When you're 0-10, you're going to be second-guessed on decisions people otherwise wouldn't think twice about. The Lions lost again Sunday. This time it was 31-22 at Carolina.
In the third quarter, they were trailing, 24-16, when coach Rod Marinelli elected to punt instead of attempting a 58-yard field goal.
Now, no Lions kicker has ever made a 58-yard field goal - indoors or outdoors. But Jason Hanson had just blasted a 56-yarder in the same direction a quarter earlier, tying his team record for longest field goal and setting a team record for longest outdoor field goal.
Why not go for it?
Marinelli pointed out that a Panther had gotten a piece of a 40-yard field goal earlier, and the farther the attempt, the lower the trajectory of the kick and the higher the chance of a block.
That didn't stop him from trying the 56-yarder.
But when Hanson blasted the 56-yarder, he had a strong wind at his back. Now the wind had died. And Hanson said the kick actually would have been 58 1/2 or 59 yards.
"That's really rolling the dice," Hanson said. "As confidently as I would like to say, 'Hey, I'd have a chance at making it,' I've said that lots of times and missed or been short. It's a pretty risky field goal. ...
"If I make it I'm a hero, but I mean, again, really, that's the ball game, actually. If I kick it and miss it, they have the ball at midfield. That's big trouble."
The Lions punted and pinned the Panthers at their 13.
"So I thought that was a good call for us," Marinelli said.
The Lions trailed by nine with 4:28 to go when they faced fourth-and-four at the Detroit 26. Marinelli elected to punt even though it was a two-possession game.
The three times Marinelli went for it earlier, the Lions were across the 50 trying to sustain drives. Now they were deep in Detroit territory, and Marinelli was trying to sustain the game.
"That's one play, I think, that if you don't get it, the game is over at that point," Marinelli said. "Where we were at on the field, I didn't want it to come down to one play when there's 41/2 minutes left in the game."
The Lions stopped the Panthers and got the ball back with 2:41 to go, but the Panthers pinned them on their 2 - after the Lions elected not to decline a delay of game penalty by Panthers punter Jason Baker, giving Baker more room to work and avoid a touchback.
Do the Lions regret trading defensive tackle Shaun Rogers to Cleveland for a third-round pick and cornerback Leigh Bodden? "No," Marinelli said. "Shaun's a great player. There's no doubt about it. I thought it was a win-win for both teams." How is it a win for the Lions? "I think with that we picked up Cliff Avril," Marinelli said. "That third-round pick I think is going to be a dynamite player in this league. There's no doubt about it. We picked up a corner that we needed. But would we like a big run-stuffer in there? Oh, yeah. No doubt about that. We're constantly looking for that guy. They're a little bit tougher to find right now, this time of year. We just keep coaching the guys we have and they're working."
Marinelli continues to stay positive. "Who wants to look at a leader who's a grouch or a pouter?" he said. "There's too much of that here anyway, isn't (there)? Too much around. So when things are bad, a leader's supposed to step up and lead from the front, and that's what I'm going to do." Does he say he believes in his men because that's what he believes in his heart or because that's what he believes is his job? "It's my heart," Marinelli said. "Oh, yes, because I couldn't fake this. Some people fake. That's all you see is fake, fake, fake. I'm not fake. I am who I am, and you know that. And everything you see and I tell you right here is from my heart. And that's what I believe. I can't fake it. Some people are great fakers. They're pretty good at it, too. I'm not."
- DE Jared DeVries said he will play Sunday against Tampa Bay after missing one game with a broken hand. He said the stitches from surgery come out Friday.
- C Dominic Raiola said he will practice with a protective cast on his broken right thumb this week and see how it goes. He said he wouldn't try to snap left-handed, as he talked about before, because the footwork involved is too critical.
- S Dwight Smith will run full speed Tuesday after missing four games with a midfoot sprain. Coach Rod Marinelli said he thought the Lions would get a better read on the situation then.
- WR Calvin Johnson suffered a minor quad injury Sunday. He might not practice fully this week but should be ready for Tampa Bay.
- RB Rudi Johnson suffered a minor knee injury Sunday. He might not practice fully this week but should be ready for Tampa Bay.
- DE Ikaika Alama-Francis suffered a mild concussion Sunday. He might not practice fully this week but should be ready for Tampa Bay.
REPORT CARD VS. PANTHERS
PASSING OFFENSE: C -- Quarterback Daunte Culpepper seemed a lot more comfortable in his second start, less than two weeks after signing with the Lions. He went 20-for-35 for 207 yards and a touchdown. But he still had some miscommunications with his receivers and threw two interceptions. The last one was a killer. With the Lions trailing by two in the fourth quarter, he thought wide receiver Calvin Johnson was going one way, but Johnson went another. He threw it right to a defender, and the Panthers cashed in on the next play with a touchdown.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Rookie Kevin Smith recorded the first 100-yard game of his career, and he said the reason was simple: The Lions gave him the ball. He set career highs for carries (24) and rushing yards (112). But like Smith said, every back on the field seemed to have a 100-yard day. He had only the third highest rushing total of the game.
PASS DEFENSE: C -- The numbers look good. The Lions have been giving up career passing days to opposing quarterbacks all season, and Carolina's Jake Delhomme finished with only 98 passing yards and a 85.0 rating. But the Lions didn't come up with an interception again (they have only two this season, only one from a defensive back). And the truth is, the Panthers didn't need to pass.
RUSH DEFENSE: F -- The Panthers posted a franchise-record 264 rushing yards and had two 100-yard rushers for the first time in their history. Jonathan Stewart had 130 yards and a touchdown. DeAngelo Williams had 120 yards and two touchdowns. The Panthers averaged 8.3 yards per carry, as the Lions put on an atrocious exhibition of tackling.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A -- Jason Hanson blasted a 56-yard field goal that probably would have been good from 60. He's 6-for-6 from 50 yards or more this season, and he has 39 50-yarders in his career, one behind all-time leader Morten Andersen. He also was good from 40 and 27. The Lions brought back Aveion Cason to help on kickoff returns, and he helped with a 46-yarder.
COACHING: F -- Rod Marinelli was aggressive at some points, having Hanson kick that 56-yarder and going for it on fourth down three times. But he got conservative with the game on the line. He elected to punt instead of trying a 58-yard field goal, after Hanson had blasted the 56-yarder, and he elected to punt behind by nine with 41/2 minutes left. When you're winless and have a chance to upset a first-place team, you have to take chances.