Allen Park — If there's one factor the Detroit Lions coaching staff is willing to point at as a key reason for the team's struggles in 2019, it's penalties.
Head coach Matt Patricia has made it a habit of noting the issues weekly and both offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni shared similar sentiments during media sessions on Tuesday.
"In most situations, whether it’s business or football or whatever it is, I think that last inch is always the hardest," Patricia said. "I don’t think it’s been one specific thing in every game. It’s been different in different games. I certainly do think the one thing that we talk a lot about as a team that doesn’t help us is the penalty situation. I think that’s the one thing for us right now that we have to improve on, and we have to get it better."
The Lions have lost an inordinate amount of close games this season. And if the belief is the team is one or two plays away from flipping those defeats into victories, than penalties is an easy starting point.
In Patricia's first year with the Lions, the team was one of the NFL's most disciplined. The Lions committed the fourth-fewest penalties in 2018. But in 2019, through 12 games, they've already been flagged more than all of last season. Only five teams have drawn more infractions.
The Lions' 96 penalties this season have resulted in 31 free first downs for opponents, while contributing to 30 stalled drives for the offense.
Stalled drives were a big issue in the team's most recent loss, 24-20, to the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving.
"There’s so many opportunities for us to be able to make plays and when we get those opportunities we have to make them," Bevell said. "We just haven’t quite got over that hump yet. Between penalties — we had seven penalties as an offense, we had four dropped footballs as an offense — there’re opportunities in there that we have to continue to get better at. We talk about finishing all the time and that’s something we’re not doing well."