Special teams miscues haunt Lions again

DETROIT — So far the Lions’ special teams have not been very special at all.

After giving up a kickoff return and punt return for a touchdown in Tennessee last week, the Lions were back at it again Sunday at Ford Field against the Minnesota Vikings.

On the opening kickoff of the game, Vikings return man Percy Harvin ran the ball 105 yards for a touchdown.

“You come out the gate, you’re trying to make a statement and you let them make a statement,” placekicker Jason Hanson said. “It’s just completely unacceptable. Everybody knows it and it still happens. That’s gotta get fixed.”

Then in the third quarter, punt returner Marcus Sherels took Nick Harris’ punt 77 yard for a touchdown.

According to STATS LLC, the Lions are the first team since at least 1940 to allow a kickoff return and punt return for touchdowns in back-to-back games.

“All special teams need to get their act together because we’re good but we’re garbage right now,” Hanson said. “And we’re killing our team. So I hope everybody takes it personally. The only way is you play smart but we’ve got to pick it up and just determine, fine, that can’t happen. It just can’t happen.”

Last week, Hanson blamed himself for Darius Reynaud’s 105-yard kickoff return for the Titans, saying he kicked it to the wrong side.

This week, Hanson kicked it right where it was supposed to go.

“One of our major points last week was what we needed to do on kickoffs because we knew Harvin’s a threat,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “We had a great kick out of Jason Hanson. We knew he could bring it out. We didn’t get guys off blocks and we gave up a touchdown.”

After Harvin’s score, Hanson started kicking short kickoffs to make sure Harvin was nowhere near the ball. But it’s not something he prefers to do.

“I don’t want to bloop, kick it short, squib,” Hanson said. “I want to be the team that they’re adjusting to. Right now we made it so that we’re the ones, we’re in their back pocket and we’ve got to kick it short.”

Kassim Osgood, considered to be one of the Lions’ best special teams players, said they just have to pay more attention to the little details to make sure things like that do not continue to happen.

He also said that just because they’ve had two bad weeks does not mean the special teams are doomed for the rest of the season.

“My rookie year in San Diego, we had a breakdown on our special teams and then all of a sudden, guys just made that extra effort to make sure they had the details covered,” Osgood said. “From that point on, we went three straight years without a return on us.”

Schwartz also made it clear that the job of special teams coordinator Danny Crossman is not in danger.

“No, that’s not a consideration,” Schwartz said. “If we were getting out-schemed, if we were making continual mistakes. There are physical plays that we have to make and we’re professional athletes. We have to make them.”

As for Sherels’ touchdown, Schwartz said his team was guilty of physical errors.

“Honestly, I thought we were going to force a fumble on the play,” Schwartz said. “We had a free guy and I couldn’t believe he didn’t fair catch the ball. He ran through one tackle and we did an absolutely poor job.”

The Lions are entering their bye week so they have plenty of time to watch film and think about how to correct things. As for now, they have to deal with a 1-3 record and special teams play that is below par.

“Most of the time, if you’re covering good, your team’s on fire, you’re running hard, you’re kicking good, it can be the pulse of a team,” Hanson said. “To me, that’s mimicking what we’re doing right now. It isn’t right. So we’ve got two weeks to get it right. I’ll do whatever it takes and the guys will, too.”

Avril, Johnson hurt in game

Both receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive end Cliff Avril suffered injuries during Sunday’s game.

Only Johnson was able to return.

Early in the fourth quarter, Avril crumpled to the ground without any contact. The Lions later announced he had a back injury.

After the game, Avril said he would have an MRI.

“I’m fine right now walking around so that’s a good sign,” Avril said. “We’ll see what the results say. I think I’ll be all right. We’ve just got to figure out what’s going on and then find out what I can do to calm it down and we’ll go from there.”

On the Lions’ first series in the fourth, Johnson took a hit from Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway. Greenway was called for unnecessary roughness.

Johnson underwent concussion testing on the sideline but was able to return to the game later in the fourth.