The common perception about the 2018 Detroit Lions special teams units was that they played pretty poorly. That was apparently the perception within the Lions organization as well, seeing as they fired their special teams coordinator Joe Marciano halfway through the season.
But this week Talk of Fame Network’s Rick Gosselin released his annual special teams rankings, and it suggests the Lions’ special teams units were better than many believed. His rankings—which combine 22 different kicking game categories—have the Lions at 12th overall, the best in the NFC North and fourth in the entire conference.
Basic statistics aren’t quite as kind to the Lions. Though Detroit ranked 11th in kick return average (24.1), they were just 26th in punt returns (6.3), at least partially due to the early injury to 2017 All-Pro Jamal Agnew.
They also struggled in coverage units. Though they ranked 14th in kick return average allowed (22.6), they were 31st in punt returns (11.4).
And perhaps worst of all were the penalties. According to NFLPenalties.com, the Lions had the seventh-most accepted penalties on special teams (22).
However, when it came to field goals, the Lions outplayed their opponents by a large margin for the season. Matt Prater missed just four field goals all year (28-of-32) and was perfect at extra points (and also had a touchdown pass). The Lions’ opponents, however, only converted on 19-of-28 field goals, the lowest percentage in the league by a large margin.
Field goal percentage, along with opponent’s field goal percentage are part of Gosselin’s formula. Detroit also ranked first in extra point percentage (100%), opponent’s starting field position (23.8-yard line) and blocked kicks allowed (0). Regardless, John Bonamego—the Lions’ recently-hired special teams coordinator—has some work to do this offseason.