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Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Lions defend coaches but put selves here

By Michael Rothstein

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- This is all well-known by now, this situation the Detroit Lions are in and how they arrived here.

How the lead in the NFC North turned into third place and a game back with two weeks to play. How the most consistent thing about the Lions the second half of the season has been turnovers, averaging three a game over the past five.

Jim Schwartz
Whoever is to blame for the Lions' woes, coach Jim Schwartz could be the one to pay with his job if they're not corrected.
How what looked like a team that would be in the playoffs and had a shot at making a run now needs help to just get in. And how all of this has fallen right on the shoulders of Lions coach Jim Schwartz, whose job is now clearly in jeopardy.

"I'm sure everybody wants to win," defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. "Owners expect winning, but most importantly, you've got to play for winning, to have a hunger to want to be a winner.

"That's what I play for, and obviously, I don't want that coach to go anywhere. I love his scheme. I love the way things go."

But when there is losing, there comes blame and accountability for who is at fault. Much of that, the Lions players say, is on them. The coaches, they said, aren't the ones throwing the interceptions or fumbling the ball.

"The coaches call the calls, but we're the players," cornerback Rashean Mathis said. "So at the end of the day, it falls on us. I know everyone points fingers, but the plays are called, we are there. We are talented enough to execute any play against any scheme that the other defense or other offense has.

"It's up to the players. We have to put that on our backs. The coaches do the best that they can do to put us in position to succeed, but if we succeed, that's on us. That's on players as a whole, offense, defensively and special teams. We have to take onus of that."

For the most part, they are, at least publicly. On Wednesday, they took the blame for the myriad issues Detroit has had over the second half. They, as an entire group essentially, talked about being more disciplined and being smarter.

All familiar tropes for the Lions over the past few weeks.

While discipline could often sound like an issue with coaching and an issue with accountability from the coaches to the players, it isn't. Not to the players. In their eyes, handling the discipline of limiting mistakes starts -- and ends -- with them.

"I'm never going to point the fingers to the coaches. Maybe that's just me manning up and saying 'Put it on us; put it on me,'" receiver Nate Burleson said. "When you look at the games and look at the losses, you can almost always point out a few physical errors that we made, whether it is turning over the ball, making the big play on defense in there, special-teams breakdown. Those are physical errors on guys with the jerseys on.

"So I'm not going to sit there and say coaching needs to be better or Jim needs to do a better job. It's plain and simple. It's plays we need to make as a team, and we haven't made those plays. So people are going to find someone to blame, and if they want to blame somebody, blame me, blame us. I'm good with that."

Whoever is to blame, it comes to one simple fact for Detroit. The Lions have to win. They have to start holding on to the ball better, making better decisions and being more disciplined.

That's what the Lions veterans have been saying.

But then there is this reality. Don't win and changes could almost certainly come. And Detroit put itself in this position, no matter who is at fault.

"We're definitely out of time. It's a must-win right now," Mathis said. "I've talked about it, and these talks you don't want to be having weeks from now.

"We're definitely out of time, and we definitely, if there's not a sense of urgency now, then there's no getting it."