‘Frustrated’ Detroit Lions try to explain recurring issue of having 10-men on defense

Detroit Free Press

Dave Birkett
| Detroit Free Press

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The Detroit Lions are in the midst of another disastrous season and it’s beginning to take a toll on the locker room.

“The whole building is frustrated,” safety Duron Harmon said Monday. “We play this game to win. At the end of the day, the last two performances that we put out there defensively, it’s not a winning performance.”

The Lions looked overmatched Sunday for the second straight week, losing to the Minnesota Vikings, 34-20, to fall to 3-5 on the season.

They’ve allowed 75 points in their last two games, rank in the bottom five of the NFL in rushing and scoring defense, and have played three snaps the last two weeks with 10 men on the field.

On Sunday, Dalvin Cook broke a 70-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter when the Lions played without a right defensive end.

Cook blasted through a hole where the 11th defender should have been as linebacker Jamie Collins was motioning to the Lions sideline to send another player on the field.

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Lions coach Matt Patricia acknowledged Sunday that “we got to make sure we handle those better and communicate on the sideline better,” without offering specifics of how the mix-up happened.

In the Week 8 41-21 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, the Lions played two plays with 10 defenders on the field. The Colts converted a two-point conversion on one, and had a 6-yard run on the other.

Defensive coordinator Cory Undlin blamed himself for those mistakes.

“Bad coaching. That’s what that is,” he said.

Though he was not at fault on any of the plays, Harmon called the Lions’ substitution errors “unacceptable” and said he’ll see to it that they don’t make those mistakes in the future.

“Any time you have that it just shows a lack of focus and a lack of detail,” he said. “That’s not what we preach around here and that’s not what we want to show on film. As a guy, I got to be better. I got to try to find ways to be better. I got to make sure I have 11 on the field, and if that’s me checking every time we go out there, I got to do that from now on. We’ll be better in that aspect. We won’t have that again, I’ll tell you that.”

As for the mounting frustration, with eight games to play, Harmon said no one is at the point where they’re ready to cash in the season.

“The last two performances, you can’t get worse than that,” he said. “We had a good stretch, two games when we were playing good defense and we had pretty good run defense vs. the Colts, but this league is about consistency. Not doing it for two games, not doing it for three games, but doing it consistently well throughout the entire year. It’s my job to push that, I’m going to push that and we’re going to do everything we can to put a better effort out there and a better display next week.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. 

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