Last week, in a wild loss to the Titans, the Lions allowed a pair of special teams touchdowns -- one on a kick return, another on a punt. Sunday, inexplicably, they did it again. Those plays turned out to be the difference, too, as Minnesota, despite giving up 13 points and scoring just six on offense, pulled out a road win over the reeling Lions.
Only two kickoffs have been run back for touchdowns in the NFL this season, and both have come against Detroit.
In their Week 3 defeat, the Lions allowed Darius Reynaud to race 105 yards in the fourth quarter for a score. Percy Harvin matched that feat in Detroit Sunday, but he did so on the opening kickoff, in the exact same fashion as Reynaud. Just as Reynaud did seven days ago, Harvin took Jason Hanson's kickoff five yards deep, started up the middle of the field, then broke to his right and headed for the sideline. And just as on that Reynaud TD, the Lions were caught completely out of position -- both players raced virtually untouched to the end zone.
You might be able to forgive the punt-return TD Detroit gave up to the Titans: Tennessee perfectly executed the "Music City Miracle" throwback lateral for its score there. But the Lions had no such excuse Sunday in that facet of their game.
Marcus Sherels victimized Detroit in the third quarter, breaking at least four tackles to come free for a 77-yard return TD. His score put the Lions in a 20-6 hole that they could not recover from despite a late rally. [si_launchNFLPopup video='543eb30f4bdf4b1a941c75431f6adc96']Click here to watch both returns against the Lions[/si_launchNFLPopup].
So, the Lions now sit at 1-3 with a shaky defense, slumping offense and, at least to this point, the worst special teams in the league.
Jim Schwartz foretold this potential problem way back in the preseason, complaining after Detroit's first exhibition game that his coverage units were not good enough. He promised changes at that time, then added Pro Bowl special teamer Kassim Osgood in hopes of rejuvenating his coverage units.
It was Osgood, however, that missed a clear tackle attempt against Sherels to start that play Sunday. All of the Lions' issues might wind up costing special teams coordinator Danny Crossman his job. Crossman took over that role following the 2009 season when Schwartz let go of longtime Lions special teams coach Stan Kwan. With Detroit's bye week coming and back-to-back games being impacted heavily by failures in kick/punt coverage, Schwartz might have to shake things up again.