Sunday, December 9, 2018

Week 14 2018, Detroit Lions @ Arizona Cardinals


Record.

The 5-8 Detroit Lions win this game against the 3-10 Arizona Cardinals 17-3. There was a record set in the game, and there was nearly a 2nd one as well (more on this later).

Matthew Stafford was 15 of 23 (65.22%) for a measly 101 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. There was 142 yards rushing by 4 players after the offensive line was able to run block better then half the time (usually on the left side, not very often at all on the right side). CB Slay ran an interception back for a touchdown, and Zach Zenner ran in the other TD. There were a number of injuries as well, but somehow the Lions managed to pull off a win. The Cardinals rookie QB Josh Rosen was 26 of 41 (63.41%) for 240 yards with no touchdowns and the pick six. The Lions run defense held the Cards to 61 total rushing yards, a task they've been doing well lately since the trade for "snacks" Harrison.

NFL.com had these items on their site... "Darius Slay reached 21.29 MPH on his 67-yard INT return for TD, the 2nd-fastest speed reached by a ball carrier on an defensive return for TD this season." and "Larry Fitzgerald has passed Jerry Rice (1,281 with SF) for the most receptions with a single team in NFL history."

The Lions next play the 4-9 Buffalo Bills in New York. It won't be easy playing back to back road games, but at least they will be playing a team with a worse record, not that means anything this year really. Still, I expect the Lions to manage a win, as the Bills are in the Patriots division and thus Lions head coach Patricia should know a lot about most of their team and how to play them. The Packers also won today so the Lions remain at the bottom of the NFC North division.

It's still too early, but the Lions, despite the win, are looking at a top 10 draft pick... maybe. Depends on what happens the next 3 weeks. It also depends on the record of the other bottom teams in the league.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Week 13, 2018 - Detroit Lions versus the LA Rams @ Home


The Bright Side

The 4-8 Detroit Lions lose this one easily to the powerhouse 11-1 LA Rams at home. The entire NFC North lost their games today, in fact the Packers just fired their head coach after their loss to the Cardinals, so there is a little bit of a bright side, but not much. The Lions now have the same number of wins as the Packers, but they also have the same number of wins as the Buffalo Bills, so there is that.

Matthew Stafford was 20 of 33 (60.6%) for 245 yards with a touchdown and an interception and a fumble. Four runners rushed for a total of 102 yards (2 of them by Stafford) on 26 run plays. So the offense ran 34 pass plays (one by the WR Ellington) and 26 run plays on offense. There where a couple of failed on-side kicks and a few other trick plays, some that worked, some that didn't. But there were still a few times the offense ran their old plays and the Rams defense seemed to know exactly what was going to happen. Now the Lions defense allowed Goff to complete only 17 passes on 33 attempts (51.51%) for 207 yards a touchdown and an interception and a fumble. So Stafford did 3 more completions, had 38 more yards and everything else was basically the same. Or you could say the defenses allowed the opposing QB to do pretty much the same. But wait, the Lions defense also allowed 149 rushing yards by four different guys and 2 rushing touchdowns. This game came down to the Lions rushing defense and Todd Gurley for the Rams. Stafford and the Lions offense could not produce enough to overcome it. It could even be argued they contributed to the loss simply due to the OL not being able to keep Donald (and to a much lesser extent, Ndamakong Suh) out of the Lions backfield. It was not really a fun game to watch, unless you are a Donald/Suh fan... or a Gurley fan. According to NFL.COM "The Rams are 23-11 since 2015 when Todd Gurley scores a TD. They are 9-13 when Gurley doesn’t score. "

So far the Lions haven't fired any coaches, but they could and it wouldn't surprise me. I doubt they will though, simply because it's Patricia's first year and you don't expect the team to do great in the year of a new head coach... well, you do if it's Caldwell you hire, and he delivers, but this new head coach is thus far unable to deliver. (By deliver I mean a winning season, not necessarily a playoff win). The Lions could win all four of their remaining games and still only end up at 8 and 8, so no winning season this year (in case you are keeping track).

This blog post is called "the bright side"... so what is this bright side? Well, as of right now, if the draft were to be held based on the current record, the Lions would be drafting 7th overall. Not in every round, as there are 4 other teams with a 4 and 8 record, but we don't need to go there just yet, since there are still 4 more games left to play. Well, I went there, but 'we' don't need to. We can look at the next game instead. The Lions will be heading to the desert to play the 3-9 Arizona Cardinals (the team that just beat the Packers in Lambeau Field to get their head coach fired). We shall see if the Lions can do better then the Packers did. That's fun, right?

One more item on the bright side... the Lions only play one more game against a team with a winning record (at present)... so maybe their new coaching staff can get them all the way to 7-9 this year. Okay, maybe it's not all that bright, but I haven't much to work with here, so I do what needs must (or whatever that quote should be).

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Week 12, 2018 Detroit Lions versus the Chicago Bears @ Home on Thanksgiving Day


Turkey Day.

The 4-7 Detroit Lions lose this one against the 8-3 Chicago Bears with a score of 16-23. The Lions would have to win all their remaining games this year in order to have the same record as what Caldwell achieved for the final two years of his tenure. It's fairly safe to assume the Lions will have taken a step backwards in Patricia's first year as head coach. Even if you prefer to watch the games rather then read stats, it's quite evident the team is not playing as well as they had in the recent past. The offense is (or was) nearly the same as the 2017 offense, even including the same coordinator, yet after 12 weeks there are still guys running the wrong routes and dropping passes. Guys who left were replaced by guys of lesser quality, or at least, so far, unable to produce as well as their predecessors. For example, the TE Roberts in the final minutes of the game today, ran towards the front pylon while Stafford through to the back pylon, which produced an interception, as the Lions were about to tie the game. This was the 2nd wrong route that got intercepted on turkey day, and the third such interception in the past couple of games.

Matthew Stafford was 28 of 38 (73.68%) for 236 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Blount ran 19 times for 88 yards and two touchdowns. There were another 23 yards rushing by 3 other players on offense. Stafford threw to 10 different receivers during the course of the game. Two or three correct routes being run and the outcome of this game is much different.

Meanwhile, the Bears backup QB Chase Daniel was able to complete 27 of 37 passes (72.97) for 230 yards and two touchdowns. Four different rushers ran for a grand total of 38 yards. How does a defense allow a guy who hasn't thrown in an NFL game for 4 years to complete nearly 73% of his passes, allow two touchdowns, yet completely stop the run game? By not being good enough, that's how.

Lions defense sacked Daniel twice as much as Stafford was sacked. Lions nearly tripled the Bears total rushing yardage. The passing yardage was nearly the identical. Lions had a couple more penalties, but it could be said that there was pass interference not called on that second interception when Roberts was nearly blocked to a stop on his way to the wrong spot. Yet and still, I'm going to blame the officiating for the loss. I'm not going to even blame the Stafford or the defense for the loss. I'm going to continue to blame the coaching until such time as the team is able to execute basic plays. I'm assuming, of course, that that will actually eventually happen... even though so far I've not seen anything to actually convince me of that, other then the games the Lions won (all four of them). Those four games the team actually looked like it could execute basic plays, for most of the time at least.

I do get criticized for not blaming Stafford for his actions though, but that isn't what I mean to convey (that he is not to blame for anything). He does do things wrong, executes plays wrong, some games maybe 6 plays, some games maybe as many as 10. But guess what, most games, most QBs do that many wrong things. Some way more then that even. It's not that Stafford doesn't err, it's that he doesn't err more so then other top QBs in the league. So replacing him simply replaces one set of errors with another set of errors, and the team will still end up with similar results. Why? Because the team is not executing plays correctly, even the basic ones at times. Perhaps I shouldn't blame the coaching for not having the team ready, perhaps it's the nature of the beast that it takes more time then 11 months for a new coaching staff to get all the players on the same page (when the book is relatively new, meaning full of new pages). Perhaps I need to give them more time then to Turkey Day of their first year... but even if that is true, I'm not going to blame someone or something else instead. Not when it's apparent to me at least that the coaching and the players are not yet quite able to execute all the things they are being asked to do.

So once again we Lions fans are sitting at the bottom of the division, looking now towards a draft pick perhaps in the single digits, perhaps shortly after the 10th pick, and once again all the blame tends to end up in the wrong spot. Only thing different this year is that a first year head coach isn't usually fired, a GM who is drafting fairly well isn't usually replaced either, and Stafford's contract is such his cap hit would be too disastrous to cut or even trade in 2019, so he'll be the Lions QB next year along with the coaching staff and front office... aside from the usual exits and entrances of an individual or two or three. It's entirely possible a second year of these coaches coaching, some more influx of talent in the draft, and maybe a lucky free agent pickup or two, and the team will THEN be ready to execute the plays they need to complete. But that leads to another common Lions fan saying... "just wait until next year". And once again we get to start saying it on or in my case, just before, turkey day.

Next Sunday the Lions have off (obviously) so it's December 2nd before they play again. At home. But it's against the 9-1 LA Rams. After that, 3 of the final 4 games are away. Where the Lions will be drafting is about the only thing that isn't decided yet this year. With that, all I have left to say, hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving (or as much of a good one as you could).

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Week 11, 2018 Detroit Lions vs the Carolina Panthers @ Home


Better Prepared.

The 4-6 Detroit Lions narrowly won the game against the 6-4 Carolina Panthers at home today with a score of 20-19. One could say that Special Teams was the reason... for the Panthers kicker missed a field goal and an extra point (4 points, both off the uprights) then at the end of the game with a little over a minute to go, the Panthers go for two (and the win) instead of the extra point for a potential tie, and fail to convert it (another point). In other words, the Lions could have easily lost this game 20-24 but that's not what the record book will say, so the Lions won. Final answer.

Matthew Stafford was 23 of 37 (62.162%) for 220 yards a touchdown and no interceptions or fumbles. Kerryon Johnson was 87 yards on 15 carries before injuring his knee. In total the Lions had 94 yards rushing and the defense allowed only 56 yards. The Lions defense did allow Cam Newton to go 25 of 37 (67.568%) for 357 yards 2 touchdowns and an interception. One other note about the game, Stafford was only sacked one time. Compared to the past few weeks that is worthy of remarking on, though I'm not sure what the offensive line did differently, perhaps it was simply the opponent, but if we blame the OL for the sacks when they happen we should commend them on games when it doesn't. They did seem better prepared to pass block at least.

The Vikings and Bears play later tonight, if the Bears win they will be the top contender for winning the division with a couple game lead. But if the Vikings win, that ties things all up with the Lions only 2 games (plus the tie breaker) out. Obviously Lions fans will be rooting for the Vikings to win, but with only 6 more games in the season, the Lions are very unlikely to win 3 more games then the Bears and the Vikings both. Still, it feels good to have the Lions win their game, asterisks and all, and only be a half game behind the Packers in the standings while doing so. In fact, my new goal for the Lions this year is for them to not be the last place team in the division, that honor I'm hoping will belong to the Packers.

With today's win the Lions are no longer drafting in the top 10, well, unless they lose out and other teams with a worse record don't. Still, as it stands right now, the Lions will be drafting between the 11th and the 20th pick. The Lions next game is in only 4 days on Thanksgiving afternoon and they'll be playing the Chicago Bears once again. With the players who were injured today on the Lions team, it will be interesting to see how the Bears player's do tonight, not that I'm wishing them ill will mind you. The won't stop me from being curious though. Just like the unlikelihood of the Lions actually making the playoffs isn't stopping me from watching their games. At least today they actually looked better prepared to play an NFL game, hopefully they will while the turkey is cooking Thursday as well.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Week 10, 2018 Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears


Disappointing.

The 3-6 Detroit Lions lose this game to the 6-3 Chicago Bears 22-34 in a game that wasn't really even that close. Despite the Bear's kicker missing two extra points AND two field goals, the Lions only scored 12 points in the 4th quarter when the Bears had a nice 34 to 10 lead. In fact, as much as the Lions needed this game (almost as much as the one they lost last week) they managed to come across as disappointing and in need of a lot of work.

Many times when a new head coach comes in it takes a couple years for the players to learn the new system and to acquire the talent needed to run it... but after the Lions beat the Packers, Patriots and Dolphins it appeared as though they were ahead of the curve and that perhaps this wasn't a full blown rebuilding year after all. Appearances can be deceiving, instead it now appears that those 3 wins were themselves' the fluke and that winning more games in 2018 will be very hard to come by. For starters, the Lions now play at home against the Panthers (6-3) then at home 4 days later on Thanksgiving to these same Chicago Bears (6-3) followed by a road trip to the LA Rams for the Ndamakong Suh reunion (with a dash of Donald for flavor). There is some potential after those games for a win or two but counting unhatched chickens now comes to mind, so let's just hold off on that for now.

As for today, Matthew Stafford was 25 of 42 (59.52%) for 274 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He was sacked 6 times and pressured relentlessly. Wagner looked like a very slow old ox when having to contend with the Bears DE, and the rest of the OL was either lost, confused, outplayed, or otherwise just not very good in both the run and pass blocking areas. The defense meanwhile allowed 2nd year QB Trubisky to go 23 of 30 (76.6667%) for 355 yards 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Trubisky was sacked one time. Trubisky enjoyed his game with very little pressure for much of it. The defense did hold the Bears to 54 yards, so that was not as disappointing as all other aspects of the game, but the Lions were held to only 76 yards themselves, so it kind of equaled out. Special teams didn't do too badly considering the assistant special teams coach is now the coordinator, though I still haven't heard why the previous coordinator was fired last week. Perhaps he was showing up the other coordinators.

Anyway, the Lions are now 4 games out of winning the division with 7 games to go and the next 3 will be nearly impossible to win as things appear to be right now. It is so highly unlikely that the Lions will make the playoffs that ... well... we Lions fans are used to draft talk before Black Friday so nothing terribly new there, just another disappointing season is all. Just wait until next year.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Week 9, 2018 Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings


Uninspired.

The 3-5 Detroit Lions lost to the 5-3-1 Minnesota Vikings 9-24 putting them solidly in last place in the NFC North division. The team played uninspired football, possibly (at least partially) due to the recent trade of WR Golden Tate. His 2,736 yards AFTER the catch (not yards total) in four and a half seasons in Detroit equates to 608 yards a year that he alone created (after the catch). There are any number of players on the Lions during that same time who didn't generate 608 yards a year in total, run-pass-return-YACs-etc. Getting a 3rd rounder for a 30 year old wide receiver on his last year of his contract is sweet. Losing out on that production for the remainder of this year is perhaps the worst thing that could've been done to the team.

Matthew Stafford was 25 of 36 (69.444%) for 199 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions (and one fumble, in an ill advised shuffle pass, that gave the Vikings defense a touchdown). The Lions also had 5 players rush 22 times total for a whopping 66 yards and no touchdowns. The defense allowed 18 completions on 22 attempts for 164 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The Lions defense also allowed 128 yards rushing on 23 attempts. All the points by the Lions were on the 3 attempts by Matt Prater in the form of field goals. There was a very nice, aggressive, fake punt on 4th down that converted for a first down, but other then special teams, the rest of the team really played a very uninspired game of football.

What does the loss of Golden Tate do for the Lions? Some headlines: "Oct 3, 2018 - On his 38-yard touchdown catch in Dallas, wide receiver Golden Tate became the fastest Lion to reach 400 receptions with the team." and "Aug 14, 2018 - A revealing stat proves why Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate is likely the most under-appreciated wideout in the entire NFL." (4 seasons of over 90 catches per season, only the Steelers Antonio Brown has done the same). "Golden Tate leads the NFL in yards after catch since 2014" and finally "Golden Tate's numbers are ridiculous". Thinking that losing that won't have an effect on the team, both in production and in mental stability, is in its self insane. Doing so when waiting 8 games and allowing him to go in free agency which might net you a 4th round pick in 2020 instead of a 3rd in 2019 is also borderline crazy (to me). So for me, the move is indicative of what this year will be like... waiting for the draft.

Somehow the Lions would have to win 3 games more then the Vikings do in the next 8 weeks in order to win the division. I don't see that happening. So I guess we can start looking for a DE in the top 10 of the draft who can replace Ansah (who is not earning his million dollars per game) and also a 3rd round WR with great hands, healthy, and able to get buckoo yards after the catch. That just to stay even or be slightly better then they are now, which is not all that inspiring. In fact, at the moment anyway, I'm so uninspired by the Lions that I find myself rooting for the Rams and the Chiefs more then the Lions. If there are a lot of fans feeling that way the Lions are on a strange track indeed.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Week 6 (Bye Week), Week 7 at Miami Dolphins and Week 8, 2018 vs Seattle Seahawks @ Home


Fully Prepared.

After beating the Green Bay Packers week 5 the Detroit Lions were fully prepared for a bye week, which they were scheduled to do. Then after taking a few days off to recoop from their 2-3 start they prepared for and won against the Miami Dolphins 32-21 in Florida. Now at 3-3 they play at home against the 3-3 Seattle Seahawks only to lose 14-28. Seattle was fully prepared to play, the Lions were not. Not on offense, not on defense, not even on special teams.

The bye week of course has no stats. The Miami game which I had no time to blog about was so much better then the next week when the Lions were home against Seattle. I mean, against Seattle, Matthew Stafford was 27 of 40 (67.5%) for 310 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception, along with a fumble. Ameer Abdullah also fumbled, early in the game, immediately after the kickoff from the Seahawks first score, setting the tone for the entire game really.

The Lions had a grand total of 34 yards rushing by 4 players. Compared to a record number of yards the week before from KJ in Miami. Obviously the Lions are not dictating the offense, but are playing to the defense they are confronting. That has to change.

The Lions were not ready for a fake punt this week, preventing any miracle come back from Stafford, who prior to that sabotaged himself with a fumble and then at the goal line, an interception. Trying to do everything all by yourself usually ends up with these kinds of results. The entire team, sans Prater, needs to look in the mirror, and this includes the entire coaching staff. There is no one to blame for the Seahawks loss, nor the Dolphins win, it's all team. In Miami the team was fully prepared to win, in the Seahawks loss the Lions were not. Not even close.

The Lions play away the next two weeks. At the Vikings and then at the Bears. They are 3-4 with the Vikings now at 4-3-1 and the Bears at 4-3. If the Lions are to continue to be in the mix for the playoffs they must win both of these next two games! They have to be prepared. They can not be injured, poorly coached, or to be having an off day. This is the pivotal point in the season, so get fully prepared, and play to win. If that doesn't happen, neither will there be a post season. It's that important.