September 8, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Chris McCosky

Chris McCosky's Four Downs: Lions' penchant for personal-foul penalties re-emerges

First Down

They thought it was behind them. They thought it was an issue they learned to control last season. Nope. The Lions had another relapse of their self-destructive habit of incurring personal foul penalties.

“Dumb mistakes,” Reggie Bush said. “We know better. We’ve got enough guys on this team who know better. Penalties after the play are momentum-killers. They know that and we will get it corrected.”

It was a point of emphasis before the season, especially for the defense. Captain Ndamukong Suh, in one of the first team meetings, talked about eliminating dumb penalties.

Yet, against the Vikings, it was Suh’s well-behind-the-play chop block on Vikings center John Sullivan that nullified an interception return for a touchdown by DeAndre Levy.

“On that particular play, I am looking to make a block and I see Sullivan — I found out later who it was — was close to our runner,” Suh said. “I’m just throwing to make a block and really knock him off so he doesn’t get a chance to get ahold of him.”

Suh said he spoke to Sullivan after.

“I wasn’t by any means going for his knee and he knows that,” Suh said. “We had a great conversation about it at halftime and he understood. My aim point was his waist, to cut him off.”

Still, the penalty cost the Lions a touchdown. Later, safety Louis Delmas, another veteran leader, picked up a 15-yard penalty for taunting along the Vikings sideline.

“Suh has to avoid that,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “But the one I was disappointed in was the one on the sidelines.”

Suh and Delmas both owned up to their mistakes.

“He (apologized) on the sideline,” Nate Burleson said of Suh, “but we don’t need to search for apologies. We got the win and these are some things we can fix — and we will do that. No need for Suh to stand up on the table and apologize. As long as he keeps playing with a passion, we’re good.”

Second down

Lions second-year left tackle Riley Reiff can’t claim a victory in his individual battle against Pro Bowler Jared Allen on Sunday. Allen had four tackles, hit Matthew Stafford three times, sacked him once and knocked down two passes.

But the Lions still produced 34 points and 469 yards of offense.

“That was a tough matchup,” Schwartz said. “That is an outstanding (defensive) front and we were able to move the ball.”

Allen tipped his cap to the Lions — more to quarterback Matthew Stafford than to Reiff.

“Reiff did all right,” he said. “I think who was doing a great job was Stafford. He was really getting the ball out of his hands fast. I think if you put a clock on him there was a couple of times where the ball was out in under 2 seconds. Hats off to him, he is doing some great things.

“The young guy (Reiff) did all right. There were times I won some rushes and you know, for their game plan, some they won.”

Third down

There was some concern during the preseason about 32-year-old Burleson. He was coming off surgery to repair a broken leg and he wasn’t getting much separation in the exhibition games.

Well, he served notice Sunday that he’s got a lot of game left. He had six catches for 78 yards.

“Not bad for a 32-year-old,” he said. “I can still move around with these old legs. I was brought here for a specific reason, that’s when Calvin is double- or triple-teamed I have to get open. I am a complementary player and I take pride in that.”

Burleson is as good-natured as they come and he understands how the media game works. He lets a lot of the speculation and doubt slide off of him, but you could tell he heard it and he wanted to stifle it.

“There was a lot of talk in the preseason but I didn’t listen to it,” he said. “I didn’t want to say much. Today I wanted to go out and not play for the fans that doubted me, but for fans that supported me and know what kind of things I can bring to the table. It wasn’t for the doubters.”

Fourth down

It was a rough debut for punter-holder-placekicker Sam Martin, and he was mighty rough on himself after.

“Bad,” he said. “It’s one thing to have a bad punting game. Those are negligible, they happen to everyone. But dropping (the snap on) a field goal is unacceptable and I never ever do. I frigging catch field goals in my sleep. So that’s what I am most mad about.”

Martin, the fifth-round draft pick out of Appalachian State, muffed the snap on a 31-yard field goal attempt on the Lions’ first possession of the game.

“I don’t really have an excuse for it,” he said. “I will watch on film. I might’ve reached for it a little bit but I just didn’t catch it.”

He also muffed his first punt of the game and finished with a pedestrian 38-yard punting average and a 36.5-yard net.

But he did finish strong. He had a 55-yarder that was pinned at the 1.

“We won today and the good news is I can only get better from here,” he said.

Lions' Ndamukong Suh talks to coach Jim Schwartz after the defense tackle was penalized for a chop block that negated a touchdown by DeAndre Levy in the second quarter. / Daniel Mears / Detroit News
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