Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Six Days Late "Live" Blog: Lions vs. Texans

So, it took awhile to get the courage to watch this game again.

First Quarter:

14:57 - First play of the game, and Gosder Cherilus gets blown up by J.J. Watt and Matthew Stafford is sacked. Oh boy.

14:11 - After a smart hard count to make it 3rd and 12 instead of 3rd and 17, Ryan Broyles jukes his defender to the ground and finds himself wide open for an easy play. If there's reason to be optimistic for the future, it's Broyles. So far, he was a great pick, especially if Titus is done as a Lion.

12:10 - Brandon Pettigrew with a great block to spring Mikel Leshoure for a nice 11 yard gain. Pettigrew really popped the linebacker. Thus ends all the nice things I will say about Brandon for the rest of the article.

11:00 - Nice to see Mike Thomas be effective in the Titus Young/Nate Burleson/Jahvid Best role. Need that speed for all of Scott Linehan's screens and swing passes.

10:46 - Gotta catch that, Broyles.

9:58 - Benched Leshoure on my fantasy team because the Texans hadn't allowed a rushing touchdown all season. Five minutes into the game...I was wrong.

9:00 - Defense looks as good as it ever has on this drive. Chris Houston knocks down a pass, Nick Fairley runs down a tight end screen, and the linebackers don't get fooled by a third down draw. Couldn't ask for a better start.

8:15 - Watt pushes Riley Reiff way into the backfield and disrupts the first down running play. Not a great matchup for the Lions there.

6:56 - Broyles is toasting defenders out there. Stafford just missed him for a touchdown.

5:59 - Drayton Florence with a big third-down breakup. The Lions are all over Andre Johnson early.

4:59 - On the deflected punt: it was almost assuredly deflected by the Texans player, but there's a few problems. One, Ashlee Palmer may have touched it first. Two, it looks like the ball changes direction, but there is no direct angle where you can see the ball bounce of the defender. You can only see the ball disappear behind the Texan and come out the other end at a different angle. Convincing, but not conclusive.

3:40 - Justin Durant all over the place early. Run stuffing, coverage, tackling. The man does it all.

2:51 - Reiff gets pushed back, once again, and Stafford is forced to throw his patented fade-away, sidearm. It's inaccurate. Harumph.

0:35 - I've been awfully critical of Stafford and his pocket presence, but on this 2nd and 27, he makes a spectacular play. He barely escapes pressure, sets his feet and drops it down to Pettigrew for 24 yards. HUGE play.

Second Quarter

14:45 - Nick Harris has been absolutely terrible in terms of distance. He's consistently punting under 40 yards. That's unacceptable.

14:30 - Louis Delmas wasn't going to break up this big play to Johnson, but the fact that he was picked by the referee didn't help him much.

12:00 - Florence fails to make a tackle, to force a 3rd and 5. Instead, the Texans have a 3rd and 2, which they easily convert. Florence has to wrap those arms.

10:57 - Arian Foster fakes a juke to the inside, freezing Delmas. As Delmas tries to recover to the outside, he trips over Deandre Levy, taking them both out of the play.

7:20 - This drive is all Stafford-to-Johnson. First with an easy out. Then, a perfectly laid pass to Megatron on a deep pass. Johnson cradled it with a great fingertip catch. And on a big third down, Stafford went back to the big man. Best QB/WR duo in the league.

5:55 - Chris Houston is good. Very good.

5:40 - Linebackers biting quite a bit on the play-action, giving Matt Schaub a bunch of room in the middle of the field.

3:39 - Devastating play. Chris Houston is in position to make a play, but turns his head to find the ball just as the ball is passing by his head. He doesn't see the ball to knock it away, and Johnson makes a great adjustment to the bouncing ball. All on third down, no less.

2:15 - Durant, in a short zone, can't decide which man to cover. He takes one step to his left, which is all the space Owen Daniels needs. Too easy.

1:56 - Perfect play call for the Lions here. Texans bring a blitz, and Stafford hits Broyles on the hot read. I think if Ryan turns on the jets from the get-go, he may be able to split the safeties and score. I'll take the 37 yards, though.

1:49 - This is one of those plays that just look like Calvin Johnson is committing offensive pass interference. When the ball is in the air, the defender is in great position. But when Johnson leaps to grab it, it seems like the defender is miles away. Drive summary: 2 plays, 59 yards, 15 seconds.

Third Quarter

14:40 - Cliff Avril with two sacks in the Texans' last three offensive plays. And the second one wasn't even his "run-as-fast-to-the-outside" move!

12:42 - Leshoure starting to find that hole and hit it more decisively. Me likey.

10:43 - Lions doing an excellent job on 2nd down. They are finding themselves in a lot of 2nd and longs, and are getting about half of those yards on 2nd down. Because of that, the Lions are currently 6/9 on third down.

8:57 - 2nd and 9, 3rd and 2. 7/10 on third down.

6:49 - *deep inhale* Okay, here we go.

Let's get this out of the way. Obviously, Jim Schwartz deserves a lot of criticism for throwing the challenge fan in the heat of the moment. Obviously, he hurt his team, and that sort of thing is unacceptable. Especially when it costs your team 74 yards and a touchdown.

But the way fans flip-flop on what they want in a couch is absolutely infuriating to me. If the coach isn't screaming and yelling on the sidelines, they "don't care enough." If there's veins popping out of every inch of his face, he's "too immature" and "a bad example for their team." The truth is: there are plenty examples from both ends of the spectrum of coaches that have succeeded. A coach's demeanor on the sideline almost never directly affects the game itself. This was one of those rare, insane moments when it did. It shouldn't cost Schwartz his job, but he shouldn't be let off the hook either. And he knows that.

But let's talk about the real issue here: officiating. This is a prime example of the negative effects of video review. Referees are too tempted to let plays go, because if they're wrong, they'll just review it, and all will be well. Unless, of course, there's some crazy stupid loophole that makes a play unreviewable for no real reason.

And let's talk about this inane rule. I don't understand the point of it at all. Most rationales for the rule have something to do with preventing coaches from delaying the game so that the booth can have more time to decide whether they want to review a play or not. Which begs the questions, what is more important to the league: preventing a small delay in the game or making certain that a play that should be reviewed gets reviewed and called correctly? That question is as stupid as the rule.

0:23 - This block in the back on Pettigrew: 100% unacceptable. Leshoure already had picked up 13 yards and was one-on-one with the defender in the open field; Advantage: Leshoure. He probably would've juked the guy anyway, and Pettigrew should have, instead, blocked the safety upfield and turned a medium gain into a big gain.


Fourth Quarter


11:30 - Leshoure with a great pickup on the blitz, and Stafford makes them pay.

10:40 - Kevin Smith is late to recognize the blitz, forcing Stafford out of the pocket...and right into Watt's arms. An incomplete pass gives Jason Hanson a shot at a 54-yard field goal. The sack eliminates any chance of that. Watt was being handled by Cherilus, but then he seemed to hand him off to Pettigrew, as Gosder was leaving to handle a stunting lineman. Pettigrew just stood there and blocked no one. His lack of awareness is stunning.

9:14 - The Lions defense has been absolutely stellar to this point. They have forced SIX 3-and-outs, and only gave up 17 real points at this point in the fourth.

9:01 - First off: Logan, that is not okay. Second off, this is a silly penalty. You can't hit a guy before he catches it, I get that, I'm on board. But you can't hit a guy right after he catches it because he's defenseless? What the hell is the gunner supposed to do? Wait for him to catch it and make a move by you?

8:30 - Oh end-around fake screen, where have you been for the past four games? How I love you so.

8:15 - Ah, the kiss of death. Right before this key third down play, the announcer claims, "Detroit's offensive line has held up very well." Cue Reiff getting pushed back five yards, Rob Sims getting juked out of his pants and Raiola failing to help him. Once again, the Lions are sacked out of a potential field goal to go up two scores. That's definitely not going to come back to bite us in the ass.

6:40 - ARRRRRRRRRRGG. The Lions force a 3rd and 8 deep in the Texans' own territory. A stop here likely wins the game. The Lions would get great field position, and it's hard to imagine them squandering three chances in a row. Instead, Johnson finds a soft spot in the zone and makes a great catch on an inaccurate throw.

5:30 - Watching Andre Johnson take over the game for the Texans looks awfully familiar...guess this is how everyone who plays the Lions feels in the fourth quarter.

5:15 - People want to rag on Houston for dropping that interception. It would've been a pretty amazing play if he pulled it off. He was backing up at full speed, trying to drag his feet inbounds as he was approaching the sidelines. It was not as easy of a play as it looks like.

4:00 - Fourth down...I just have no idea. Lions obviously in zone, but there's no one within five yards of Johnson. That is worse than unacceptable. I believe the issue was with Florence. He leaves his zone to bite on the underneath route, which should have been Houston's responsibility. This left the middle of the field wide open. Killer.

3:17 - Tulloch gets crazy-held as he comes on the blitz. He still forces the incompletion, but don't know how the refs missed that.

1:55 - Well, at least they ran that play before the two-minute warning. Lions have plenty of time to get in field goal range.

1:40 - Pettigrew drop. Thanks for waiting until now, buddy.

1:34 - Pettigrew drop. You've got to be kidding me. Perfect pass, perfect grab. He just never seems to expect a defender may be trying to knock it out. Gotta hold on tight, man.

1:24 - Tony Scheffler, our savior. He's got to see more targets in the future.

0:48 - Oh man, that bomb to Calvin had a chance to work if that ball was underthrown. Instead, it was nowhere near Johnson, and he basically had to play defense to prevent an interception. Overtime it is.


14:50 - Stafford, I think I love you again. He finds some room in the pocket, and puts some amazing touch on his pass to Broyles. Credit to Broyles for immediately breaking his route downfield when he saw Stafford break the pocket. Savvy move for a rookie.

13:59 - I seriously can't even look at Pettigrew right now. Just typing his name makes me want to cut my fingers off. The Lions cannot continue to afford his mistakes at key moments in the game. He cost us the game in Tennessee, he cost us this game in regulation, and he likely just cost the game in overtime. I understand he's a decent blocker and has some pretty good hands most of the time, but his awareness and proneness to mistakes are just too costly. He has reached the point of no return for me. He will never be on my good side again. Sorry, bud. I gave you more chances than most.

13:00 - Man, Houston with some great coverage again, but Andre makes another solid catch.

11:50 - Arian Foster with a stiff-arm through the hearts of Lions fans. This is the saddest I've ever been.

9:38 - Holy Bejesus, that kick was close. Watching this game the second time through, knowing that it was missed, I still thought it might've gone in.

9:24 - You throw it to Scheffler and the big man makes a play. *Stares directly at Pettigrew*

8:37 - Texans sending blitzes on nearly every play now. Would've been nice to see a draw somewhere.

8:02 - Oh, Kyle Vanden Bosch. You had a chance. You had a chance to win the game and win back the hearts of every Lions fan.


6:22 - TONY, MOTHER-EFFIN, SCHEFFLER. Great route, great pass. DIDN'T DROP IT.

4:40 - Lions in field goal range. 47-yarder. Jason Hansen on the field. Awesome game, Lions. You struggled to make plays late in the fourth quarter, but when you absolutely needed to, you made all the necessary plays and beat one of the best teams in the...*doink*

4:35 - I don't have the heart to finish this. You know what happens. This was the most heart-breaking loss since the opener against the Bears in 2010. The Lions played one of the best games I've ever seen them play through three and a half quarters, and even played solidly into overtime. They just made two or three crucial mistakes, and you can't afford to do that against a great team like Houston. Utterly depressing.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Battered Fan Syndrome Anonymous

Hi there. Welcome to our home. Please, help yourself to coffee or donuts in the back. Feel free to talk among yourself for the next few minutes, or if you're more comfortable, you may take a seat and we'll begin shortly.

Okay, we are ready to begin, please find a seat everyone. "Roary" nice to see you again. "Ice" I'm glad you could make it this week. "Ed", how many times do I have to tell you? This is a place for fans who have been unfairly abused by referees. Those that have to deal with quarterback incompetence and head coaches who continually get credit despite zero results must go down the street to MetLife Stadium.

I see a lot of new faces today, most of them blue. And I don't just mean your temperment. Haha...sorry. I sometimes like to lead these things off with a joke, but I can see no one is in the mood this week. So let's just jump right into this. Who would like to start us off this week?

A man in spiked shoulder pads stood up. His face, smeared with running black and silver paint, was noticeably damp, presumably with both sweat and tears. As he walked towards the front of the room, he gulped quite audibly in the muted room. 

" name is...uh...Richa...uh...Ricardo, and I'm an abused fan."

"Hi, Ricardo," most attendees robotically responded without lifting their heads from their collective hands.

"IT'S JUST NOT FAIR!" Ricardo's tone quickly changed to one of ire, as it all rushed back to him. "WE'RE JUST COMING BACK IN THE GARD-DAMNED GAME, AND THE REFS BEND US OVER AND HAVE THEIR WAY WITH US!"

"I understand your anger, Ricardo, and I'm glad you got it out. But, perhaps you could explain your situation, so that other's can understand and empathize with your plight?"

Ricardo solemly nodded. "Well, it all started with the tuck rule. I mean, what the hell was that? They make up a rule...cost us the game -- which would've put us in the AFC CHAMPIONSHIP game, mind you -- and they give the Patriots, a franchise that literally has EVERYTHING, another Super Bowl. It's a conspiracy.

"And then it happened again this week. The RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIDERS tackled that puny Bengals guys, pried the ball from him, saved the ball from going out of bounds, and returned it for a touchdown. Me and my bros were going crazy! Then the referees, straight out of Nazi Germany or something, come in and tell me that they accidentally blew a whistle and there was no touchdown. But, GET THIS, not only is there no touchdown, but the Bengals now get the option to take a four yard gain or REPLAY THE DOWN!"

At this point, there were several audible gasps in the crowded room. One woman burst into tears, while a father turned his face away in disgust and covered his son's ears. 

"I spent the rest of Sunday in an angry stupor," Ricardo continued. "I don't really remember what I did or what was said, I just remember the dark, dark thoughts. The thoughts of violence, the thoughts of uncontrollable rage. I was scaring my wife. Hell, I was scaring myself. I...I just don't know if..."

Ricardo tried to continue, but the emotional toll was visibly too much for his body to handle. Trying to hold back the tears, his face contorted in every direction. Giving up on the battle, Ricardo quickly shifted back to his seat, where his emotions erupted in a screaming wail.

It took a few moments for the room to recover. Every face in the room wore the look of understanding and empathy. When he finally reached equilibrium, Ricardo noticed this and let out a deep sigh from the bottom of his stomach. He forced a smile through the tears.

"Thank you for that, Ricardo. I see that there are plenty of people here that went through the exact same thing as you. I hope that Ricardo's story will help all of you cope with your unfortunate circumstance. You are not alone."

"So who's next?"




"How about you? You're a new face."

I looked up, sensing and dreading that his eyes were upon me. When I looked up and locked eyes with him, I tried to quickly avert my gaze, but I had been caught. As I peered back out of my peripheral, his eyes drew my face back towards him. There was no escape. I had to do this. I slowly walked to the podium and slumped over it.

"This...uh...this actually isn't my first..."

"Start with your name," he interrupted.

" name is...uh...screw it, my name is Jeremy and I am a battered Lions fan"

"Hi, Jer-"

"My name is Jeremy and I am sick of this," I quickly gained momentum and couldn't see nor hear anything other than myself. "I tried and tried and tried to not care anymore. The Lions weren't in the playoff race, so I wasn't going to emotionally invest myself in the game. The Lions were winning, and it was pleasant and all, but I wasn't going to get mad if they lost the game. They were playing the Texans. No one expected them to really win, and clearly the Lions were still competitive. So there was that.

"But the refs...those freakin' refs. As I sat contently on my couch, they poked with me their fiery sticks. Nudging me, begging me to care. First, with the punt that obviously hit a Texan player. OF COURSE, CBS couldn't find a definitive angle. OF COURSE, the play wasn't called in our favor on the field. OF COURSE, it wasn't overturned.

"But I didn't let it get to me. I was proud of myself. The refs tried to mess with my day, my favorite holiday. But I had resisted their temptation to rile me up. I had simply turned the other cheek. Their constant prodding was not going to affect me, today. If I give myself up emotionally, the terror-refs win.

"But then the unthinkable happened. The Texans ran for and seven yard gain, and suddenly it was a touchdown. As my own little support group erupted in a collective fit of rage, I sat back calmly. 'They'll review it, and they'll obviously get the call right,' I said, trying to act as the rational fan, for once. But then the Texans lined up for the extra point. And there was no stoppage. No review. We all desperately looked to each other trying to make sense of the situation. Finally, we rewound the game and heard the immortal words that will haunt my existence:

'The Play Is Not Reviewable'"

A woman screamed, and ran out of the room. It couldn't be heard over the deafening gasps and groans, but the woman, in a bout of brief hysteria, ran directly into traffic and was immediately killed by a semi-truck. 

"At this point, I couldn't help myself. How could anyone? The hate, the anger, the spite. It all came rolling back in one flush of emotions that turned my face crimson and swelled my body with a tenseness that I feared would result in some sort of physical outburst. I stood up and paced around on the wooden floor, clenching my fists to make the pain go away.

"When I finally calmed the body, the mind was still racing. I went to my safe place. Twitter. I let out all of the emotions I was feeling in a barrage of ALL CAPS tweets. But it wasn't enough. I stood up again. Paced around the room again. Trying to wrap my head around the rule and why it even exists felt like fitting a rubber band around Hummer. I was going to snap.

"As I watched the rest of the game, my emotions were heavily exaggerated. Each Lions first down resulted in a fist pump that nearly threw my shoulder out of the socket. Each dropped pass and fumble led to hair-pulling and thoughts of graphic violence.

"By the time it was over, I could no longer feel anything. Anger, sadness, the thirst for blood, they were all just concepts unable for me to fathom. I was silent. I was devoid of anything. I was tabula rasa. I was broken. Life had reset me back to factory settings.

"And as Thanksgiving rolled on, I met a few new people. They spoke of the incident with a light-heartedness that would normally spark an internal rage inside. But I was beyond that at this point. I smiled. I laughed. I basically mimicked what everyone else was doing, because my robot brain told me to. It could no longer deal with the stress and torment of being a Lions fan. So for the rest of the day, I wasn't.

"And now I stand here wondering if I can ever fully recover. I survived 0-16. I survived the Calvin Johnson rule. But I stand here today wondering if it was all worth it. I won't ever be able to fully pull myself from the game, but I'm not sure I can physically afford to emotionally invest in this game when I so infrequently receive any dividends.

"But then I know things will never change. I will never change. I am a slave to this team, to this league. I will continually throw myself into the ring, and perpetually get the shit kicked out of me. And the scary things is, deep down I know there's some part of me that loves it. It's hard to recognize now, but when the football droughts of Spring and Summer come, I will beg for the agony. I will crave the bouts of insanity with an insatiable appetite.

So I will see you all again next year."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

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

Since I'm not going to be particularly happy after doing this, let me wish you all a happy Thanksgiving now. We may not think we have a lot to be thankful for in terms of football, but we do. Despite the season not going like most people in Detroit thought or anybody wanted, the team has still come a long way. And putting thing in perspective, it's nice to be competitive again. Now be a good boy and eat some turkey, because it's delicious and has something to do with thankfulness, I guess.

First Quarter:

14:22 - Lions come out in a no-huddle look, much to everyone's delight. They predictably still go three-and-out. I never understood why people thought that move would give the offense a shot in the arm. Dropped passes don't happen because you went into a huddle.

14:06 - Drayton Florence gets concussed on the first play for the defense. Unbelievable. 

12:18 - Special teams woes continue as Nick Harris punts for 38 yards, then the Packers drop a punt inside the 3-yard line. 

11:32 - I...just don't know what's up with Matthew Stafford. Third down, has Tony Scheffler wide open. Has a ton of protection. Steps into his throw. And overthrows him badly. It's really frustrating to watch him regress. 

10:20 - Uncalled-for derogatory Suh statement. Drink!

9:36 - Not sure why FOX thinks this graphic is cool, because it's really, really pointless. A normal stat overlay on the bottom of the screen is sufficient. This is a classic case of creating a graphic just because it appears "cutting-edge". This does not cutting-edge:

7:41 - This is almost always my thought process when the opponent goes for it on fourth down, passing on a field goal:
"Please don't go for it, Please don't go for it, Please don't go for it, Please don't go for it, "
"Oh God, they're going for it"
"I wish our coach would go for it."

7:26 - No excuse for Calvin's drop. He had his head turned in time, ball was right in the hands, knee injury had nothing to do with it. Unacceptable.

6:29 - Rollout prayer to Megatron has been our best, most-consistent play. That is not a good thing.

4:40 - Lions first and goal from the 10. Play calls: pass, pass, pass (sack), field goal. Make note of this.

2:00 - Lions bottling up the Packers run game, forcing third-and-longs all quarter. Of course, the Packers are converting a a few of these third downs, but it's still very promising.

0:00 - This is a very underrated play by Stephen Tulloch that no one likely remembers. But look at the tackle he makes on this run play:

Tulloch is draped by a fullback, but is able to shed the block and take down the back with one hand. This play forces another third down, giving the Lions defense another chance to get off the field (they don't).

Second Quarter:

13:56 - I want to blame everyone on the defense for the Packer's touchdown to Finley, but that was just a really cool play. Everyone bites on the screen look, leaving him wide open over the middle of the field. Not sure what the safeties were doing though...

13:07 - Stafford steps up and avoids pressure!!!!! He annoyingly still throws a side-armed duck, but it finds its target and picks up a first down.

11:24 - Routes taking too long to develop. Stafford takes a sack, but minimizes the damage.

9:14 - Calvin is starting to take this game over, and not with his size. Great route running. 

8:30 - Leshoure running downhill with little hesitation in the backfield is good Leshoure.

5:48 - What a play by Durant. Shoots the gap with incredible speed and awareness. Forces a third-and-medium, and ultimately a punt. Huge play.

4:48 - There were 12 tweets on my timeline hating on Logan after the muffed punt. I counted. 

4:44 - When I first saw this terrible pass by Stafford, I had thought there must be an inside defender forcing a back shoulder throw:

There was not.

2:44 - Backus out of the game, and the first play is a run right at Riley Reiff. Nice to see the Lions have confidence in him. 

2:15 - On Stafford's first interception. Reiff is struggling with pass protection (gets called for a hold, too) and Stafford feels it. He drifts right and directly into more pressure. So he side-arms it right to an awaiting defender. If Stafford had more time, Young would've broken wide open in another second.

1:51 - Great play by Lacey on the interception. Drops back into his zone, reads Rodgers perfectly, and makes a good snap. Don't know what Rodgers saw, though.

1:09 - This is the most frustrating end to a half ever. Stafford amazingly evades the unblocked blitzer and has tons of room to run. Unfortunately, the linebacker makes a great play. He desperately dives, and probably would not have taken Stafford to the ground. But he slaps the ball out of his hand and forces the turnover. Two straight drives by the offense that should have ended in points, but didn't.

0:34 - Fairley absolutely embarrasses the guard and takes down Rodgers for a crucial sack that forces a long field goal...which Crosby thoughtfully misses.

Third Quarter:

12:45 - Great team sack by the Lions. As the defensive ends close in, Rodgers tries to escape up the middle, but there's nowhere to go. Avril cleans up the mess.

9:34 - Calvin is still smoking defensive backs with his route-running. Unfortunately, Stafford is missing him.

8:53 - Crucial third and 5 and Titus Young false starts. 

8:46 - Crucial third and 10, Lions pick up a free play on an offsides and Titus Young pushes off and drops the pass. 

8:31 - Crucial third and 10, Lions pick up the blitz, and Stafford throws a pass behind Scheffler, who kindly tips the pass right to the Packers defender. I hate everyone and everything. The Lions offense has finally started moving the ball, and in three straight drives, they were in position to score points. In all three drives, they turned the ball over. The nausea is coming back.

7:34 - A Ryan Broyles sighting! Something tells me this won't be as rare going forward.

4:00 - Stafford looking decisive and smart in the pocket. I like this.

3:39 - Leshoure makes the exact same mistake he made last week:

Leshoure opts to kick it outside again, giving Reiff no choice but to hold his man and hope that the refs don't catch it. Leshoure really needs to read the offensive tackle and see that he has inside-contain on him and cut it up field. The Lions cannot afford holding penalties, given how much they are struggling anyway, but especially in the red-zone.

3:07 - Okay. This touchdown is embarrassing. Terrible decision by Stafford to throw the ball, as it should have been Detroit's fourth straight turnover. But give all the credit in the world to Johnson for being able to bring in the ball after it was deflected by the defender.

0:48 - James Jones breaks open over the middle of the field as Jacob Lacey doesn't see him entering his zone. Don Carey makes an ankle tackle that saved a touchdown as Ricardo Silva was waaaayyy out of position.

Fourth Quarter:

13:39 - You have no idea how annoyed I was (and still am) at the Lions taking a timeout before the Packers' field goal attempt. You need to have your personnel ready for anything. Yes, the Packers may have gone for it, or may have faked the field goal, but you cannot afford to keep using timeouts when you could very well need them at the end of games. This is my biggest pet peeve of the Lions coaching staff. They clearly don't realize the value of timeouts late in games.

12:05 - Pass protection breaking down everywhere. Reiff, Peterman, Sims, Raiola. Everyone. That's what happens when your best pass blocker goes down.

10:15 - Hold on called Florence, but Willie Young was getting absolutely abused by a Packer lineman. Not sure how the refs could miss that.

9:10 - Packers facing a first and 5, and the Lions defense steps up big. Fairley makes two tackles. On the first, he bursts into the backfield and breaks up the play. On the second, he is being shoved backwards by a smothering lineman, but is somehow able to bring down Starks with one arm well before the first down. Incredible strength. 

7:08 - Broyles with an HUGE play. Great double move by Ryan. I'm psyched to see more of that.

5:15 - Lions first and goal from the 10. Play calls: run, run, pass, field goal. This series was panned for it's poor play-calling in the red zone. Many believed Scott Linehan got conservative and was okay with a field goal. I couldn't disagree more. The Lions have struggled much more passing the ball in the red zone than running it. Remember the series I told you to keep in mind earlier, three passes, no touchdown. The Lions have 11 rushing touchdowns in the red zone, while they only have 14 TOTAL passing touchdowns, many of which were long plays. And if Titus doesn't get held on third down, they likely score anyway.

4:14 - Lions not expecting a run, as the linebackers play waaaaaaay back. Starks easily picks up 11 to start the drive.

3:35 - Terrible. Jacob Lacey gets held on the play, but makes no real effort to break it. Meanwhile, Chris Houston, Ricardo Silva and Stephen Tulloch seem to believe Finley will just go out of bounds and let him gain an extra 30 yards down the sideline. You can literally see the moment when Silva thinks to himself, "Oh crap, I actually have to do something on this play!"

2:02 - I want to be mad at someone for the touchdown, but I just can't figure out who. Lacey is in good position but is put in a very tough spot with a speedy Cobb and an underthrow that's almost impossible to adjust to. He doesn't turn his head around, but that's much easier said than done against someone as speedy and elusive as Cobb. I want to be mad at Silva, but it's unrealistic to expect him to be able to get over in time, as he was coming from the opposite side of the field. Just a great play by Cobb. 

1:43 - The infamous play that put Young in the doghouse for good. Stafford is ready to go when he looks to his left and sees Titus where he doesn't belong. Stafford literally does a quadruple take and tries to get Titus to move. His yell causes Gosder Cherilus to false start. Sweet.

1:31 - Third and 15. Need to pick up SOME yardage. Instead of picking up and easy 7-8 yards with Pettigrew over the middle, Stafford forces a pass to Titus that should have been picked off. Terrible decision.

1:19 - Lions could really use that third timeout right now. Instead, ballgame. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

No ONE is to Blame, but Everyone is to Blame

One of the few nice things about being a Lions fan is that nearly every week they play at the 1 PM EST time slot. That sort of routine and predictability is nice to have in one's life. It's also nice, because when the Lions blow a lead late against a quality opponent, you can bury your head in more football to prevent insanity from setting in.

If you've ever perused a Lions message board, Mlive comment section or twitter after a Lions loss like the one against the Green Bay Packers yesterday, you know exactly what I'm talking about. The chaotic witch hunt/SKY IS FALLING/FIRE EVERYONE ribble-rabble is too much for me to take anymore. Instead, I find it very therapeutic to turn off the computer, sit back and distract myself with my favorite sport. And while "what ifs..." and "we shouldas..." creep in from time to time in between Tom Brady touchdowns, I mostly let the game fully digest in the periphery of my consciousness.

But I get the desire to place blame on someone. I get the tendency to throw vitriol at anyone and everyone. I used to do it myself. It's comforting. If you find the culprit of the Lions' struggles, you figure out the simple solution. Find the whitehead and thoroughly squeeze the shit out of him. BOOM, pimple gone.

But it's a lie: both about the team and to yourself. The Lions' problems are not simple. They cannot be solved by firing one guy, or drafting another. In fact, no problem is ever that simple in the NFL. And while the Lions are not a team far, far away from success, their issues won't go away with one new coach or player.

People forget the simple fact that if you get rid of someone, you subsequently have to replace him. So if the Lions decide to fire Scott Linehan (which I doubt will happen), they have to hire a new offensive coordinator. Who will it be? Will the Lions' roster fit with the new guys' game plan? How long will it take for the players to adjust to new schemes? The firing of a coach almost always precedes a few years of rebuilding and adjusting. And while the team may be better off in the long run (though often, it's not), it is not the quick fix that many dream it is.

Changes don't come any quicker through the draft, either. You need not look further than Riley Reiff for proof. After looking so promising in a situational role for nine week, he struggled when he was forced to replace Jeff Backus yesterday. Likewise, if the Lions decide to draft any shutdown corner, he's going to go through some serious growing pains before he can make a huge impact.

The real answer is slow, gradual change. And while that answer is both frustrating and hard to accept, it's the truth. And, behind the scenes, that's exactly what the Lions' blueprint is. It may seem that the Lions grew complacent with last years' team and failed to upgrade positions of need, but that is not the truth of the matter. The Lions drafted a left tackle for the future, who would have time to groom behind Backus before throwing him to the wolves. The Lions drafted several defensive backs, who were meant to be just depth guys until they were ready. And similarly, the Lions had a veteran wide receiver, who was supposed to lead by example, while the youngster learned their craft.

But injuries have taken their toll, in perhaps the most vulnerable positions on the team. The Lions are forced to put young, mistake-prone players out on the field. The depth of the team is desperately thin, almost all around. And while it's easy to blame the coaches and managers that came before, they are exactly the men who are responsible.

The Lions were not a better team last year, they were a more fortunate one. Nate Burleson was healthy, Jeff Backus was healthy, Louis Delmas was (mostly) healthy. They were the beneficiaries of a Carson Palmer overthrow and two Tony Romo picks. And a Joe Webb fumble. And a Jay Cutler broken thumb. Did they deserve to make the playoffs? Absolutely. Luck is part of the game. And this year, they find themselves at the stem-end of the four-leaf clover.

The Lions have made some mistakes along the way. The Brandon Pettigrew experiment didn't turn out quite as good as we'd hoped. Same goes for Gosder Cherilus (though he was drafted know who). Jahvid Best was a big risk that didn't pay off, and I'm not sure Titus Young will ever turn things around. The lack of depth on the current roster is partially the result of those mistakes. But for every missed pick, there have been three or four great moves; your Stephen Tullochs, your Matthew Staffords, your Justin Durants. They have brought this team to respectability again, and in the mean time, the front office is building this team for even better things in the future.

So who is to blame? Everybody. Our predecessors, the angry Lion-hating football god that took away our emotional leaders on offense and defense this year, the inconsistent play of the offense, the great play of the defense...until we really need it, the special teams blunders, the play-calling. They've all played a little part in the perfect storm that has been a 4-6 season.

And the answer? Time. I understand the worst thing you can tell a Lions fan is "you need to be patient", but guys, we need to be patient. Creating a Super Bowl winner can't happen in four years in the modern NFL. It's just not possible without an insane amount of luck. The Lions are not in need of a complete overthrow. They are still extremely competitive, they still have superstars locked up for years to come. And when the Lions have a chance to finally fill out the rest of their roster, they'll be ready. A big change will only set the plans back further. So until then, I'm going to bury my head in more football and wait until next year.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Three Days Late "Live" Blog: Lions at Vikings

Let it be known that I really don't want to watch this game again. Which means it's very unlikely that anyone would want to read this. But if you are a person, and you do want to read this, congratulations: you are as broken as I am...or you are Vikings fan. If you are a Vikings fan, go away. I currently don't like you.

First Quarter:

14:56 - Logan is running scared out there. He doesn't look like he has any confidence in himself.

14:50 - Dominic Raiola pushed three feet into the backfield on the first play. Oh boy.

13:30 - Two first downs in a row on solid catches from Calvin and Pettigrew. Proooogress.

13:05 - Aaaaaaand there it is: the "young player mistake." A crackback block by Broyles pretty much ends the drive where it started.

9:33 - Nick. Fairley. Throws the guard to the side and makes a solid tackle of Peterson well into the backfield. Dude is a beast.

9:00 - The Lions are in a simple zone coverage, two-deep. Safeties just got split, with most of the fault on Coleman. Inexcusable to let anyone get by him.

8:32 - As noted on twitter, the next play the Lions have 14 men on the field. When it rains, it rains urine. (that's how the saying goes, right?)

7:52 - More this year than any I remember, I see the Lions defense talking to each other before the snap in clear confusion. On this touchdown pass, Houston is trying to get everyone's attention. First, he yells something at Jonte Green, then tries to get Silva's attention. Silva doesn't really respond, then blitzes at the snap. Houston is not completely ready at the snap and is basically picked by both corners on the play. There's no route to his receiver, who is wide open. Easy touchdown. This is a great example of how the ever-changing secondary isn't able to develop any sort of chemistry, and it's killing the team.

7:44 - Stafford inaccurate early. On target on one of first four targets.

7:38 - ...which leads to his interception. Stafford fails to step into his throw and it comes out wobbly. Pettigrew is open and a good, strong throw gives the Lions a first down. But there's pressure coming from Stafford's left, and instead of stepping into his throw to his right, he throws flat-footed. He doesn't get the strength needed on the pass, and doesn't throw a spiral, which slows down the pass just enough for Greenway to get a shot at it.

7:31 - No idea why Ponder decided to catch his own pass, but I'm glad he did. Great play by Avril, though.

4:19 - Nothing interesting to say on the Lions three-and-out, other than all the plays looked doomed from the start.

3:30 - Great coverage on Nick Fairley's sack. The ball was supposed to come out quickly, but Jonte Green and Justin Durant did a great job covering the inside slant. Great pursuit and effort from Fairley to prevent Ponder from getting outside of the pocket.

2:54 - There is nothing in the world more frustrating than a special teams penalty on a punt that is likely to be fair caught. I'm sure this play didn't really have any bearing on Alphonso Smith being released this week, but it probably didn't help much.

1:00 - Stafford with a couple of great throws to Titus Young for first downs. Stepped into both throws...

Second Quarter:

14:45 - I complain about the announcers quite a bit (and I'm going to again later), but I can't let this comment go. It's one of the most ignorant, misinformed things I've ever heard.
"On that last play, you see Matthew Stafford break contain. I think a very underrated part of his game -- we all look at his arm talent, his arm strength -- he can move around very well, in addition." 
No. Just no. Stafford's (lack of) mobility is his greatest flaw.

13:00 - Stafford with time and a pocket; dangerous.

11:43 - Happy feet Stafford strikes again. His first option is gone, and he panics. But, as you can see, the pocket is still intact.

Jared Allen is double teamed and not a worry at this point. Both defensive tackles are being held up nicely. In fact, the only defender not accounted for is the left defensive end. So what does Stafford do? Roll right into him.

If Stafford has a little more patience, and just stays where he is, Titus could run his route back to the outside, or maybe Broyles breaks free. But when he rolls to the right, he just ends up shortening the play. If Stafford really felt like the pocket was closing down, he should have shot the gap between Jared Allen and the tackles. There was plenty of room there.

5:25 - Good job by the defense to hold them to a field goal, but overall, a pretty horrific drive. Vikings moved 80 yards down field, with rushes of 15, 20 (scramble) and 14 yards. Considering the Vikings were backed up a their own 15 yard line to start the drive, Lions could have really used a three-and-out to get good field position for once.

2:35 - Lions offense stalls after another bad penalty. Rinse. Repeat.

2:23 - Suh just abused his the guard and forced an incompletion. Man, I'd like to see more of that from him.

1:55 - Well, there ya go. Suh again in the backfield quickly on a screen pass. The guard is supposed to let Suh through, but not that quickly. He almost picks up the sack, which would have been ridiculous on a screen play.

1:30 - Announcer complaint #2: After the obvious non-interception-that-was-called-an-interception-because-the-refs-just-looked-at-each-other-until-someone-had-the-balls-to-finally-make-a-call, the announcer had the audacity to say that was a "good job" by the refs. Now, I understand his point that because they called it an interception, they were allowed to review it and get it right. Whereas, if it were called incomplete, they would not be able to review it and call it a touchdown. But there are a few things wrong with that line of thinking. One: the refs job is not to swallow the whistle, knowing that review can fix their mistakes. Their job is to get it right on the field, and it was embarrassing to call that play a touchdown. Secondly, if that was called incomplete, but was actually an interception, they WOULD be able to review it (and would've, considering it was inside of two minutes left in the half). Granted, Minnesota would not have earned a touchdown on the play, but they still would have given possession to Minnesota. If that was a "good job" by the refs, the bar is set incredibly low.

0:57 - Wow. Stephen Tulloch shot the gap with incredible speed to take Peterson down in the backfield and force a punt. With the Vikings on the doorstep of field goal range, this was a huge play.

Third Quarter:

13:40 - Jerome Simpson celebrates every single catch he makes. I dare you to find a counterexample.

12:42 - Lions send a blitz and Fairley almost gets Ponder to the ground again. Durant, waiting to see if Peterson runs a route, eventually heads to Ponder and lays a licking on him, forcing an inaccurate throw.

11:19 - Leshoure misses the hole on a crucial first down, backed up on their own seven yard line:

The hole is pretty clear and right in front of Leshoure. But Mikel decides to break it outside, giving Allen enough time to bring him down from the back side. Leshoure wasn't likely to pick up a huge amount if he hit the hole, as a free linebacker was waiting for him. However, he would've almost certainly picked up three or four yards, and that's huge when you're backed up. Instead, no gain.

10:43 - "I don't always drop passes, but when I do, I prefer it TO BE TOTALLY DEVASTATING" - Brandon Pettigrew, the most frustrating man in the world.

8:45 - Man, what a devastating third down conversion for the Lions defense. The blitz works, sending an unblocked linebacker right into Ponder's lap, but he gets rid of it in time. Levy is in perfect coverage on Kyle Rudolph and even gets a hand on the pass, but Rudolph manages to somehow hold on.

7:20 - Chris Houston gets turned the wrong way, Ricardo Silva slips, first and goal Vikings. Uggghh.

6:15 - Suh in the backfield again. I can see why Jim Schwartz was all over him on Monday's press conference.

4:10 - Stafford with time and a pocket: deadly.

2:55 - Great throw by Stafford on the Pettigrew touchdown, and I cannot help but be a little angry. Stafford, again, needlessly threw off his back foot. Talent overcomes poor mechanics. Next time, Gadget. Next tiiiiiiiiiiime.

2:54 - It's sad how little confidence the Lions have both in kick returns and kick coverage.

0:00 - Kyle Rudolph just killing the Lions. Seems to pick up every single third down the Vikings desperately need.

Fourth Quarter:

14:15 - If that's not holding, I don't know what football is.

DeAndre Levy just missed knocking this pass down. Still, if the holding is correctly called, the Vikings are facing a crucial third and five-ish instead of dancing in the endzone.

12:20 - I said this on twitter, but that was literally the best play I've ever seen Stafford make out of the pocket. He finds the correct hole to step up into, escapes pressure, keeps his eyes down field, and hits Johnson for a big gain.

11:32 - Great job by the offense. Nice, quick drive. Mixed the run and the pass, and got seven. Back in this game.

10:11 - And the Lions force a quick three-and-out! AND GET A GOOD RETURN OUT OF LOGAN! 52 yards away from a tie game.

9:53 - This was probably the biggest play of the game that was mostly overlooked. On the pitch to Leshoure, Backus is blocking Greenway from the inside to the outside. Leshoure tries to wrap around him. Because Backus cannot contain Greenway from the outside, he decides to grab a hold of them. Flag. Lions already going in the wrong direction.

The problem on that play was two fold: One, Leshoure needs to recognize that Backus hasn't sealed the edge, and there's no way he's going to get around Greenway on his own. He should have made a cut to the inside. However, Backus absolutely cannot get called for a holding at this point in the game. Take the two yard loss, if you have to. But, mostly, this one is on Leshoure.

8:06 - Peterson's long touchdown was just a case of nobody getting off their block, and Suh being too aggressive in his pass rush. I don't like Adrian Peterson.

7:54 - CALVIN JOHNSON, YOU....ugh...I can't yell at you. I love you too much. Just please don't do that again.

7:44 - So the last three non-special teams plays were: Peterson 61-yard touchdown, Megatron fumble, Peterson 21-yard run. Fantastic.

1:55 - Lions dink and dunk their way into the endzone, but, more importantly, burn three minutes off the clock. At least Megatron got in the end zone to shut up Madden Curse believers for a week.

1:52 - I hated this onside kick when they tried it in San Francisco, and I hate it now. Please just try a normal onside kick. It worked once already this year.

1:40 - The only way the game could have ended on a worse play would be if Suh was the one with the personal foul penalty. It would've caused a huge fight, an annoying rant from the announcers, and thousands of wasted words from vindictive football writers. Sammie Lee Hill barely touched Ponder, but had no business touching him at all, so...whatever. Lets go home.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Half-Chicken Little, Half-Chip Diller

I sit here in my quaint apartment, on a rare Monday off from work, with a cluttered mind. I'm half-Chicken Little, half-Chip Diller. While part of me wants to write 4000 words on why the Lions would just set themselves back three years by handing out pink slips to everyone in the front office, the other is filled with frustration and ire and looks at players like Titus Young and Brandon Pettigrew and wonders how much longer I, or the team, can put up with their antics.

I want to grab a megahorn and preach to the fans and show them how the Lions' blueprints work when applied correctly. I want to point to the 2011 season and recall when all the parts are working together, the team can play with the best of them. I want to relive the Seattle Seahawks game and claim that Scott Linehan's job should not only be safe, but should be protected from other teams.

But I also want to scream. I want to punch a wall. I want to grab my pitchfork and join the mob, if, for no other reason, then to get my own frustrations out. I want the Lions to grow the f*ck up. I'm sick of the drops. I'm sick of the penalites. I'm sick of the miscommunications. And I'm sick of using the "they're still young" excuse.

But the Lions are young. Matthew Stafford has played just 13 more games than Cam Newton. Young is in his second season, Ryan Bryoles is in his first. The Lions defensive line has three, main contributors between the ages of 24-26. The Lions have their quarterback, left tackle and number one receiver for the future. They have developmental projects at cornerback, defensive end and a couple at linebacker.

But developmental projects have failed in the past. I couldn't tell you what number Jason Fox is nor what he even looks like. Sammie Lee Hill will likely never grow beyond a rotational player. Players like Doug Hogue, Tahir Whitehead and Ricardo Silva don't have much value beyond special teams.

And the young players that are playing have high upsides, but tend to be showing their risky sides as of late. Nick Fairley's a beast, but his offseason antics embarrassed this franchise. Same with Ndamukong Suh. Players like Young, Pettigrew and even Stafford show signs of brilliance, only to regress with consistent mental errors.

But then we go back to the youth argument, and around and around she goes. I don't know what to think, I don't know where I stand, and I don't know where the Lions are headed. I want to believe when the Lions play consistent football, they'll be back in the playoffs. But I don't know if these Lions could ever play consistently.

I want to believe in the coaching staff, knowing how far this team has already come in 3.5 years. But then I see things like THIS and have to wonder.

I don't know if I'm pissed that the season is basically over or relieved that I don't have to continue to fool myself that playoffs are still a possibility. I don't know if Stafford is a franchise quarterback, or if his mechanical issues and poor pocket presence are things I'll just have to get used to. I don't know if the Lions will ever mature, or if the character risks we've been warned about are permanent.

But here's what I do know: the Lions are 4-5 and, for all intents and purposes, OUT of the playoff race. There are seven games on the schedule left. The Lions will be facing the best of the best in the NFL. And what the Lions choose to do with the next two months will go a long way in deciding whether I'm on board or waving the white flag in 2013.

Other stuff:
  • My biggest pet peeve of the game: Stafford, again, being too quick to leave the pocket. He ran himself into sacks on more than one occasion.
  • The offensive line had their worst game of the year. Couldn't get the run game early, making play-action completely ineffective later in the game.
  • Here's a fun series of events on twitter: 
At opening kickoff:
Exactly 14-minutes later:

  • That Calvin Johnson sure is cursed, huh? 
  • If Chris Houston's injury is serious, this team is in big, big trouble down the stretch. The Lions have struggled against poor passing teams so far. Ahead they have the Packers twice, the Texans, Falcons and Colts. Weeeeeeeeeeeee!
  • Defense: good job at holding Minnesota to two field goals after two turnovers by the offense.
  • Defense: anti-good job at allowing two plays of 50+ yards, three drives of 60+ yards, and 18 points in the fourth quarter to a team that was averaging just 19.3 points in the past three games.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

FOUR Days Late "Live" Blog: Lions at Jaguars

We're rolling extra late this week. Apologies if this ruined your Wednesday. In the future, Wednesday will be my target date for these.

First Quarter:

15:00 - There is a large group of Lions fans that think Detroit should not continue to elect to receive at the beginning of the game. I am not one of these people. I do not think the Lions should just accept that they are doomed to slow starts. You keep working at it, and you fix it. Plus, I am not convinced the Lions defense is better than their offense.

13:01 - Lions fail to pick up a third down, after Stafford throws a dart to Titus down the sideline. Young didn't run much of a route, but the refs missed an obvious hands-to-the-face penalty on a Jaguars o-lineman.

11:40 - Jaguars go three-and-out. First two plays were good defensive plays by linebackers and third down was a poor throw on a well-covered receiver.

11:27 - I understand the inclination to jump all over Stefan Logan after letting this punt bounce inside the 10-yard line, but he just lost it in the sun. Could've happened to anyone.

10:39 - Prime example of my biggest pet peeve of Stafford. Plenty of time in the pocket, but his internal clock goes off too early, starts running to his right, and instead of throwing the ball away, runs out of bounds for a one yard loss. Poor pocket awareness, and poor play outside of the tackles.

9:59 - This personal foul penalty on the Jags is stupid. The defender has all of his momentum going towards the quarterback and cannot hear the whistle. By the time he gets to Stafford, he sees that Matthew has given up on the play and tries to take as much off the tackle as he physically can. If he wrapped Stafford up and took him to the ground, I would understand the flag, but he clearly tries to hold up.

6:31 - What an amazing play all around. Starts with excellent pass protection. Then Stafford throws an amazing ball to a bracketed Tony Scheffler. He is absolutely covered for the majority of NFL quarterbacks. But Stafford puts the ball where only Scheffler could get it and Tony makes an incredible grab and toe taps in bounds.

4:58 - The end to this drive pretty much summarizes the first half of the season for the Lions offense. Driving well for 40-50 yards, stall after a bad mistake (in this case, a badly overthrown ball to Bell), then screw something up and fail to get any points (missed FG).

4:11 - Play-action roll out plays continue to fool the defense. It only cost the Lions 6 yards on this play, but it was WIDE open.

3:40 - Excellent coverage on third down forces another quick punt. I repeat...excellent coverage.

2:20 - More annoying Stafford pocket presence. He correctly evades the initial rush, and steps up in the pocket. There was room there to set his feet and find a receiver, but Stafford is in full panic mode and is looking for the nearest hole. He doesn't find it and throws it at Titus Young's feet.

1:05 - NASTY cut by Leshoure.

0:10 - Calvin Johnson against zone coverage. Money.

Second Quarter:

14:30 - There is no color commentator in the world that sounds like he's just making things up more than Mike Martz. I'm not saying that he doesn't know what he's talking about, just that the way he talks makes it sound like it. It's like he's never used any football terminology in his life.

12:16 - Big ole' hole on Mikel Leshoure's first touchdown run of the game. Give Stephen Peterman all the credit in the world. He holds up his defender long enough for Gosder Cherilus to get around and seal him from the inside. And when Cherilus helps out, Peterman heads to the second level and obliterates a linebacker. Made it look easy.

11:50 - Good to see Lawrence Jackson pick up his first sack of the year. The guy seems like a really awesome dude, and is a must-follow on twitter. He's very interactive with his followers and really lets his personality bleed through.

10:30 - Stafford throws off his back foot and misses Scheffler. I am really starting to worry about Stafford's mechanics, especially in the face of pressure. He has to step into these throws and can't be afraid of contact.

10:23 - Ahhh...much better. He sets his feet, throws a dart, and it hits Pettigrew right in the hands at the first down sticks.

8:26 - GAHHHHHHHHH. Classic play as the defense jumps offside, so Stafford just throws it up to Calvin. Megatron breaks the first tackle, but is brought down on the one-foot-line. At this point, I want Megatron to score a touchdown more to shut people up than for the seven points.

7:58 - WEEKLY FOX RANT SECTION: The Lions have now scored two rushing touchdowns, and we have been treated to exactly zero replays of those plays (outside of the zoomed-in celebration replay they show as we head to a commercial). I know most people don't get all excited for blocking breakdowns, but some of us watch football for more than PASS PORN FANTASY FOOTBALL. Unacceptable.

...but since I have NFL Game Rewind and I get access to the coaches tape, let me tell you what you missed. On Leshoure's second TD of the game, Riley Reiff lays a dude OUT with a wham, cut block. Pretty much every other linemen goes for the cut block as well. Just look at the carnage after the play.

Five defenders on the ground as Leshoure dances in the endzone.

5:15 - Another great open-field tackle forcing another punt. This time, it's Jonte Green, who continues to not be the worst thing ever.

3:43 - Rick James' ghost lives on.




0:20 - Good to see the secondary play well after being tested downfield for the first time this game.

Third Quarter:

13:35 - Avril: don't celebrate a tackle on a third down run that gained a first down. 

11:50 - Terrible throw by Gabbert, but a great athletic play from Coleman. He went up and got a 50/50 ball. 

10:40 - Perfect throw to Bell on the swing pass, even better hurdle by Joique.

7:24 - Lions already appear to be in prevent mode. Consistently only sending four rushers with the linebackers dropping fairly deep into coverage. 

4:20 - Jags moving down the field with mostly the running game. A little concerning, but, again, I think the Lions are expecting pass most of the time here, and are probably okay with giving up 3-5 yards per play as long as the clock is moving.

2:00 - On the INT: pretty much a case of being at the right place at the right time for Jonte Green. That ball had no business not being caught by Jennings, but that's exactly why the Lions were content with allowing the Jags to methodically move down the field. The drive burned six minutes off the clock and the Jags eventually imploded to the tune of zero points. It sounds weird, but the defense really just helped burn clock. 

0:26 - Great cutback by Green, BUT PICK UP 20 YARDS. He slips and the Lions continue to be the only team without a rush of 20+ yards. I miss Jahvid.

Fourth Quarter:

14:54 - After about the 20th promo for "Animation Domination" my urge to kill Seth MacFaralane is unsustainable. As someone who owns seasons 1-3 of Family Guy, I never thought I would grow to hate the man I once idolized, but, man, that's some terrible television. Every promo I see is another dagger in my 18-year old heart.

14:00 - Oh, Titus. *sigh*


The rest of the game is not that interesting. The Jags score on a couple of long drives, as the Lions are willingly ceding 4-5 yards a play. In fact, the Jags only had two plays of 15+ yards the rest of the way, so the Lions were just letting the Jaguars bleed the clock out. It was good to see the Lions immediately respond after the Jaguars' first touchdown. But, at this point, I was bored and paying more attention to other, more interesting games. And as I said on Monday, I have no problem with that. In fact, it was refreshing to be bored by a Lions win...especially considering this will likely be the last "easy" win of the season.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Rote Winning

It was about 3:00 PM EST, and I no longer wanted to watch the Lions play. It wasn't because I was disgusted or because they were making the same continual mistakes that I couldn't bear to watch anymore. It was because I was bored. The game had basically come to an end by halftime. When the Lions extended their lead to 24-0 early in the fourth quarter, I laid back on my sofa, able to literally take myself from the edge of my seat for the first time all season. I didn't want to watch the game anymore. And I have never been more happy to be bored out of my mind as the clock winded down, and the Lions lifted themselves to .500.

After the first quarter, fears arose that the Lions were falling back into their same habits: strong defense, mediocre offense and terrible special teams. After dominating in yardage, the Lions had, once again, failed to score in the first quarter. They were tied, despite outplaying the Jaguars at nearly every level. What has followed in the past is one awful play by the defense or special teams, an offense stalling on third down and a Lions team playing from behind despite outgaining their opponent. But that play never came. The special teams blunder failed to emerge. The offense clicked, converting both on third down and in the red zone.

The defense forced three, three-and-outs to start the game, and didn't allow a drive of more than five plays in the first half. The offense steadied themselves to the tune of three second quarter touchdowns. Special teams wasn't too terrible. Game over.

It wasn't the Lions' best, most dominant performance in recent years. But it was exactly the kind of boring, decisive win that both the Lions and Lions fans desperately needed in such terrifyingly unpredictable times. Knowing that the Lions can still go on the road, face a team they should dominate, and take care of business in a boringly rote fashion was infinitely refreshing.

Other stuff:

  • I'm not convinced by the Lions running game yet. Obviously, it would be huge if the Lions can continue to use their backs in the red zone with efficiency like they did against the Jaguars. For a team that has struggled to find Calvin Johnson, or really any other receiver in the red zone, rushing TDs would be the perfect cure. But be realistic. The Jags have allowed the second most rushing touchdowns in the NFL and the Lions running backs only had three rushing touchdowns before this game.
  • While Stafford overall had another solid game, some of the mistakes he continues to make baffles me. His overthrow on third and one that led to a missed field goal is the perfect example. Throws don't get much easier than that and Stafford just missed it. 
  • Speaking of Stafford, what has happened to his ability to ad-lib on plays? Granted he was never amazing at this, but it seems like every time his first and second read break down he goes into happy-feet mode, takes his eyes away from his receivers, and runs himself into a sack. What happened to his check downs? What happened to throwing the ball away? When did he lose his trust in the offensive line?
  • While Leshoure had an effective game, and his cut on his third touchdown of the game gave me a #Leshouregasm, he, and Bell, left a lot of yards on the field. As a ton of people on twitter noted, they are hesitating in the backfield and missing their opportunity to hit the hole.
  • Calvin Johnson at 70% is better than 90% of receivers. Talk of his "regression" are embarrassingly misinformed. Through eight games, he has only 37 yards less than he did in 2011. He's on pace for just 1534 yards this year. Terrible. Madden Curse.
  • Screw you, NHL
  • Next week in Minnesota is probably the biggest game left on the Lions' schedule. The Vikings are the only team ahead of Detroit right now for the second wild card spot, and a loss to the Vikings would put them 2.5 games behind them (including the tiebreaker). A win puts them a half a game ahead with a the tiebreaker likely favoring the Lions.