Sunday, September 27, 2009

Game 3 - 2009 Redskins @ Home

The Lions WIN !!!

And I'm not just talking the coin flip either. They took the lead, kept it, and managed to hold on until time expired. Since the last win was in December of 2007, I almost forgot how to spell w-i-n.

Would this be a good time to point out that I predicted this win... in August?! Probably not, since I also predicted the next win wouldn't happen until after the bye week, against the Rams. I also don't plan on changing that prediction. 1-5 before the bye, 5-5 after. 13th pick in the 2010 draft.

Anyway, back to game #3. There was some very good things that happened in this game. Not so much in specific plays, though there were some of those, but in general, team-wise and individual-wise.

Stafford was having fun (unlike the first two games) and it showed. He also showed he is able to learn, both from past games when he intentionally threw the ball away in this game instead of forcing a ball into a bad spot, to later in the same game when he put some touch on a pass that previously he tried to rifle in without success. That doesn't mean he has permanently learned and will never repeat the mistakes again, he will, but it's the start that counts.

Kevin Smith (who I hope is okay) was doing some good things in the run game, as was the OLine. Just like rookie QBs, OLines need time together to improve, and this group is doing some of that. They will be limited to the weakest link on the line, but at least these coaches are getting the most out of them instead of making it worse. As for pass protection, at times it was okay, at others it was still bad. When the $100 million man (Haynesworth) sacked Stafford I was expecting a cart to have to come onto the field to haul our QB away... instead, somehow, our QB gets up okay and Haynesworth needs medical attention. One could say that maybe some of the bad luck has turned... happy players could make some more of their own good luck, and we're sure to see some of that yet later this year.

The wide receivers and tight ends as a group played a decent game, hopefully that's a sign they are all starting to "get it". Let the ups and downs commence... just be there more ups then downs (along with fewer and fewer downs as the year goes along).

The players on defense also showed a little talent here and there. Nothing earth shattering, nothing 100% perfect, just a hint of individual ability smattered in with team play. The accolades they are sure to get for this game won't hurt their confidence, that's for sure.

The team won this game despite individual errors, and they will win more, when the various elements align again. I suspect the team will be a little more competitive from now on, but the losses will still occur, simply due to how far behind the Lions were compared to the other teams in the league after Millen's fabulous assistance.

Oh, the Lions now have a better record then the Titans... does anyone think they miss coach Schwartz yet? I'm thinking they do. I know a lot of people were worried on those last two drives when the Lions went to prevent (I hate prevent as most of you know) but at least our new coaching staff actually knows how to run it, and when to run it. Unlike the previous coaching staff who ran it for the entire game (I'm sure those last two drives looked VERY familiar, except for the outcome .. to those who watched all the games last year).

So take it from me, this is not the last w-i-n of the season, the team will still lose more games then they win but will improve as the year progresses while being competitive in nearly all of them, and we have a really good coaching staff that knows how to bring a team up from the depths of despair. I would add that the rookie QB is progressing exactly as I suspected, as is the OLine, receivers, special teams and defense. Just do me a favor, after each of the next 3 losses, don't get all down, but rather look forward to the better games that are coming in the 2nd half of the season. Tonight feel free to bask in the glow of the word W-I-N.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Game 2 - 2009 Vikings Home Opener

Once again the Lions played just about exactly as I had expected they would, better then last week, not good enough to win.

Last week the 2008 worst defense played the 2008 best offense, and it showed. This week, it was the 2008 worst run offense against the 2008 best run defense... and the Lions actually had success running the ball.

The Lions also contained Adrian Peterson to some extent, and made Favre uncomfortable for all but the 3rd quarter (when he killed them).

I can just imagine the half time talk in the Vikings locker room... "you are losing to the 0-16 Lions, do you really want to be 'THAT TEAM'?! The one they finally get a win against?" The mistakes in the 3rd quarter by the rookie QB didn't help, in fact, between him and the offensive line penalties, you don't have to look much further to find why the team lost.

But the OLine isn't magically going to get better without a lot of time together (and some of them not even then) and the quarterback isn't going to learn from his mistakes until he makes them, so again, all as expected.

The coaches did prove they can assist at improving the team play by changing personel or by further instructing the players to play better. They did their job.

The fans shouldn't have really expected the Lions to win this game any more then the last one, too many things would've had to gone perfectly right for it to happen. But next week is different, there will be some room for error next week. And that is why I predict the Lions to win at home against the Redskins.

So keep coaching, coaches. Keep learning, Stafford. Keep practicing and playing together, trenches. And keep improving as a team... for there are many more challenges ahead.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Game 1 - 2009 @ New Orleans

To the twelve people who actually believed that the Lions had a chance to win this game before it started I just want to say "you're nuts"... certifiable... watch out for men in white coats.

As for me, things went just about as I had suggested it would (in the various forums I post in). I had expected Stafford to make mistakes (posted that here) and as all rookie QBs do, he did. I figured he was good for two interceptions and a TD. I figured a little over 200 yards (I think I posted 220 yards). I believe the completion percentage I guessed at was something like 20 of 36. All came pretty close, so I for one was not upset or surprised or really fazed any way by his play.

As for the team as a whole, well, the 2008 #32 defense (would've been #40 if there were 40 teams) against the 2008 #1 offense after just one off season... yeah... surprised? No, not me. The offense couldn't run block and the same guys did some of the dumbest penalties at the worst time... no surprise there either. Improvement is going to take time, lots of practice, good coaching, and even more time.

The whole point I'm trying to make and as I said here before, NOW the coaches know what they need to work on, as do the players. But this year, I expect that instead of tuning out the coaching staff by the entire team, that work will actually begin on fixing the problems. I expect some ups and downs, but more ups then downs. I expect these coaches to actually help the team improve. This is the starting point, not the end point. That may sound like a kool-aid drinking Lions fan, but it's truly what I expect. It's only if these coaches AREN'T able to make the team play better that I will get worried.

So, next week, another loss, but not as bad. Then in week 3, a win... ending the talk of breaking losing streak records. Then a couple more losses due to the quality of the opponent more so then any regression, though there may be some of that... then after the bye... I expect them to win 5 and lose 5 (not in that order of course) to finish the season 6-10. I believe that is a reasonable expectation and an obtainable result. Not a goal, the goal is to make the playoffs, no one should ever stop trying to do that or they shouldn't be playing... but if the end result is 6-10... then the team is on the right track.

The trick here is to learn from the mistakes... that goes for the coaching staff, the players, and the 12 fans who picked the Lions to win.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Preseason Game 2, 3 and 4 thoughts... along with final cuts.

I must apologize for the delay in updating this blog. I have all the remaining preseason games on my DVR but had no chance to record them to DVD yet. I never realized how working about 70 hours a week can remove all your free time.

Okay, so preseason game 2, the Great Lakes Classic, was horrific. A reminder of some of the 2008 games and it left everyone feeling a little flat in a big hurry. Thing was, the team didn't game plan for the 3-4 defense, and it showed. That's the thing about 3-4, it's radically different enough that you DO have make changes to your game plan or you are toast. So, the Lions proved that they can play really bad if they don't try... just like 2008. The next game against a 3-4 team won't be as bad, but it could still be interesting to say the least.

Preseason game 3. I posted on the forum that it was interesting that even though Culpepper started (usually a sign of the regular season depth chart) that Stafford actually got more playing time in, and much of that with many of the supposed starters. Turns out that was indeed a hint of things to come. In addition, if you do watch the game with an eye to seeing what the coaching staff is doing, you will note they repeatedly try things... "just to see what happens". They move DTs out to DE, and vice-versa. They move the LBs around. Same with the DBs. Same with the offensive players. They run the same plays more then once in a row. Call the same players number to get the ball ... just to what happens the next time. Game 3 was partly used as a dress rehearsal for the regular season, but was used even more for evaluation (still).

Preseason game 4. Injuries really messed up the plans here, to an extent. But I must say the street QB didn't do all that bad. I was impressed they got him up to that speed that fast. Apparently the Jets were too since they traded for him. It was during this game that I began to feel that Stafford was going to be the starting QB sooner rather then later (despite my line of thinking that the coaches like experience). I posted in the forum how the ability to take the hits and still throw the ball was a sure sign that Stafford was maturing into the role. I also stated that some of the throws were purely amazing. Some were totally wrong, wacked, or otherwise not right... but of those that connected, some of them were nothing short of awesome. He may turn out to be a nut case, or an ego-maniac, or an interception king like no other, but if he isn't one of those things, then the guy is going to be a very exciting player to watch... down the road. Hey, he's still a rookie QB. Rookie QBs make mistakes... always. Many fans (like myself) hate that learning curve they go through... but if you can (and I can) get my mind around it properly... then I can sit back and enjoy watching the progress that appears this young man is going to make... as he becomes a top QB in the NFL.

So, that is what I will do. Throw away the Joey Harrington results and once again hope that the mistakes I am going to be watching will actually make the QB better as the season progresses.

The cuts. First, they aren't done yet. The coaches are telling the front office who isn't measuring up and the front office is keeping a look out for replacements to try out. This will continue for the entire year. Although the moves may be fewer and further between after game 1 (due to salary cap issues).

I saw that they put Hill as a starter next to Jackson, rotating in Cohen in Jackson's spot. They moved Fluellen out to DE but he will still play DT, so he became the swing player. The Linebackers appear to be much better, and a warning to Ernie Sims... Dizon is closing in on your starting job. Time to make those stops and to quit overrunning the plays. The DBs may or may not be productive at first, but I think they will improve as time goes on... it just might be a little ugly (okay, a lot ugly) for a while. The offense is improving due to talent, coaching, scheme, but mostly because the offensive line is improving (and that is also due to coaching, scheme, and just a pinch more talent). 4/5ths of the OL were playing last year, yet even in base in preseason you can see an improvement... that is because of the coaches. Pure and simple.

Will the O help out the D enough to garner some wins? Hard to say at the moment. But at least the coaching staff does indeed know what it is doing, and that will help (instead of hurt) the team more then most people realize.

Too bad the first game is against Drew Brees and the New Orlean Saints. But then again, what would they learn from a cakewalk game? Might as well learn in game 1 where you need to do the most work.

And that is all I have time for right now, hopefully that (free time) improves soon as well as the Lions.