Jim Schwartz defends call for fake field goal

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Jim Schwartz left himself vulnerable to fan rage, talk-show hosts and Monday morning quarterbacks.

Most of them ripped the Detroit Lions’ coach for the fake field goal call that became the turning – and talking – point of Sunday’s 37-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

A day later, Schwartz continued to defend the move and reiterated his stand that he’s not going to coach scared or afraid of making the bold decision.

“If you’ve got quarterbacks that are afraid to throw interceptions, you’re never going to complete any passes,” Schwartz said Monday during his weekly news conference. “If you have defensive backs that are afraid to give up passes, probably never make an interception.

“I think the same thing goes for coaching. If you’re afraid about what might happen, you’re never going to make the call. We were confident in our call. It didn’t work.”

The controversial decision came early in the fourth quarter with the Lions leading 27-23.

They lined up for an apparent 27-yard field-goal attempt to extend the lead to seven points, but holder Sam Martin took off running on the fourth-and-5 play.

Martin not only got stopped a yard short of the first down, but he also fumbled. The Steelers then drove 97 yards for the go-ahead touchdown and never looked back.

“We got the look that we wanted,” Schwartz explained. “We thought it was there. It was based on good information. We have a chance right there to really put a dagger in that game and go up 11.

“We were aggressively trying to take what the defense gave us. We thought that we had that play. We didn’t execute it great.”

The Lions’ special teams had not attempted any type of fakes since the final game of the 2009 season, Schwartz’s first year as coach.

The club has a new special teams coordinator this year, John Bonamego, who has been a special-teams coach in the NFL since 1999.

“If we think there’s something there special teams-wise next week, I’m not going to be afraid to call it,” Schwartz said. “I think that’s got to be a mentality thing.

“You can’t all of a sudden be conservative just because a call didn’t work. The reasoning behind it was good. I think the situation was good.”

The outcome wasn’t good.

If it had been, the reaction would have been considerably different.

Schwartz said he wasn’t worried about any backlash from his critics.

“I just know what goes on in our locker room,” he said. “Everybody knew why we called it and why we practiced it. We really don’t care what anyone else’s feeling is.

“You’re going to be scrutinized. Hey, if we were successful in that situation, I know what you guys would write. You guys would write it’s a different attitude Lions, they’re going for the win, they’re not trying to settle for field goals.”

Schwartz added: “The only way to be right is to win.”
— Star running back Reggie Bush’s playing time was greatly diminished after he fumbled in the second quarter on a rainy day and muddy field in Pittsburgh.

Bush ended up playing only 58 percent of the team’s offensive snaps and finished with 31 yards rushing on 12 carries.

Joique Bell, a bigger, more physical back, got the majority of playing time until he suffered a foot injury in the fourth quarter.

“Style-wise, it was a good game for Joique,” Schwartz said. “Joique was being productive.

“In horse racing, Reggie wouldn’t be called a mudder. He’s an explosively quick guy. He’s better on a fast track. I’m sure Barry Sanders probably went through a lot of that here.”

Five of the Lions’ final six games will be played indoors, including four at Ford Field.

— Receiver Nate Burleson, who has missed the last seven games because of a broken left forearm suffered in a car accident, could be back for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.

“There’s a possibility,” Schwartz said. “He’s on a good track. He’s been back on the practice field. There’s a big difference between practice and games. If he’s able to then we can get him out there.”

Burleson has practiced on a limited basis for the last two weeks.

— Schwartz, on communication breakdowns by the defense on a couple early Pittsburgh scoring drives: “Some guys were farming land that wasn’t theirs. They were out of position.”

— Schwartz, on rookie running back Theo Riddick getting some offensive snaps late in the game after Bell went out: “He looked funny out there with a clean uniform.”

— Bell, safety Glover Quin (ankle) and cornerback Chris Houston (hand) are “day-to-day” or “week-to-week,” according to Schwartz.