Stars some semblance of a competitive drive.

Staffords_Glove™
Staffords_Glove™

Weird to say this but I'm REALLY glad we have newhouse right now...

robertj72
robertj72

I truly believe that Seneca has at least one more INT in him

Evil Donkey
Evil Donkey moderator

Well, this site should be a COMPLETE shit show tomorrow.

robertj72
robertj72

When will more team learn that those sorts of things are SOOOOO much more successful if you do them early when they really surprise a team not when everybody know you have to try it.

Buhlitz
Buhlitz

LMAO WHAT HAPPENED!!!!!!

Evil Donkey
Evil Donkey moderator

that was a fucking PERFECT kick

Maized and Confused
Maized and Confused

BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

natesweet
natesweet moderator

I have been watching the game and trying to avoid cursing it by commenting too much. bye.

jmac3444
jmac3444

 not sure why tampa is stalling on shit canning him

natradamus
natradamus moderator

  probably dont need too, but...