Lions must cut down on costly flags

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- They preached about how they wanted to be more disciplined, how they wanted to cut down on losing yards due to mistakes -- things they can control.

The Detroit Lions have really wanted to cut down on penalties, especially at critical times.

The Lions were penalized eight times for 101 yards Sunday in a 25-21 loss to Arizona. This comes a week after they were flagged 11 times for 88 yards. So after all the talking and preaching of discipline, for now, the Lions clearly are not.

This time, it might have cost them a game.

“It’s something that we work on. It’s something that we talk about,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “We just keep working on it. We’re making a concerted effort to try and play cleaner football this year.

“I don’t know. Maybe asking them to quit throwing flags on us. I don’t know.”

The flags came at the worst possible time for Detroit in the second half Sunday. And they were big ones.

A hands to the face penalty on a third down in the third quarter by defensive end Willie Young -- a penalty he called “legit” after the game -- extended an Arizona drive. The next play, defensive lineman Israel Idonije was called for roughing the passer. The drive ended with a Jay Feely field goal.

Those weren’t even the biggest changers.

Cornerback Bill Bentley, who usually lines up in the nickel, was flagged for pass interference on Andre Roberts -- a play in which had he turned his head and made a play on the ball there would have been no call -- which set up the go-ahead touchdown run by Rashard Mendenhall two plays later.

In all, Bentley was flagged twice for pass interference and another time for holding Sunday -- just part of the Lions’ overall penalty issues.

“Yeah, they did hurt, but that’s the game,” Bentley said. “Like I said, man, you can’t win with penalties like that. You know what I’m saying. You’re good enough to be on the field like that, we just have got to make those plays.”

The question is how to actually do that. The answers vary. Linebacker Ashlee Palmer said his team needs to be “smarter” and to “know the situations.”

This also comes a week after Detroit had an interception return for a touchdown by linebacker DeAndre Levy wiped out by a Ndamukong Suh penalty.

As for the man whose job it is to make sure his players play disciplined, Detroit coach Jim Schwartz, he said it depends on the penalty on how to fix it.

“In our situation, if there were a bunch of unsportsmanlike, after the whistle plays, false starts, something like that, obviously there’s stuff that you can do that way,” Schwartz said. “But in the game, when you talk about pass interference, holding and anything else, it’s generally just a player having either bad technique or being in a bad position.

“I’m talking blind on Willie’s (penalty), but I know for Bentley, that was the case.”

And it is something the Lions know they need to correct.