For a few years now, the Detroit Lions have worn the label of an undisciplined football team. It’s difficult to say where this stigma began, but most people trace it back to the Ndamukong Suh Thanksgiving Day stomp in 2011.
What constitutes an undisciplined team? Most will go straight to the amount of penalties that a team commits. This tactic would hold true enough for the 2011 season when the Lions racked up 1,075 total penalty yards on the year, second only to the Oakland Raiders. They cleaned things up a bit for the 2012 campaign, registering only 944 penalty yards to put them in seventh place when compared to the rest of the league. At least things seemed to be moving in the right direction.
13 games into the 2013 season, the Lions are sitting at 724 penalty yards, putting them in 14th place — just about the middle of the pack. Most would probably guess that Suh is leading the way for the Lions in this category, but it is actually his fellow defensive tackle Nick Fairley who is setting the pace. Fairley has been flagged eight times on the year, including two roughing the passer penalties and two unnecessary roughness calls. Suh is in second place with seven, though one of those flags was the phantom holding call on the two-point try against the Eagles last week which shouldn’t really count.
Once a team is labeled one way or another the title is usually difficult to shed. At least Jim Schwartz can say that his team is moving in the right direction when it comes to penalties, though they seem to pop up at the most inopportune times and are always magnified when they lead to a loss.