Can the Lions win the battle in the kicking game on Sunday? Or can they at least not be their own worst enemies? It's no small story line in an interesting NFC matchup:
Seahawks special teams vs. Lions special teams
Sometimes, a team makes a mistake but it gets away with it. It happens much more than we ever consider. Not every assignment is carried out to a "T." The best a team can hope for is for the issue to be pointed out in the privacy of the film room — and not make the highlight reel.
The Lions' special teams haven't been so lucky this season. They have made some errors, and they have paid for them, most notably in Weeks Three and Four, when the Titans and Vikings struck for a pair of return TDs apiece. Improper kick location was a factor in a kickoff return TD at Tennessee, and missed tackles were a major problem on a Minnesota punt-return score the following week. It's also worth noting that Tennessee and Minnesota executed very well.
Such is life in the NFL; show some weakness and the opposition can make a game-changing play.
To their credit, the Lions (2-4) have been respectable in coverage since their struggles vs. the Vikings and Titans. Opponents have averaged 24.8 yards on kickoffs and just 3.4 yards on punts. The kickoff-return average was equivalent to the NFL average entering Week Eight, while the punt-return average was significantly better than the NFL average (9.3).
However, the Lions' special-teams units will again be put to the test on Sunday against Seattle (4-3), which features one of the NFL's finest returners in Leon Washington.
While Washington hasn't had a return TD since the 2010 season, he had returns of 83 and 52 yards (a kickoff and punt, respectively) in Week One at Arizona. Washington has both the experience and playmaking ability to hurt special-teams coverage units not on their game.
The Lions also have a solid returner in the quick Stefan Logan. The Seahawks are strong on kickoffs (20.6-yard average), but opponents are averaging 12.2 yards on punts. Three of Logan's 19 returns have gone for more than 20 yards, including a season-long 48-yarder at Philadelphia in Week Six.
However, Logan has also fumbled three punts, and a lost fumble at Chicago on Monday night helped set up a Bears field goal in a 13-7 Detroit loss.
On Tuesday, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz backed Logan..
“We’re still confident in Stefan," Schwartz said. "... He’s made big plays for us."
A big play or two from Logan would give the Lions' special teams a nice lift.
Short of that, a series of sound, by-the-book plays from the Detroit kicking game would work well enough, too.