Mangini thinks Lions faked injuries

Published 1:34 am Tuesday, November 24, 2009

BEREA — There were pump fakes and faked handoffs in Sunday’s game between the Browns and Lions.

Eric Mangini believes there may have been some other deception.

On Monday, Cleveland’s embattled coach questioned whether Detroit’s defensive players faked injuries to slow down the Browns’ no-huddle offense, which racked up a season-high 439 yards during a 38-37 loss.

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Mangini didn’t flatly accuse the Lions of cheating, but noted the high number of players who were helped from the field — only to return.

“I’m just saying there were a lot of them (injuries),” he said.

Mangini’s suggestion of foul play was rebuffed by Lions coach Jim Schwartz.

“He’s way out of bounds on that,” Schwartz said. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. Both teams were running no huddle, and the officials did a very good job of standing over the ball, so there was no need to do that.”

It isn’t the first time Mangini, who worked with Schwartz when the two began their coaching careers under Bill Belichick in Cleveland, has pointed a critical finger at a friend. When he coached in New York, Mangini accused Belichick and the New England Patriots of videotaping the Jets’ defensive signals during the 2007 season opener.

The episode, now known infamously as “Spygate,” damaged Mangini’s relationship with his mentor.

Mangini first raised the possibility that the Lions were pretending to be hurt during his postgame news conference.

“There were multiple, multiple, multiple injuries throughout our no-huddle process,” Mangini said Sunday.

Browns wide receiver Chansi Stuckey supported Mangini’s theory that the Lions were faking. According to the official play-by-play, there were six instances — with five different players — where a Detroit player went down with an injury during the no-huddle and then returned.

“Definitely,” Stuckey said. “I knew that. That’s what their coach does. If someone tries to do that (no huddle) to us, I would expect our guys to do the same thing. Unless it gets into that under two-minute situation where that causes a timeout, any other time it’s fine and I would do the same thing.

Stuckey said the injury ruse can be effective in slowing down a hurry-up attack.

“Once you’re going, those defensive linemen can’t run in and off the field,” he said. “They’re getting tired, they do four, five pass rushes in a row, they’re getting tired, so someone has to do something like that to try to slow us down and stop the rhythm and try to get some fresh guys on the field.”

Mangini said he has not spoken to Schwartz about the matter. He was asked if the NFL’s competition committee should look into stopping the practice of players pretending to be hurt, a ploy that has been used in the past.

“It’s subjective,” he said. “How do you know what is and isn’t an injury?”

Mangini was asked if it would be upsetting if a friend like Schwartz would bend the rules to give his team an advantage.

“It’s, um,” Mangini said, pausing to choose his words carefully. “There’s no penalty and, um, maybe all those guys were legitimately injured. I haven’t talked to him about it. Everybody makes that decision.”

The possibility that the Lions duped the officials wasn’t the only thing bugging Mangini, whose team blew a 24-3 lead to fall to 1-9.

He also felt the officiating crew made an incorrect pass interference call in the end zone at the end of the game, a penalty that gave the Lions one more play from Cleveland’s 1-yard line. With no time on the clock, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who had injured his left shoulder on the previous play, threw his fifth touchdown pass and Detroit kicked the extra point for its second win in 26 games.

Browns defensive back Hank Poteat was called for pass interference on Stafford’s jump-ball throw, which began with the rookie scrambling far to the left and cutting back right. Cleveland’s coaches and players felt that because Stafford was out of the pocket that contact downfield was permitted.

“I can’t control that call,” Mangini said. “I haven’t been a part of any calls like that, I haven’t seen it called, where it affected the outcome of a game like it did. It’s really not illegal contact when the guy’s out of the pocket or scrambling. But they called it.”

Mangini was asked if Poteat, who had his back to Stafford, may have been flagged because the contact occurred while the ball was in the air.

“Yeah, I guess that’s what they called it for,” he said. “I haven’t seen it, haven’t been a part of it. It’s their call. We’ll live with it.”

In addition, Mangini thought the Lions (2-8) should have been called for excessive celebration on Stafford’s TD toss and that Detroit should have been assessed a 15-yard penalty before Jason Hanson kicked the game-winning extra point. After the score, Lions tight ends coach Tim Lappano ran across the field to hug players.

“There was a lot of celebrating going on after the play, coaches out on the field … excessive celebration,” Mangini said. “I thought that was a penalty, too, but that that didn’t called. That’s a 15-yard penalty, there’s a big difference in the extra point.”

On that point, Schwartz agreed with Mangini.

“He’s probably right about that,” Schwartz said. “But I don’t think Jason was coming to come up short on a 35-yard extra point.”