October 19, 2010 at 10:22 pm

John Niyo

Lions blaming themselves, and rightly so

On 3rd and 1, Lions running back Jahvid Best gets the first down in the first quarter against the Giants Sunday. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

Allen Park — Film sessions are rarely fun for NFL players. There is no popcorn, there are no comfortable seats, and when you lose — especially the way the Lions have lost, in a series of bad sequels reading from a stale script — the soundtrack is never good.

That was the case Monday, a day after the Lions tied their NFL record for consecutive road losses with surprisingly little help from the victorious Giants.

As Lions guard Rob Sims put it, "It's us beating us. We're beating ourselves."

Only they don't get credit for those kinds of wins. And Monday, the Lions began their bye week with another not-so-friendly reminder of that.

The Lions committed 11 penalties in the loss to the Giants, extending their league-leading total to 59 this season. The last three weeks, they've been flagged 35 times to their opponents' 12, and judging by coach Jim Schwartz's facial expressions on the sideline against New York, enough was enough.

Or, perhaps more accurately, too much was way too much.

"We just sat in that meeting and watched every single one of those penalties we had yesterday," Sims said Monday, when asked how the Lions might look "different" when they return to action Oct. 31 at home against the Redskins. "You know, you would think that we'd come back a little different after seeing something like that and seeing how close we were and how those plays affect us."

You would think that, sure. And you might be right.

But we'll see.

We'll see if the mistakes get corrected and the aggression gets channeled properly and if there's a zero-tolerance policy — or something remotely close to it — from the coaching staff.

The fans want to see Schwartz unload on his players publicly, but I'm not sure what good that does. They want to see serial offenders cut loose, but really, that's what the offseason is for.

In October, the streets aren't exactly littered with better alternatives. And trust me, we'd have seen more players benched the last few weeks if not for some of the injury problems.

Certainly, though, the Lions are planning to show up in a better costume on Halloween.

Matthew Stafford will be back as the starting quarterback. Calvin Johnson should have the use of both his arms again and Jahvid Best should be running on two happier feet.

DeAndre Levy also is expected back at middle linebacker, a position that's been so injury-riddled this fall that Schwartz joked Monday it might be cursed, "like the drummer for Spinal Tap." (And if you don't get that reference, I suggest you go rent the movie, turn the volume up to 11, and enjoy. You can thank Schwartz later.)

Penalties aren't culprit

But you would think a lot of things about the Lions and be wrong — again and again, as we all know.

So let's get this right here: The penalties aren't the reason the Lions are 1-5.

The Lions — and this includes the coaching staff, without question — are the reason the Lions are 1-5.

The penalties certainly aren't helping, which is why Monday's film-session message was, according to Sims, "Stop it. It's that simple."

Said Schwartz: "We can't go on the way that we have gone on with those."

But keep in mind, the Lions drew fewer flags than their opponents their first three games, and they lost all three.

So all the dumb penalties, like Cliff Avril's personal foul that negated a goal-line stop — "That was just a foolish penalty: I was frustrated," Avril said Monday — or Dante Wesley's sideline mugging that helped derail the final 2-minute drive, are only the latest symptom of a team that's still stumbling as it tries to get out of the cellar.

Giveth and taketh away

The reason the Lions can't "go on with those" penalties is because they've still got too many other weaknesses, some of which aren't going to get fixed this season. They've got a defense that, while vastly improved up front, still gives up too many big plays. And they've got an offense — injuries notwithstanding — that's fourth-worst in the NFL with 14 turnovers in six games.

No team, by the way, has more takeaways this season than the Lions, who've forced 15. And yet they're still 1-5? That tells you something right there.

It tells you the Lions still have a lot of work to do to clean up this mess.

"For us to get over the hump, we've got to be perfect," Sims said. "And we're not perfect right now."

Penalty leaders

Lions (1-5): 59 penalties, 429 yardsRaiders (2-4): 55/458Cowboys (1-4): 49/404Eagles (4-2): 48/42749ers (1-5): 46/404

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