NOTEBOOK Austin: Blunder
Coordinator said he was in charge when team lined up nine
Allen Park — Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is pointing the finger at himself.
After the Lions had nine players on the field during a crucial third-down play in the fourth quarter of last week’s 44-20 loss to the Ravens, Austin said he bears all the responsibility for the blunder but declined to explain exactly what went wrong.
“I’m in charge of the defense, so if there’s not enough guys out there, it’s on me,” Austin said Thursday. “There’s no explanation. Jim (Caldwell) has covered it. Bottom line is if I’m in charge of the defense and something goes wrong with the defense, it’s on me.”
The play in question happened in the first minute of the final quarter after the Lions pulled within 20-13 and made it a one-possession game after trailing by 20.
Following a second-down play where Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was hit and lost the ball but was ruled an incompletion, there was confusion during substitutions and the Lions were caught with nine defenders on the field.
Baltimore hurried to the line and promptly took advantage of the miscue as Flacco completed a 23-yard pass to Chris Moore on a third-and-7 to give the Ravens a fresh set of downs at the Lions 10. Two plays later, running back Alex Collins scored on a 7-yard run for the first of Baltimore’s 24 fourth-quarter points.
Caldwell originally fell on the sword and said the mistake was his fault after the loss, an admirable admission that Austin dismissed.
“I’m in charge of the defense, so I’m going to take this one,” Austin said. “I understand Jim is in charge of the whole team, so obviously as a head coach if I was ever in that position I would take that for my team.
“But bottom line is I’m in charge of the defense and what I put out there whether they played well, played poorly, have enough, don’t have enough, at the end of the day that falls back on me because I’m in charge of that side of the ball.”
However, it’s been a recurring issue during critical moments the past two games.
Against the Vikings on Thanksgiving, the Lions had trouble getting the right personnel on the field and only had 10 defenders line up on a secondand-goal that resulted in a 1-yard touchdown catch by tight end Kyle Rudolph.
While the Lions frequently shuttle personnel on and off the field and use a wide range of defensive combinations based on downs and distances, Austin said that has nothing to do with the recent communication mishaps.
“We’ve had two issues probably all year and they happen to be in the last two weeks,” Austin said.
“I don’t think it’s a problem. I think we just had a miscommunication. Again, it falls on me. It’s my job to get it fixed and it will be
Stafford on the mend
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford hasn’t missed a start since 2011, a streak doesn’t look likely to end Sunday.
Stafford, who injured his throwing hand in last week’s loss to the Ravens, ramped up the activity during the open portion of Thursday’s practice and resumed throwing.
While rotating in at quarterback during drills, he tossed an array of short passes to running backs in the flat and showed his touch on corner fades in goalline situations.
Stafford still had his pinky and ring fingers individually taped on his throwing hand and handed the ball off with his left hand, but the increased activity was a positive sign after he didn’t throw at all during the open portion of Wednesday’s practice.
Stafford sustained the injury when he was accidentally stepped on by Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs following a fourth-quarter interception. Stafford said experienced
he “burning nerve pain” while Xrays were negative and revealed nothing was broken.
Caldwell said before practice Thursday there’s still no timetable for determining Stafford’s availability for Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers.
“When he’s ready (we’ll make a decision),” Caldwell said.
Jake Rudock replaced Stafford after suffering the injury in Baltimore and threw a pick-six on his first drive. Rudock also took first-team reps Wednesday at practice, while Stafford was limited.
Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said he won’t create two separate game plans in the event Stafford can’t play. Instead, he said the team would “adjust as we go.”
“I think anytime in this league when the starting quarterback is not playing offenses change traditionally in this league,” Cooter said. “So, we would adjust to play to Rudock’s strengths, and obviously he hasn’t had a ton of experience, he’s a younger player. We would adjust as needed, but we’ll evaluate that as needed.”
When asked how Stafford’s injury might limit the offense, Cooter said “we’ll evaluate it and do the best thing to win the game.”
“I’m not going to speak to specific injuries, but every one’s a little bit different,” Cooter said. “Every one affects a guy a little bit different and we’ll just make sure we’re doing the best thing for our team as we keep an eye on everything.” mer of hope as the Lions enter the closing stretch with four winnable games, starting Sunday with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
And as someone who has been here before, Freeney said it’s imperative to not get overwhelmed with the anxiety of the moment and lose sight of what lies directly ahead.
“I’m always up for a challenge,” Freeney said. “We’re all in it together and every piece matters from defense, offense. Every piece matters in trying to get there.
“It’s all about getting hot at the right time. That’s what we’re trying to do here and this has to be the week for it.”
“If I’m in charge of the defense and something goes wrong with the defense, it’s on me,” defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said.