This summer, we're looking closer at what went right and wrong during the 2012 Detroit Lions' season. In the coming weeks, we'll count down the top 10 plays which made a difference in the team's performance and record last season. Today, we continue things with an examination of number 6.
Special teams errors have played a helping hand in many Detroit Lions' defeats over the past few years, but few blunders will remain as memorable as two which doomed the team early in the 2012 season.
After two straight losses on the road, the Lions were coming home to take on the Minnesota Vikings, who were off to a hotter than expected start at 2-1. Detroit, as they so often did last year, had the opportunity in front of them to grab an important divisional win while pulling back to even themselves.
Then, the kickoff happened. Refusing to kick away from return game wizard Percy Harvin, Jason Hanson booted the ball into the end zone. Harvin, a bit surprisingly, didn't take a knee, seemingly fooling the Lions' entire flank of gunners, who whiffed at tackling him. 105 yards and a score later, the Vikings had the early jump start they needed on the road.
Considering meaningful offense would be at a premium for both teams the rest of the day, Harvin's touchdown could have likely stood alone. Field goals were traded between Blair Walsh and Hanson until early in the third quarter, when Detroit's pathetic special teams display continued. Marcus Shereles took back a punt 77 yards nearly untouched, opening up a 20-6 lead which was never in jeopardy.
A week after scoring 41 points on the road without some key offensive pieces, Matthew Stafford and the Lions' offense couldn't put together an appropriate response the rest of the second half. Stafford would score on a quarterback sneak late in the fourth quarter, but the damage had already been done thanks to perhaps the most putrid special teams showing in Detroit football history.
For the second game in a row, the Lions had allowed a score in the return game, three overall in two games. Danny Crossman was starting to feel the heat for poor schemes and lack of leadership, but he would remain through the year. It should be no surprise that this game against Minnesota led to Crossman's eventual demise as special teams coordinator in Detroit.
It's truly hard to imagine the Lions being as bad on specialty teams in 2013 under John Bonamego as they were under Crossman. A change in scheme was badly needed and overdue, and the team has also added a few special teams impact players, such as Montrell Owens. It remains to be seen if that will translate to any newfound success on the field.
At this point, though, all Bonamego's group really has to do to in order to improve is not allow two return touchdowns in the exact same game.
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