NFC North: Rob Bironas

DETROIT -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Detroit Lions' 19-7 win over Green Bay.
  • Vaughn
    Cornerback Cassius Vaughn -- one of the long line of Lions' nickelbacks so far this season -- was spotted with a walking boot on his left foot after the game. When he was asked about how the foot was feeling, he responded with a simple "it’s good" before heading on his way. Vaughn missed two practices this week with what was listed as an ankle injury. The Lions have played six players at nickel this season: Bill Bentley, Nevin Lawson, Vaughn, Don Carey, Danny Gorrer and Mohammed Seisay. Carey re-injured his hamstring in the first quarter Sunday.
  • Linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who injured his knee in the game, had posted on Instagram earlier in the day about the death of his former teammate in Tennessee, Rob Bironas. Tulloch played with Bironas for five seasons and said the two went to country music concerts together. "It hurt me big time, man," Tulloch said of the news.
  • The Lions didn’t seem to be making a big deal about beating Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for the first time in his career, when he played a full game. Instead, they brushed it off as just another win early in a season. That is a mantra Jim Caldwell started in his postgame news conference when he said "I didn’t pay much attention to it."
The Detroit Lions are at least exploring options at kicker, as colleague Adam Schefter reported the team brought in three veterans at the position to work out Tuesday: Rob Bironas, Garrett Hartley and Alex Henery.

They might not be the only possibilities, though. When the Lions kicked around switching kickers last season, they brought them in over a two-day span before sticking with David Akers for the rest of the 2013 season.

So here are some possibilities for Detroit as it explores its kicking question:

Nate Freese: He has the job right now after beating out Giorgio Tavecchio during the preseason. Detroit's seventh-round draft pick in May, Freese is 2 of 5 so far with no made field goals over 30 yards. This is on top of a somewhat shaky preseason where Tavecchio appeared to outperform him. Lions coach Jim Caldwell still thinks Freese has a future in the league, and he might. If Detroit sticks with him, he'll likely have a small margin for error to fix his issues.

Rob Bironas: Tennessee released him in March as a clear cap casualty as he was due a $250,000 roster bonus and had a $2.875 million base salary for 2014. He is, however, a strong veteran kicker. The 36-year-old Bironas made 25 of 29 field goals last season, including 2 of 3 over 50 yards.

Garrett Hartley: Hartley is somewhat of a riskier play than Bironas. He made 22 of 30 field goals last season for New Orleans and has had a downward trajectory since making all eight of his field goals in 2008. But, members of the Lions coaching staff will have familiarity with him and familiarity often breeds signings.

Alex Henery: Like Hartley, Henery has had a downward trajectory the past three seasons and lost his job in Philadelphia to rookie Cody Parkey during training camp. He has a fairly accurate leg, though, making 86 percent of field goals in his career. Plus, he's only 27 so if the Lions sign him and he does well, he could be a long-term solution.

Giorgio Tavecchio: Detroit knows what it would get with him, so probably one of the reasons it didn't call him up for a tryout. But he's a young kicker who some -- including myself -- believe should have won the job out of camp. So he'd at least be in consideration if the team makes a move.

Jay Feely: Probably the best kicker Detroit hasn't reportedly brought in yet. When he was cut by Arizona, he indicated he still wanted to kick and still believed he could. He has ties to the state, having played college football at Michigan. The 38-year-old could also provide a mentoring presence to punter Sam Martin. He wouldn't be a long-term solution, but he made 30 of 36 field goals last season, was 11 of 12 from 40-to-49 yards and 3 of 5 from 50-plus yards.

Free Head Exam: Detroit Lions

September, 24, 2012
After the Detroit Lions' 44-41 loss to the Tennessee Titans, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. Free Head Exam
    ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski has forgotten more football than most of us will ever know. So it's worth noting that he suggested Monday morning on ESPN Radio that quarterback Shaun Hill's footwork implied an intentional quarterback sneak on the game's final play. That would differ from the narrative provided by coach Jim Schwartz, who said center Dominic Raiola erroneously snapped the ball on a play the Lions were trying to draw the Titans offside. I strongly believe Schwartz is telling the truth. (And I don't fault him for "calling out" Raiola. This is a man's game. No one needs to be protected.) If the Lions hoped to entice a penalty, Hill's footwork would have to mimic a real play. It's more likely that Hill was faking the footwork for a sneak to add weight to the possibility. If you saw Hill and Raiola interacting afterwards, it sure appeared they were not on the same page. I don't think there are any conspiracies here. The Lions got too cute and paid for it. If anything, an argument could have been made to call a real quarterback sneak. Both Dean Oliver of ESPN Stats & Information and Brian Burke of NFL Advanced Stats have pointed out the Lions had at least an equal, if not better, chance of winning if they had tried to convert the fourth-and-1 than if they had attempted a game-tying field goal, as they planned.
  2. We noted in Sunday's post on replacement officiating gaffes at the Metrodome that other NFC North games had been impacted as well. But at that moment I didn't realize how bad it got at LP Field. As several writers have already noted, replacement officials, in essence, put the Titans in field goal range for their eventual game-winning kick in overtime by marking off 27 yards, instead of 15, after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against linebacker Stephen Tulloch. Sports Illustrated's Peter King theorized that referee Gerald Wright marked off the penalty from the Lions' 44-yard line instead of the Titans' 44, which was actually the original line of scrimmage. So instead of taking over at the Lions' 41-yard line, the Titans got the ball at the 29. Place-kicker Rob Bironas, who had already missed two field goals in the game, eventually was put in place to boot an easy 26-yarder. The Lions could have avoided the entire mess if Tulloch didn't commit the penalty, but it's a basic expectation of any referee to maintain an accurate line of scrimmage.
  3. Let's not sugarcoat this. The Lions were inexcusably sloppy and undisciplined Sunday -- and not just on the final play. They committed 10 penalties, were successfully targeted on a gadget punt return and became the first team in NFL history to allow five touchdowns of at least 60 yards. A tight end as big and as strong as Brandon Pettigrew should never allow the ball to be yanked from his hands by a cornerback, as Pettigrew did in the fourth quarter Sunday. We saw safety John Wendling take a poor angle and cornerback Jacob Lacey lose track of the ball on Nate Washington's 71-yard touchdown play. The list goes on. Said Jaworski: "Something is wrong there in the detail of coaching. Either they're not coaching it or the players are not listening."
And here is one issue I still don't get:
Was there any connection between Matthew Stafford's right leg injury, initially diagnosed as a muscle strain, and the Lions' decision to give the ball to running back Mikel Leshoure 16 times in the first half and target receiver Calvin Johnson only twice? The Lions trailed 20-9 at that point but outscored the Titans 32-24 afterwards. Were the Lions trying to manage Stafford's workload? After all, he said he suffered the injury last week in practice and felt it grab several times during Sunday's game. Or, were the Lions purposefully running the ball to force the Titans into more favorable coverages against Johnson later in the game? If that were the case, it might have worked. Johnson was targeted 12 times and caught nine passes after halftime. Did the running "loosen it up" for the Lions? Or did they simply get more aggressive after halftime? I'm not sure.