Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Three Days Late "Live" Blog: Lions vs. Seahawks

Sorry for missing the last two weeks, been swamped by work, writing and personal stuff. I'll be better, I pwwwomise.

First Quarter:

15:00 - OoooOOooo. Kevin Smith in on special teams. Looks like he was activated this week to make sure Stefan Logan doesn't do anytihng stupid. Not a terrible move.

14:54 - Doh! Megatron in single coverage and Stafford with plenty of protection. Throw is nowhere near him. Gulp.

14:08 - Third down conversion! No three-and-out! Ungulp!

13:49 - Overthrow. Gulp: 2, Ungulp: 1.

13:00 - Stafford griping about something to the refs after failing to convert third down. Upon review, he has nothing to complain about.

11:26 - Corey Williams giveth (tackle for loss) and taketh away (offsides). I guess this is why Schwartz is okay with the occasional jump over the line of scrimmage.

10:00 - RULEBOOK TIME!!!

Rule 9 - Section 1 - Article 3:
"During a punt, a field-goal attempt, or a Try Kick, a Team B player [receiving team], who is within one yard of the line of scrimmage at the snap, must have his entire body outside of the snapper's shoulder pads." [emphasis added] 
In other words, if you are within a yard of the line of scrimmage you cannot be lined up over the center. To the tape! (click to make picture go boom!)

Willie Young is lined up a tad over a yard away from the line of scrimmage just before the snap. He leans in a little bit after this snapshot, but not more than a couple inches. The purpose of this rule is to give the center time to protect himself after snapping the ball to the punter. Young gave him space and time to set himself. This should not have been a penalty.

8:00 - Jonte Green had no idea what to do on this play. He was desperately trying to get a linebacker's attention, but to no avail. The receiver proceeded to find the zone between Green and Tulloch easily.

3:23 - Stafford with two straight check-downs for a good chunk of yards. Gooooood Stafford.

2:40 - Raiola and a pulling Peterman with excellent blocks to seal the inside hole for Leshoure.

0:00 - This was an absoutely beautiful drive. 9 plays, 82 yards. 4 rushes, 5 passes. Zero incompletions. Every play went for 3 yards or more. Balance. Efficiency. Big plays on the ground (16 yards). Big plays through the air (19, 20). Best drive of the season.

Second Quarter

14:43 - It seems like every time the Lions offense seems to turn the corner, the team gives up a big play to suck the air out of the optimism balloon. It happened in the fourth quarter in Tennessee, after the Lions came back to take the lead, the Titans returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. And on Seattle's first play after that beautiful drive, Marshawn Lynch goes 77 yards in one play.

14:10 - Of course the Lions' first offensive play after that touchdown is a sack. Of course. Pretty much everyone not named Gosder Cherilus on the offensive line is to blame for this one. Main offenders: Peterman and Backus.

12:16 - If you want to call pass interference on this play, ref, that's fine. There's contact there for sure. But don't specify with the "armbar" disclaimer. There was no armbar.

11:30 - If you need evidence that the Lions are in trouble with their cornerback situation, just watch this drive. It won't take you long. Green can't stick with receivers without a ton of contact, and Alphonso Smith will bite on any fake you give him. Get well, Drayton Florence, Bill Bentley, Jacob Lacey, Dre Bly, Fernando Bryant, and Stanley Wilson.

8:49 - I'd break down this bomb to Titus Young, but you've all seen the replays; Titus just burned him. Instead, I'll let you in on a secret of mine. I LOVE analyzing crowd shots. There's something so pleasurable about seeing all the weird people that attend sporting events. My secret hobby has led me to a couple gems: including this one and this one. Anyway, lets break down the post-Titus TD crowd shot. Luckily, SB Nation was all over this one with a GIF:

There are two AWESOME things about this. #1 is checkered-sweater guy. I guess it's cool that he got the colors right on the sweater, but, come on. The Lions and Tigers are playing today, you've got to have some sort of sports apparel with seats that good. Anyway, he's going in for the high-five, which is risky considering how much Young is into himself. It predictably backfires, but the guy cleverly turns it into a "we're #1!" sign. Very sneaky.

The other awesome, but actually terrible, component of this GIF can be seen in the bottom right corner as the camera zooms out. As everyone is going crazy, there is a guy in a Tigers hat that can't be bothered to lift his head from his phone to celebrate the moment. He may be recording the players on the field, but it seems more likely that this jerk is tweeting something like "OMG, THE LIONS JUST SCORED A GOAL IN FRONT OF ME! MEGATRON IS STANDING NEXT TO ME!" And if he is recording on his phone, HOLD THAT SHIT LANDSCAPE-STYLE, SON!

Okay, enough nonsense, back to the game.

7:22 - Mmmmm. Excellent blitz on third down to force a bad throw and a three-and-out.

6:55 - I don't know what route Titus was running on this play, but it looked a lot like the lets-run-into-the-defender-and-see-where-to-go-from-there route.

4:25 - Another good third down blitz from Cunningham, forcing a quick throw and a completion short of the sticks. Defense holding strong when they aren't getting penalties.

1:10 - Pretty poor clock management on this final drive for the Lions. I get running a draw or two to try and catch the defense sleeping, but they had no play ready to go after and spent 15 seconds waiting for the call to come in.

0:56 - "Not only did they take too much time, they're gonna leave time on the clock now for Seattle." - Something that was ACTUALLY said by A GUY WHO GETS PAID TO SAY THINGS ABOUT FOOTBALL. Ver-batim.

Third Quarter

13:07 - Delmas with a magnificent play on the screen. If he doesn't make that tackle, Lynch picks up at least 20 yards.

12:25 - Oy. On the very next play, Delmas gets turned around and beaten terribly by Sidney Rice. Meanwhile, Ricardo Silva takes a bad angle, and both are bailed out by a dropped touchdown pass. Yikes.

12:06 - Stafford is the WORST at dealing with a play when it breaks down. Why he sometimes refuses to throw the ball away baffles me.

10:55 - What an awesome, awesome play on 3rd and 11. This play is solely for Ryan Broyles. The other receivers (specifically Kevin Smith and Brandon Pettigrew) pretend to run routes, but they are actually getting in position to block for when Broyles makes the catch. As you can see, when he catches the ball, he already has two downfield blockers to help get some yards after the catch and pick up the first down.

9:32 - OH. MY. GOD. A pump-fake AND a Stafford scramble on the same play.

8:23 - "I don't care what the coverage is, he deserves 10 targets." That is why you aren't an offensive coordinator. Just the fragment "I don't care what the coverage is" is the most nonsensical thing you can say when discussing offensive strategy.

7:35 - Kudos to Pettigrew for putting his head down, and taking a big hit to pick up the first down on a third and 10. Usually he tries to dance around that contact.

6:27 - Great...execution?!?! Stafford feels the pressure, extends the play with his feet, and Young makes a phenomenal grab....then Pete Carroll makes the worst challenge of all time.

5:18 -

Why, Stafford, why? It's second and three. You have plenty of time and room. What on Earth did you see here? Scheffler is not open and the Seahawks are clearly playing one-high safety, who was there waiting for your pass. Granted there was no one else open and you tried to pull the safety to the right with your eyes, but if you waited one more second, Joique Bell was releasing and could have easily picked up five yards. Terrible decision by Stafford.

1:57 - I still don't think Silva is worthy of being a starter on an NFL roster, but that was a helluva(n?) interception.

Fourth Quarter

13:10 - Stafford. Is. Dealing.

13:02 - Pretty sure the refs just threw a flag because the back judge cannot count properly. Good thing they picked it up.

11:41 - The Lions are the worst quarterback sneaking team in the league. And although I typically have no problem running that play, that was not the time nor the place. The Seahawks are too good in the redzone and too good at stopping the run.

10:52 - Lordy, Corey Williams. He was in the backfield before Wilson had turned to hand the ball off. What a jump. Thanks for no replay, FOX.

9:40 - GAHHHHH. Suh, playing defensive end, drives his man five yards into the backfield, but can't get a hand on Wilson. Meanwhile, Rice finds the hole in the zone and sits there. Backbreaking third-and-long conversion.

6:15 - Not much to say about the fourth down conversion. Tough play to make by Alphonso Smith, just a nano-second too late.

5:27 - I don't know exactly what Ashlee Palmer was doing. He wasn't running his hardest and must have thought the tight end had given up on the play. Credit to Zach Miller for the outstanding catch, but it's always frustrating when a backup gets exploited like that.

3:45 - Another BIG catch in traffic on third down, this time by Calvin Johnson. Amazing what happens when your players make plays when you need them to.

3:24 - ARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGG [/Charlie Brown] This WR screen could have been HUGE. Backus doesn't get much of his man, but Titus escapes anyway and had Raiola and Sims as lead blockers with almost no one in the way.

Raiola picks up the linebacker and Sims takes care of the safety. Touchdown, right?

Not quite. Raiola runs right by the linebacker and the defender makes the play. Raiola can only look back in horror as the guy he failed to pick up tackles Young resulting in a not-touchdown.

Awwww, look at him. It's almost like he knows he did something wrong.

1:51 - Stafford is dealing again. Putting the ball exactly where it needs to be: away from defenders where only the receiver can grab it. Even his overthrow to Scheffler was a nice, safe pass.

0:43 - Okay, the "drop" by Megatron. Beautiful play, beautiful throw. Just absolutely unfortunate that Calvin can't bring it in. He barely had time to turn his head and locate the ball and the reason for that is likely his knee injury. Johnson brought it up specifically when talking about the play, but insisted it was "no excuse." That's just Calvin being Calvin. I think this injury is more serious than he is implying.

0:35 - Why the Lions called a timeout here, I have no idea. Get to the line, run a quick play, and save a timeout. That way, you still have the option to run the ball from the one yard line.

0:22 - Before this play happened, I saw Titus obviously in one-on-one coverage, and I prayed they wouldn't be tempted by it. I was wrong. I apologize. Young came up with a solid catch in tight coverage and won the game. Thank you, Titus. Thank you.

Monday, October 29, 2012

That Was Weird

After two possessions on Sunday, my patience meter was on empty. The Lions offense had quickly punted the ball to open the game (something I guess we should just accept as an inevitability), and the defense had made a stop that was voided by a terrible special teams error. Ten minutes into the game, the Lions were down three, had already committed three penalties (one extending the drive), and were well on their way to a 2-5 record.

Then something happened. The defensive battle we all predicted never came. The field opened up, the offense clicked, and the scoreboard exploded with points.

But it took me awhile to break out of my cynical exoskeleton formed by six and a half games of frustratingly disappointing football. As the Lions fell behind by ten early, you'd be hard-pressed to find a smile on my face, even after Matthew Stafford connected on a bomb to Titus Young to bring the Lions within three. I had found myself shamelessly trapped by the "Same Old Lions" Thought Police.

But by the end of the game, the Lions' offensive dominance could not be ignored. That was not a good offensive game. It was great. It was overpowering. It was...elite.

Stafford finished with a passer rating of 101.7, his second-highest of the year and the highest the Seahawks have allowed all year by over 20 points (including games against Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers). The Lions finished 12-16 on third downs, the highest percentage the Seahawks have allowed since 2004. The Lions scored 28 points, which is the most the Seahawks have allowed all season.

Of course, yesterday's performance was without some familiar faults. They still had two three-and-outs in the first half. Stafford still threw a mind-numbing interception, killing a drive in Seattle territory ON FIRST DOWN. And a smattering of overthrows and dropped passes still lingered beneath the surface. 

But it was nice to know that all the parts could still potentially work together for the majority of a game. It was nice to see that the offense of 2011 hasn't been completely buried. It was nice to see Young make plays, and Pettigrew not fumble. It was nice to see the Lions convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns, not field goals. It was nice to see the Lions offense carry the defense for a change. 

And speaking of the defense, it appears the secondary injuries are finally starting to hurt this team. Aside from Ricardo Silva's one impressive interception, the secondary struggled all day. Russel Wilson completed 71.4% of his passes to the tune of a 96.8 passer rating. The Seahawks scored on their first three possessions of the game and punted only three times all game. Perhaps worst of all, when the Lions needed a stop, the defense allowed Seattle to march 87 yards for the go ahead score with under six minutes left. Wilson was 6-8 on that drive for 75 yards and a touchdown. It was not the defense's best effort against a mediocre offense. 

But that is all moot, because the offense finally put together a solid game. And while it doesn't cure the Lions issues for the future, it was really nice to see again.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sad Max

Last year's Monday Night Football game was one of the greatest moments I've had in my 26 years of Lions fandom. The Lions had dominated on a national stage. I, in a rare moment of extroversion, had decided to watch a game in public. And never had I been prouder sporting a Lions jersey for all to see.

But last night was the worst. My posse and I headed to a Michigan haven in Los Angeles called Detroit Style Coney Dog. We were excited to join our Michigan brethren, hoping to celebrate the rebirth of the Lions team that laid secretly dormant through the first six weeks of the season. Instead, we were treated to more of the same. And to make matters worse, there was a handful of loud Bears fans trolling about. Why a few Chicagoans thought it would be a good idea to watch their team play the Lions in a place called DETROIT STYLE CONEY DOG, I will never know. All I know is that my stabbing instincts were at an all-time high. The fact that my criminal record is no longer than it was before Joique Bell fumbled that ball is nothing short of a miracle.

But beyond the slowly-fading violent urges now lays a beaten, broken man. The man who was once waiving the flags of optimism -- screaming that once the offense plays on third down or inside the 20, like it does on most other downs, things will be okay -- is now desperately waving anything resembling a white shred of cloth to stop the torture. I am the coach standing helplessly in the corner as the former champ I supported for so long gets pummeled, while everyone else watches with crooked cringes on their faces. 

I looked at the box score for the first time a full 24 hours after the game. I saw exactly what I thought I'd see. The Lions should have won that game. They outgained the Bears handily. They averaged more yards per rush (5.5 vs 5.3), more yards per pass (4.9 to 3.4), were penalized less, (five to nine) and were sacked less (three to five). But the Lions turned the ball over four times to the Bears' zero. That's your ballgame.

I so desperately want to be the guy that points to all those previous stats as signs to be optimistic. I want to spread hope like it was the opium of the masses. But when Nate Burleson and Amari Spievey were both slowly carted off the soggy turf, they may have well been carting off whatever was left of my broken spirit. 

At this point, I am the cute kid in "Liar Liar." The Lions offense is my fun, awesome dad. But, lately, my dad has been fairly absent. Seeing my disappointment, he'll be quick to rationalize his disappearances  "I'll turn things around, I swear!" he'll plead. "Next week, I promise," he'll assure me. "All I need to do is STOP DROPPING THE BALL, ASSHOLE!" he'll shout while slightly inebriated. And for the first six games of the season, I believed him in my youthful naïveté. "He's not so bad, remember last year?" I proudly said, trying secretly to convince myself more than the doubters around me. But this week, it was my big day, and he didn't show as he promised. Devastated, I sat alone in the center of the faux-Coney Island, wondering how and why I had been deceived so. I finally saw the things those around me called me foolish for overlooking. I saw my father as he truly is: an unreliable, underachieving mess.

I wish, for just one game, Matthew couldn't overthrow a fly.
Of course, maybe the Lions offense is really the charming father that just needs a wake-up call to see the light. And, deep down, I know I still feel that way. He is, after all, my father, and will always be my father. But if he hasn't changed his ways at this point, why should I believe things will ever change? 

The Lions season isn't truly over until they lose their seventh game of the season, but until things turn around, I'll be the teary-eyed Maximilian waiting hopelessly for better times ahead.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rant of the Week: Onside Kicking From Opponent's Side of the Field

Because there are small things in just about every game that make me angry (and a lot of big things, too), I've decided to start a weekly column where I complain about something. Sometimes, like today, it will be a coaching decision. Other times it will be on refereeing, or clock management or whatever is bugging me that week. This week, it was Jim Schwartz's decision to not onside kick the ball from the Eagles' 45-yard line (or even consider it).

Let me set up the situation in case you forgot or didn't see. The Lions had just scored a touchdown to get within three of the Eagles, 16-13. On the ensuing extra point, the Eagles encroached, costing five yards on the kickoff. On the ensuing, ensuing extra point, Fletcher Cox punched a guy, costing the Eagles another 15 yards on the kickoff.

So the Lions, down three with 10:30 to go, were set to kickoff from the Eagles' 45-yard line. Jason Hanson decided to take the opportunity to blast the ball through the endzone, resulting in a touchback (or a net kickoff of 25 yards).

This is an all-too-common play. In fact, I can't remember a single time a team has elected to onside kick in this situation. But the onside kick was the right play, and a kick through the endzone was a wasted opportunity.

But I'm an understanding person. Please, convince me, Schwartz. Why not onside kick the ball? (quotes via Pride Of Detroit)
"We gave up four special teams scores in two weeks. We weren't going to get cute right there."
Hmm...okay. You don't want to onside kick because its cute? So you don't want a chance to capitalize on a huge opportunity because someone watching may look and say, "Oh, Jim Schwartz, you cutie!" There must be a real reason...
"They have one of the best returners, a pro bowl returner in WR DeSean Jackson." 
Uhh...what? We're talking about an onside kick. You do know what an onside kick is, right? The deep kick returner doesn't usually get his hands on an onside kick. And if the receiving team does recover an onside kick, you know how long they return it 99% of the time? ZERO YARDS. And if you're that worried that Jackson will return an onside kick for a touchdown, KICK TO SIDE OF THE FIELD WHERE HE IS NOT STANDING. I would say Jackson's chances of returning a onside kick for a touchdown go from about .01% to .00000000000000000000000000001% if you KICK IT TO SOMEONE ELSE. I cannot believe the media let him get away with this terrible explanation.

What makes everything so much worse was his answer to an earlier question about challenging a play that clearly was not going to get overturned:
"And I said ‘If it's close I'm going to throw it,' because [...] the reward is so great, I mean, if we're able to get a turnover. Imagine this, imagine if it had been the other way and it had been slightly backwards and we didn't get a replay and we didn't challenge it and we were sick to our stomachs after the game saying ‘Jeez, we could have gotten a turnover in the red zone, taken points off the board and everything else.'"
Now, this mistake isn't all on Schwartz. He challenged the play approximately 30 seconds after the play was done, and if the guys upstairs couldn't find a conclusive replay (which everyone at home had already seen) by then, then there is seriously something wrong with whoever is watching tape up there.

So Schwartz's rationale is that despite the low chance of an overturned review, the potential huge reward (opponent turnover in the red zone) is worth the minor risk (lost timeout, challenge). It's a fair assessment. A successful review takes at least three points off the board, and the Lions still had plenty of time to come back, so losing a timeout isn't particularly damning. Obviously it looked like a bad decision when we all knew the play wasn't going to be overturned. But if Schwartz really thought there was a chance the play would be called his way, he was correct in his actions.

But you could use this EXACT LINE OF LOGIC to kick the onside kick. There is a small chance that the Lions recover an onside kick (especially considering the Eagles were expecting one). Football Outsiders puts that chance at around 18%. But lets look at risk versus rewards, since that seems to dictate Schwartz's decision.

The reward of a successful onside kick (which, may I remind you, the Lions successfully did in Tennessee, when the Titans were expecting one), is absolutely huge. The Lions would recover somewhere around the Eagles' 35-yard line, basically already in position to tie the game. It's a move that's almost certainly worth at least three points (just like the overturned replay).

The risk is 15 yards. Since the Lions had a guaranteed touchback if they kicked the ball off, a regular kickoff would result in the Eagles starting at their own 20. A failed onside kick almost assuredly results in a recover somewhere around the 35 yard line (the required ten yards from where the kickoff started). Sure there's a very small risk of a return, but standard protocol for the receiving team is to grab the ball and get down so you don't fumble.

So the risk is 15 yards, but how much is 15 yards of field position worth? Well, according to Advanced NFL Stats, less than one point. Teams, on average, score around 0.25 points starting from their own 20, and score around 1.1 points starting from their own 35. So let's break down the math:

The Lions recover an onside kick 18% of the time, and if recovered around the Eagles' 35 yard line they are expected to score around 3.1 points. So the Lions, on average, score .558 points if they elect to onside kick (3.1 x .18).

The Eagles recover 82% of the time and score an average of 1.1 points from the 35. So the Eagles have an expected point value of .902 (1.1 x .082).

Together (.902 - .558), an onside kick results in .344 expected points for the Eagles.

A regular kickoff, lets assume, goes for a touchback 100% of the time. So a normal kickoff results in .25 expected points for the Eagles.

So the breakdown is as follows: an onside kick attempt results in .344 points for the Eagles, while a regular kickoff results in .25 points for the Eagles. I guess I'm wrong, huh?

Well, those averages don't consider any context. The Lions defense had been stout all day, and the offense needed all the help it could get. I think that the Lions would've held the Eagles to little or no points from their own 35 (they ended up intercepting Vick on the very first offensive play from the 20). And given how the Lions offense had been playing, the benefit of a successful onside kick was even larger than normal.

But even considering that the statistical breakdown favors a normal kickoff, doesn't the onside kick at least deserve some consideration? The difference in choices is .09 points, and given how the defense had played, I believe the onside kick choice was preferable. But according to Schwartz, no thought went into kicking an onside kick. And, to me, that is unacceptable.

If Schwartz would've come out and said, "we did the statistical analysis, and it shows that a normal kickoff was preferable," I would have no problem with his choice. But hearing that he didn't even consider it, then backed up his decision with irrelevant, irrational excuses, is terribly disappointing of a coach I respect so much.

Monday, October 15, 2012

I'm Confused

When the Philadelphia Eagles connected on a 70-yard pass after a defensive breakdown, I was warming up my fingers to scold the offense. "This is why you cannot afford to wait until the fourth quarter," I was ready to lecture. "You let a team hang around for the first three quarters, and all it takes is one mistake, one play, and your comeback will be all for not. It happened in Tennessee, it happened against Minnesota."

It's like I had completely forgotten everything else that has happened in the past year. Against St. Louis, the Lions drove 80 yards in 1:55 to win the game. In Tennessee, Detroit came back from down 14 with 1:16 left(!). Erasing a ten point deficit on the road with 5:18 left is the Lions equivalent to kicking an extra point. It's expected. It's almost a given. But every week, I'm fooled. I'm convinced that this week will be the week that the offense doesn't falter for three quarters, but four. And nearly every week, I'm wrong.

But the question isn't how the Lions continue to make these miraculous comebacks, but why do they always seem to find themselves in these situations? Why is the Lions offense stuck in neutral until the clock hits 3:30 PM EST? Why can't the Lions punch it in the endzone consistently? Why are the Lions scoring ten points per game less than in 2011 with an almost identical roster?

And I have no idea what the answers to these questions are. During the third quarter, I turned to my friends and asked what the Lions need to upgrade on offense to fix these problems. No one had an answer. The offensive line was playing more than adequately (0 sacks, 4.9 yards/carry). The receivers are young and full of talent. Tony Scheffler can still make plays, and Brandon Pettigrew is a first down machine. Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell are more than serviceable. And there are only a handful of quarterbacks I would want on my team over Matthew Stafford.

So where does that leave us? Confused, angry, frustrated, baffled, without someone to blame, but ultimately relieved. It's maddening and thrilling at the same time. It makes no sense, but it's so familiar that it makes perfect sense.

I want to say that everything will be fine, and that the Lions will eventually get all the gears working at the same time. I want to say that the offense will soon be the well-oiled machine that we saw against San Diego last year. But I can't say that in good faith. The inconsistencies are so consistent that it's hard to even call them inconsistencies and not faults. And I feel a lot of it falls on Stafford's shoulders. Maybe he's not the golden goose we all thought he was. Maybe the issues he's facing aren't injury-related or early game nerves, but the inaccuracy problems that some draft gurus warned about.

But then I shake my head and snap out of it. How can I call Stafford inaccurate when he's dropping bombs right into Titus' breadbasket or hitting Scheffler in stride while running to his right or flinging a ball into the endzone where only Nate Burleson could grab it?

But then I remember all the plays left on the field. The seam route to Pettigrew that was overthrown. The third down pass to a wide-open Burleson that he led too far. The poor reads and the open receivers unseen.

It's all overwhelming and frustrating and I keep repeating myself, but that's because my head is running in circles. I can't decide if things are going to be fine or if the Lions are doomed to a season of inconsistencies. I just don't know.

So where does that leave us? What was the point of all this? I have no idea. I'm sitting here after another miraculous* comeback not knowing how to feel. The team is an enigma and the rest of the season could go in an infinite amount of directions. I don't know what's going to happen. I don't know who is to blame or who I should deify if things go bad/good. I'm just sitting here watching all the questions pile up while the answer box remains empty. I'm exhausted. I'm confused.

*a word I've used so many times, it's rendered the word "miracle" meaningless

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Three Days Late "Live" Blog: Lions vs. Vikings

Alright, here we go. Slow starts have plagued the first three weeks. With the Lions fanbase struggling to come to terms with last week's loss at Tennessee, we need the Lions to come out hot to keep the fans rockin Ford Field...

First Quarter:
14:48 - ...of course. Of course the Vikings return it for a touchdown. Because on the eve of one of the most disappointing losses in the team's recent history, why wouldn't the Lions spot the Vikings seven quick points? Awesome.

14:40 - Okay, I guess if the offense is going to come out strong, I can live with the occasional special team's blunder.* By the way, how ridiculous is it that on an obvious free play like that, Calvin Johnson is actually open?

*not true

13:10 - Lions settle for three after the big pass interference penalty. Disappointing, but no one was open on the passing plays and the one running play didn't work. Don't underestimate this Vikings defense.

13:02 - It's like a pooch kick, one play too late. Isn't it ironic, dontcha think?**

**it's not

10:29 - Deandre Levy with another solid tackle. Continuing to improve.

7:53 -

6:10 - Backus embarassed by Jared Allen, Peterman embarrassed by Letroy Guion. End drive. 

3:42 - Ricardo Silva with a solid tackle in the open field. Safeties have been okay at tackling as long as they aren't trying to take down Peterson.

3:11 - Not a lot of contact on the pass interference. Looks like Jerome Simpson dives for the ball right after the hand-battling, creating the illusion that Bill Bentley shoved him. But if Bentley turns his head, no illusion. 

1:56 - Very strange/awesome moment on this third down. The camera cuts to this guy in the crowd. 

Dressed more appropriately for a Black Keys concert, this guy is clearly distraught and for some reason is screaming "WHAT THE FUCK?!?" Why is he screaming this? Because the Lions are losing? Because he lost his awesome, retro NES controller iPhone cover? I don't know, but it's awesome. 

Oh, and Chris Houston is my hero. 

Second Quarter:
14:30 - Miscommunication between Backus and Pettigrew sends a defender into the backfield, resulting in a five yard loss on first down. Another drive killer, thanks offensive line!

13:10 - This is my favorite moment in FOX broadcasting history. After forcing a false-start, the crowd is so loud that I can't hear the sideline reporter. Sideline reporting is the most useless aspect of a football broadcast and no one would miss it if it was gone. It's clearly just an excuse to hire "pretty" women or overweight men. 

13:04 - The Lions defense summed up in two pictures:

That's both safeties missing badly on Peterson. This play got the Vikings out of a deep hole early.

10:00 - A devastating PI call on Bentley. Again, there isn't much contact, and Simpson, once again, created the illusion that Bentley shoved him. If Bill turns his head, Simpson is likely called for offensive pass interference. The refs are being tricked*** into seeing pass interference because Simpson is drawing it, but also because Bentley is making himself vulnerable.

2:34 - Do penalties get more ridiculous than this? Burleson gets suplexed as the DB is trying to bring him to the ground. But how exactly is he supposed to tackle him? He's trying to prevent him from gaining any extra yards, and the easiest way to bring him down is to pull him exactly backwards. Amazingly terrible call/rule.

1:50 - Jesus, what a way to end the drive. Stafford holds onto the ball too long and takes an unnecessary sack on first down. Megatron drops a touchdown after a good defensive play. Then Pettigrew plays like Pettigrew and drops an easy touchdown on third down. Putrid end to the Lions best drive of the day.

:58 - Hey there, Cliff Avril, nice to see you. An almost-interception on first down, then two plays later, you abused the right tackle and picked up a half-sack. Please, keep doing stuff like this. I like it.

Third Quarter
13:30 - Lions quickly go three-and-out to start the second half. That couldn't have gone worse...

13:10 - ...kill me. That was absolutely inexcusable. Osgood whiffs on a free shot. The returner made no move, Osgood just whiffed. Not only should he have made the tackle, but he should have laid the dude OUT. Of course, he teammates don't help him out with Joique Bell, Erik Coleman and Don Muhlbach joining the Missed Tackle Parade. 

12:28 - Burleson with a HUGE catch. He's easily been the Lions most consistent player this year and is extremely underrated.

11:21 - [Charlie Brown] ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGHHHHH [/Charlie Brown]
Lions fail to pick up third and one with absolutely no push by the o-line on a rushing play. Fourth and one from the Vikings 40 yard line, have to go for it. Did not. Coaching disappointment +1.

8:45 - Levy with back-to-back solid tackles. Drink?

7:03 - Lions go three-and-out after Stephan Logan gets them good field position. Titus Young with the drop this time. Offense is really killing the team right now.

5:45 - Lions force a three-and-out with consistent pressure on Ponder. Defensive line starting to bring it.

4:45 - In danger of going three-and-out again, Stafford throws a dart to Pettigrew on third down for a crucial first down. 

4:25 - Leshoure hits the second level for the first time all game, and fumbles. *ulti-sigh*

2:16 - Peterson starting to gash the Lions tired defense. It would be nice if the offense could hold onto the ball for more than four plays at a time. 

Fourth Quarter
14:55 - Very rare miss by Tulloch, but it's a bad one. Could have forced a punt, but Peterson broke it, and picked up five more yards, to boot.

13:19 - Lions bailed out by another missed field goal, but this was not a good defensive drive. Vikings took six minutes off the clock and picked up several first downs when the Lions defense had a chance to get off the field.

9:51 - This is my biggest pet peeve of football fans. It's fourth and five, the Lions need to score on this possession and the crowd is going insane. SHUT. UP. I know you're excited and I know this is a big play for your favorite team, but stop acting like a four year old and learn to control your emotions. The Lions need it to be quiet. The Vikings are showing blitz, and this would have been a great opportunity for Stafford to change protection or call a hot route. This is made infinitely more difficult with a loud crowd. With no opportunity to audible, Stafford takes a sack before any of the route develops. Smarten up, home crowd.

7:40 - Suh takes down Peterson with one hand. No big deal. Now if he could only get off blocks as easily.

2:58 - Very interesting touchdown drive for the Lions. On at least three occasions, Stafford is looking down field and can't find anyone open. He properly throws it away or scrambles for yards. Once Stafford starts taking the check-downs the Vikings are offering, Detroit starts to easily drive down the field. Obviously, the Vikings are allowing that stuff late in the game, but perhaps this strategy would've been successful earlier in the game, as well.

2:53 - This is a brilliant play call by the Vikings. An incomplete pass here is not as devastating as most people think. Timeouts are much more valuable on defense than they are on offense (you can save 40 seconds on defense, while you can only save the amount of time between plays (15-20 seconds) on offense). So if this pass is knocked away, the Lions will have one more timeout for the offense (+20 seconds). But if it's complete, the Vikings have two plays that can't be stopped by a timeout (-1:20). As it turns out, the Lions got the benefit of the two minute warning, as well, but still an excellent call. And being only second down, the Vikings could pretty much guarantee that Bentley would be man-to-man on Simpson. 

1:43 - Okay, I get it. The Vikings are only giving you dump-offs. But when you're 98 yards away with no timeouts and need a touchdown, 22 seconds for nine yards is not a good trade-off. Take a chance.

0:44 - I don't want to be mad at someone as awesome as Calvin Johnson, but COME ON Calvin Johnson. Can't afford drops on the final drive.

0:18 - Stafford: What...what....what are you doing? You escape pressure up the middle: good. You stop looking down field and look to scramble for yards: BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD. Even if there's plenty of room, you have no timeouts and your receivers are waaaaaaaaaay downfield. At the very best, you barely get a spike in time, and have an outside chance at a hail mary from midfield. Throw. The ball. Away.

0:00 - Stupid. Stafford escapes to his right to buy more time, even though he has plenty room where he is (and there is a lane to step up on his left, if he likes) and when pressure comes, instead of letting it go, he turns to find Jared Allen waiting and turtles. A fitting end to this game.