ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz was relatively quiet in his postgame news conference about referee Ed Hochuli calling unnecessary roughness on his rookie defensive lineman.
But after watching replays of Ndamukong Suh's hit on Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler during Sunday's win by the Bears, and after getting Hochuli's explanation, Schwartz felt compelled to speak up.
"The flag was thrown because Cutler was hit in the back of the head when he was in the process of going down," Schwartz said Monday. "It's fairly obvious that neither of those ended up being correct."
Cutler threw what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown pass after the next snap and the Bears had a key 24-20 win that kept them atop the NFC North.
"I want to be very clear the penalty had nothing to do with giving up a touchdown on the very next play," Schwartz said. "It had nothing to do with our inability to move the ball on offense after that or the inability to get a stop at the end of the game."
The close-call Lions have gotten used to coming up short this season, losing six games by five or fewer points.
"We're beating ourselves, it's not them necessarily beating us," defensive end Cliff Avril said.
The 1993 New England Patriots and 2001 Lions are the only teams since 1990 to lose more games by five or fewer points through their first 12 games, according to STATS LLC.
"We need to do a better job of finishing games," Schwartz said.
That doesn't mean the second-year coach is finished believing in a bright future for a franchise that went 2-14 in his first season, became the NFL's first 0-16 team in 2008 and is mired in one of the worst 10-season stretches in league history.
Schwartz said the team has "great things" ahead after showing signs of improvement this season.
"Our record isn't good enough, there's no question," he said. "We need to win more games, but to deny or to ignore the situations of the games and what has come up in the games and the difference that it has been is to have an agenda other than to be objective," he said.
Schwartz said the biggest difference will be keeping quarterback Matthew Stafford healthy. He has played just three games this season after missing six games last year as a rookie.Comment on this story
"Let me tell you how I have confidence in the long-term future of this team — it's No. 9," Schwartz said.
Stafford, during a weekly appearance on WJR radio, said he is going to try to throw on Wednesday. He and backup Shaun Hill (injured finger) are not expected to play at home Sunday against the Green Bay Packers (8-4).
Unless either makes a surprising comeback, Drew Stanton will start a second straight game and for just the third time since Detroit drafted him out of Michigan State in the second round of the 2007 draft.