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Lions Shocked, Speechless After Storm Of Penalties Against Titans

By: Will Burchfield

Darius Slay, usually quick with a quote, was stumped when asked about the rash of penalties the Detroit Lions committed in Sunday's 16-15 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

"I've never seen anything like that," he said. "The refs were very, very, very…"

He paused, searching for the right word.

"Very, uhm – calling everything. Like, everything," he said.

Whether this was due to overzealousness on part of the refs or lack of discipline on part of the players can be debated. What's painfully clear is that the Lions were undone by a penalty barrage on Sunday, the flags flying into the air like fireworks.

Not surprisingly, the team's 15-3 fourth-quarter lead blew up in its face.

It was a penalty-laden game for both teams, with Detroit and Tennessee combining for 29 infractions. But the Lions were the guiltier party, committing a whopping 17 penalties for 138 yards.

In Jim Caldwell's eyes, it wasn't a lack of composure that cost his players so much as a lack of awareness.

"These were technical issues, I think. A bunch of issues with a lot of different guys," he said. "I just think that, in certain situations, guys just have to be able to understand exactly what's being called – and (the refs) will let you know pretty early, matter of fact, even before the game.

"We've just got to do a better job. 17 penalties is ridiculous."

It wasn't just the sheer number of infractions that doomed the Lions on Sunday. More than anything else, it was the timing of said infractions. The Lions were flagged on a slew of critical plays, giving back points and handing out yards like buckets of free candy.

"Can't do that," said Matthew Stafford. "Tough to win a game that way, tough to get into a rhythm. You know, we did it to ourselves out there: mistakes, drops, penalties. You name it, we did it."

On the Lions second drive of the game, Ameer Abdullah raced 14 yards for a touchdown, only to have it called back by a holding penalty on Eric Ebron. The offense ended up scoring a few plays later, but it was a portent of things to come.

On the ensuing Titans' possession, the Lions got a third-down stop in Tennessee territory. But a holding penalty on Slay gave the Titans an extra opportunity, which they translated into a field goal and their only points of the first half.

And then things really got sloppy.

Leading 9-3 and looking at first and goal from the 1-yard line, the Lions were knocking on the door of a 16-3 halftime lead. Stafford busted through it by hitting Ebron in the back of the end zone, but the refs ruled (rather dubiously) that Ebron had pushed off of the cornerback.

Offensive pass interference. 10-yard penalty. Replay first down.  

Okay. This time, from the Titans' 11, Stafford connected with Anquan Boldin for his second touchdown of the game. But the celebration was halted thanks to Laken Tomlinson.

Holding. 10-yard penalty. Replay first down.

Okay. This time, from the Titans' 21, Stafford hooked up with Golden Tate for a 14-yard gain. But it was waved off because of Boldin.

Holding. 10-yard penalty. Replay first down.

Backed up to the 26-yard line, the Lions were forced to settle for a field goal. They would later lose by one point, a narrow defeat that could've, should've, would've been a lopsided victory.

"I was kind of in shock just because I couldn't believe that we just kept getting penalty after penalty," Tate said. "We were scoring those drives, we were moving the ball and scoring. When you move the ball you gotta take advantage of putting points on the board and make sure they stick."

After the game, a somber Marvin Jones summed it up best.

"It was tough," he said. "I mean, as you can see, we shot ourselves in the foot."

He's right. The Lions weren't beaten by the Titans on Sunday. They were beaten by themselves.

Asked about the number of penalties, Glover Quin, like Slay, was at a loss for words.

"That was quite a lot," he said. "I don't know if…I don't know. It was a lot of them, though."

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