The Detroit Lions lead the league in the worst kind of penalties: those that occur before the play even begins.
Otherwise known as the "no excuse" penalty.
Detroit's pre-snap snafus have fed their league-leading total penalties of 98 (tied with Oakland), including double-digit miscues in seven of the team's last eight games. Stymied by injuries, and a lack of overall chemistry, the self-inflicted wounds have curbed both enthusiasm and wins.
"It's our Achilles' heel," defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. "We've tried different things, different ways of stopping them and preventing them. Guys think about it every day at practice and make it a point of emphasis. It just continues to plague us."
Yet coach Jim Schwartz seemed to partially excuse his team's frustrating faux pas, attributing the pre-snap penalties to the team's aggressive defensive line behavior. Schwartz said it stems from a style that predicates its pass rush on movement, rather than snap count.
"If your objective is to go out and get no penalties in a game, you're never going to play aggressively enough to win," he said. "That's like going up to the plate saying, 'I'm trying not to strike out.' You're never going to get a hit."
But there's 31 other NFL teams with an aggressive streak, too, with some experiencing more success without finding yellow sandbags at their feet.
"Some of our penalties are from just playing the game," Schwartz said, dismissing the notion that his penalty-laden bunch suffers from a lack of discipline. "We had a holding call last week when we had a quarterback playing with a broken arm and the offensive lineman didn't want him to get it. You are in a bad position and you're trying to do those things. I don't see that as a lack of discipline."
He added later, "But we need to do a better job on penalties, for sure. We can't keep making things harder on ourselves."
Notebook (Courtesy TheSportsXchange):
- Lions coach Jim Schwartz defended his decision to play injured RB Jahvid Best (toes) Sunday, even though the end result could be that his starting tailback will be at diminished capacity for two games instead of one.
"We're not trying to save anything for next week at all," Schwartz said. "We're not trying to play for next week. If a player can fill a role we're going to have him out there. Nobody is 100 percent right now."
Best has been dealing with turf toe injuries on both of his feet since Week 3. Schwartz admitted Sunday and again on Monday that the injury was getting progressively worse. Had he sat out Sunday he would have had 10 full days -- from the loss in Buffalo to Thursday -- to heal before playing Thursday against New England. Schwartz didn't see it like that.
"We knew going in that the plan was to limit his playing time," Schwartz said. "We were going to try and get a limited number of good plays out of him rather than have him out there for plays that he wouldn't be involved in."
His status for Thursday is again questionable.
"He had a hard time," Schwartz said. "It's a situation now where it's not trending up, it's actually trending the other way."
- Schwartz wouldn't divulge any details, but he did talk to somebody in the league office about the personal foul penalty Sunday against DT Ndamukong Suh. Replays showed that Suh tackled RB Marion Barber by pulling his hair. The referee called it a horse-collar. The NFL agreed that pulling the hair doesn't constitute a horse-collar, but, as Schwartz pointed out, too late to do the Lions any good.
- SS Amari Spievey was benched in the second half against the Cowboys. He and veteran C.C. Brown will battle for the starting spot against the Patriots. "Amari didn't start out well (against the Cowboys) and C.C. went in and did a nice job," Schwartz said. "Both have played well in spots for us. One (Brown) is more seasoned and the other guy is young and talented and a player we see good things from. We may make a decision there or maybe we'll divide the packages up a little and have role for both."
- TE Tony Scheffler (ribs) is doubtful for Thursday. "Scheff is a really tough guy, a competitive guy, so we'll see where he is," Schwartz said. "The fact that he wasn't able to go back in the game, that says a lot because he has played through a lot this season."
- DE Cliff Avril (quadriceps) is expected to return. He has missed the last two games.
- K Jason Hanson (knee) is expected to test his knee Tuesday and his status will be revealed after that. He said last week his goal was to return on Thanksgiving.
- DT Corey Williams continues to play despite a nagging shoulder injury. "He aggravates it, comes off and lets it settle down and then goes back out," Schwartz said. "He's been dealing with that for a while. He's not complained one bit. He's a tough guy and he's been productive when he's on the field. It's one thing to fight through an injury and it's another to be productive while you do it."