I always start my articles with a brief sentence or two recapping the current state of the Lions, but it’s getting pretty repetitive since the recap has basically been “they’re bad” for the last two months now.
On the bright side, the Lions are equipped to be bad with some of the best specialists in the league in Sam Martin and Matt Prater. I said all offseason that Sam Martin was the most likely Detroit Lion to have a bounce back year, and he certainly has bounced back this year.
Detroit Lions Unsung Hero of Week 14: Sam Martin
Martin struggled in the season opener but has continually improved as the season has gone on. Sunday was a good day for Martin as he averaged 49.6 gross yards per punt. That’s his second best this season only to the Lions’ Week 7 game, also against the Minnesota Vikings, in which he averaged 50.0 gross yards.
Unfortunately, the Lions’ coverage units weren’t grooving as well as Martin was Sunday. The gunners struggled to get downfield and whiffed on a few tackles. Arguably the worst miscue of the day for the coverage team took place towards the middle of the game, in which Martin hit a sub-optimal ball that traveled ‘only’ 40 yards past the line of scrimmage, prompting the Vikings returner to let it roll. It hit the ground and was poised to make at least a 10-15 yard roll in favor of the Lions, but it hit an unaware gunner in the leg and was downed only about two yards from where it hit the turf.
Martin’s net average only makes the coverage struggles stand out more—in the earlier matchup when Martin averaged 50 yards gross, the net average was 47.0 yards. Sunday, the gross was 49.6 but the net was 43.4 yards. That’s quite the difference.
Fortunately for the Lions, Martin is playing (punting?) some of his best football right now. Unfortunately for the Lions, the whole unit can’t seem to get in sync, representative of how the entire season has gone for this team.