Lions’ Teryl Austin: Embarrassing blunder ‘on me’

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is pointing the finger at himself.

After the Lions had nine players on the field during a crucial third-down play in the fourth quarter of last week’s 44-20 loss to the Ravens, Austin said he bears all the responsibility for the blunder but declined to explain exactly what went wrong.

“I’m in charge of the defense, so if there’s not enough guys out there, it’s on me,” Austin said Thursday. “There’s no explanation. Jim (Caldwell) has covered it. Bottom line is if I’m in charge of the defense and something goes wrong with the defense, it’s on me.”

The play in question happened in the first minute of the final quarter after the Lions pulled within 20-13 and made it a one-possession game after trailing by 20.

Following a second-down play where Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was hit and lost the ball but was ruled an incompletion, there was confusion during substitutions and the Lions were caught with nine defenders on the field.

Baltimore hurried to the line and promptly took advantage of the miscue as Flacco completed a 23-yard pass to Chris Moore on a third-and-7 to give the Ravens a fresh set of downs at the Lions 10. Two plays later, running back Alex Collins scored on a 7-yard run for the first of Baltimore’s 24 fourth-quarter points.

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Caldwell originally fell on the sword and said the mistake was his fault after the loss, an admirable admission that Austin dismissed.

“I’m in charge of the defense, so I’m going to take this one,” Austin said. “I understand Jim is in charge of the whole team, so obviously as a head coach if I was ever in that position I would take that for my team.

“But bottom line is I’m in charge of the defense and what I put out there whether they played well, played poorly, have enough, don’t have enough, at the end of the day that falls back on me because I’m in charge of that side of the ball.”

However, it’s been a recurring issue during critical moments the past two games.

Against the Vikings on Thanksgiving, the Lions had trouble getting the right personnel on the field and only had 10 defenders line up on a second-and-goal that resulted in a 1-yard touchdown catch by tight end Kyle Rudolph.

While the Lions frequently shuttle personnel on and off the field and use a wide range of defensive combinations based on downs and distances, Austin said that has nothing to do with the recent communication mishaps.

“We’ve had two issues probably all year and they happen to be in the last two weeks,” Austin said. “I don’t think it’s a problem. I think we just had a miscommunication. Again, it falls on me. It’s my job to get it fixed and it will be fixed.”