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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Game 11 - 2009 Packers @ Home on Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Well, perhaps being happy might be too much to ask for some, especially those on the 53 man Lions roster. Still, it was a nice start to the day. Turkey's in the oven, Lions get a turnover right off the bat and take the lead, got to see my oldest for only the second time since August.

Then the day started getting a little worse. Kid got her car stuck in the rain soaked mucky yard (don't ask me why the car was in the yard instead of the driveway), Lions started giving up plays after holding their own for a little while, and the pie crust was totally stuck to the pan and would not come out.

All of these things are or will be fixed. Neighbor helped pull the car out and with a strong enough knife the pie was chiseled out (looking a little rough for wear but still very tasty). Even the Lions will be fixed, it just will take a little more time. Something that would be easier to give if it wasn't for the last 9 years of Millen-ball.

Speaking of which, let us all be thankful that Matt is no longer in charge of player acquisition for the Detroit Lions. Every time I see his mug on television I completely tune him out. But I digress...

The team roster is still in need of more talent as we all knew. Some of the new free agent acquisitions are going to help the team in the future, and some of them will not. The rookies are learning, the coaches are learning, the fans will catch on eventually, those who haven't already. This year was not and never was about winning games so much as getting everyone on the same page to see who can help now, who will help eventually, and who just aren't going to be a part of things down the road.

Yes, the Lions lost. But I got to watch most of the game with my 6 month old granddaughter and part of the game with my 3 month old grandson, so the Thanksgiving day traditions of family and Lions football continue in the NetRat household... and THAT I am thankful for.

The final evaluation of the talent on the roster can wait until the season ends.

I sincerely hope you too are having a family filled Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Game 10 - 2009 Browns @ Home

What a difference a week makes!

There were people questioning Staffords ability. There were people questioning the draft pick of the tight end Pettigrew. There were people questioning the coaching. Heck, people were questioning every aspect of the team.

Will this one game silence them? No. Well, maybe for 3 days. But to think that the questions won't start up again with the very next loss is not really reasonable. Fans are just that way, well, many are anyway.

I looked at this as a losing season from the get-go. I looked at it as a season to install the offense and defense and to weed out the players and to get game time experience for the rookies they drafted and the free agents they kept. I looked at it as a beginning. What I saw in this game was a game changing capable TE. A never say die QB. A team that didn't fold when they could've. What I saw was a LOT of potential. Actually, I've been seeing some here and there all along, but this time, most everyone could see it. That makes it easier to preach to the choir. A choir with their ears open rather then closed.

Yes, it was "just" the Browns. Yes the refs appeared to maybe help the Lions out some at the end of the game. All that can be argued to death. What can't be argued though is that the negative nancies expected the Lions to lose, right up to when there was 0 seconds left in the game, and the Lions DID NOT LOSE. Various players showed what they had, Browns as the opponent or no. And the Lions were victorious in a game they both needed to win (for mental health sake) and were expected to win. That hasn't been happening lately. So don't take away from the win just because it was the Browns they were playing. Some of the other "great" teams in the league nearly (or did) lose their games this week.

Take from this that the nucleus of the team is in fact solid, or will be as time goes by. Take from it what I've been saying over and over again, they are building a team, this is the way you do it, and there are results that can be found if you care to look.

The injuries continue to mount, the season continues to be challenging, and the next game is a mere 4 days away. But, this a team that is being rebuilt from what would've been 50th place if there would've been 50 teams in the league last year, and they have grown a lot from that team in just one year. They will continue to build, and we get to all enjoy watching that build take place.

Will they win 4 days from now? Probably not. But they might, after all, it's been a pretty good week so far. Let's not just discount this team out of hand whether they win or lose, rather, let's enjoy the team that is being built, and for those who just can't do that, well try anyway, even if it's only for one week, or rather 3 days, as the case may be.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Game 9 - 2009 @ Minnesota

It's official. The Lions are out of the playoff hunt. Yes, I'm joking. They were never in it except mathematically, but 8 losses is traditionally the point in the season where you consider your team out of the playoffs and that is where the Lions find themselves at, with 8 losses.

The Lions have never beat Brett Favre in a road game (unless Favre was a Packer in 1991, I'm too lazy to look it up) and they've lost in Minnesota for nearly that many years. So add another one to both streaks.

Meanwhile, the Lions are looking at a much easier game next week against the Browns (on paper), if there is anyone on the team left able to play. There were so many injured and out for the Lions I was expecting some WRs to have to start playing DB and some TEs to start playing on the OLine every down for the rest of the Vikings game. A lot of guys tried to leave it all on the field, and some literally did. If they can do that next week the Browns don't stand a chance. But will next week be an up game or a down game... and can they also do that and still be ready for their only nationally televised game on Thanksgiving day just 4 days later? It should be an interesting week (and a half).

I think the players are starting to get that if they mess up they won't be playing. Brown was a healthy scratch after going the wrong side on a screen play and making some other errors last week. One Cohen was replaced with another supposedly for special teams reasons. On top of that, first play of the 2nd half in this game we saw Kevin Smith lose the football a split second before hitting the ground and then didn't see him again for most of the 2nd half. The players also appear to be trying harder to get open, to make a tackle, to break a tackle, and so on. They know if they don't they won't get playing time. It's hard to believe it took this many coaches and this many years and this year that many games to get the point across. It would appear the team was a bit worse off then many thought.

Normally at this point in the season (after being out of the playoffs) the coaches might play the rookies to get ready for next year, but the Lions have been doing that since game 1. You would also evaluate your roster for the off season, but the Lions have been doing that since game 1 as well. The fans would be starting to talk draft, that started weeks ago. So what's left to look forward to? The same thing as there was in week 1. Watching the rookies who are playing try to learn and improve their game. Will they suddenly become pro-bowlers overnight? Nope. Will they suddenly play like seasoned vets? Nope. They will simply have more ups then downs, here and there, and learn the NFL level of the game so that next off season they can prepare better.

Meanwhile, the coaching staff will try everything they can think of to get a few more wins, as winning or more importantly not losing, is critical in building a team too. Just as important as evaluating the roster really. You want those who will come back next year to not be so despondent that they get into the "here we go again" rut... something that Calvin Johnson has already apparently fell into this year.

The team needs a few more wins. The coaching staff does as well. And for that matter, so do the fans. The Browns might just be willing to oblige the team in that matter next Sunday. For the sake of all involved, the Lions need to win this coming game if they can. Plus, it'll help make my preseason prediction not look so horrible.

Of course, my prediction was in jeopardy anyway now that some of the perennial basement teams are actually doing well (read as Bengals for example). Still I never predicted the playoffs for the Lions this year and I expected at least 10 losses while the rookies learn the game. I'm just glad these coaches actually play the rookies unlike previous coaching staffs. In the end, the team will be better for it.

I simply can't get all upset about the Lions for doing what I expected. That seems to be driving a few fans nuts. I can't help them. I could get upset about the 2009 draft except I think it was a great draft. I could get upset about the coaching except I think the coaching staff had an extremely difficult task and are finally starting to get through. I could get upset if the coaches weren't playing the rookies but they are doing that. All in all, things are going just about as I expected they would, not feared, expected. How can I be upset about that?

In summary. Don't get so upset about the Lions losing, almost everyone expected them to have a losing season in 2009.

Things to get upset about: officiating, dropped balls, repeating the same mistake over and over, and Favre doing well...

:-)

Things to not get upset about: being out of the playoffs and playing the rookies.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Game 8 - 2009 @ Seattle

You just got to love rookie NFL football players.

Especially when your team is playing a lot of them. In the NFL every player makes mistakes, every team makes mistakes, and the general consensus is that the Vet players have learned from most of those mistakes and therefor make fewer of them. (Same goes for the coaching staff). Many games come down to the team who's players made the fewer mistakes, or at least fewer of the mistakes that actually affect the outcome of the game. Some would say that every mistake affects the outcome of the game, but that isn't always the case.

For example. Jason Hanson misses a chip shot field goal. The very next play by Seattle turns the ball over to the Lions, and the Lions are even closer to the end zone, and the Lions then turn it into a touchdown. Would the Lions have gotten those 7 points on top of the 3 points should the field goal have gone through? No way to know (short of a visit to an alternate universe). They certainly wouldn't have another set of downs with that great field position (most likely anyway), so you have to believe that no, the field goal would've produced only 3 points and the miss allowed the team to (eventually) get 7 points instead.

What I'm getting at is in this game the rookies Delmas, Levy, Hill, Williams, Brown, and Pettigrew all managed to greatly reduce their number of mistakes and play a fairly decent game (for the parts they played in it). Stafford however, did not.

The team played well enough (and that includes the good things Stafford did) to overcome 4 interceptions, but the 5th one was one too many. Does that mean the last one was the worst one? Maybe. But any of the others may also have netted a score (eventually) and changed the outcome of the game. It's also possible in an alternate universe you would find that with zero interceptions the Lions would've still lost. Who knows (for sure).

The whole team needed to make fewer mistakes in every game they've played this year, and in this game many players did make fewer mistakes (the receivers actually caught the ball for the most part), but one key player made a bunch of rookie mistakes, and that contributed (in this universe) greatly to the loss.

This loss only matters if Stafford learns from it. If he does not, it was a gigantic waste of time (and money). But if he becomes a better QB for it, if when he is the vet player those things don't happen, then it's worth it... because the wins the Lions aren't getting this year wouldn't have taken them to the playoffs anyway. They weren't going to get enough of them. But the learning the rookies are doing is VERY important. Painful, but needed.

Despite it all, the Lions were 2 minutes and 1 TD away from winning this game against a bunch of veteran players on their home field. Our rookie QB did manage to throw the TD, just to the wrong player on the wrong team. Please let him learn from it.

That's all you can do when you play this many rookies at once, hope they learn from it. Hope that when they become Vet players, they won't make all the same mistakes all the time. Hope you will have a good group of vets so you don't have to play as many rookies. Unfortunately, we fans get to have the fun of waiting the time out in this universe to get to that future.

New coaching, new schemes, new players, new rookies starting, all on the 2008 worst team of the league. You can't really have expected instant success. It's a recipe for ups and downs. And that is why you have to love watching rookie NFL players play (and hopefully learn)... it's how you (re)build a team. it's the only way to get there from here. It sure beats not playing them at all.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Game 7 - 2009 Rams @ Home

Pay Attention!

The lions players were not paying attention. Also known (in this case) as lack of concentration or lack of focus.

Mental errors ruined the Lions chances for an easy win. The Lions blew this one big time all by themselves. False starts, holding, slapping a helmet, you name it on penalties and they happened at the worst time. But that paled compared to the drops. Over and over again the opportunity to march down the field was ruined by drop after drop. It was team wide, it was lack of focus (not lack of talent). Now, it can be said that it takes talent to pay attention, but I don't believe this is one of those cases. This was a team wide inability to concentrate.

The Rams also had no focus. They didn't even score an offensive TD until the final 2 minutes of the game. But they did use some trickery, with the fake field goal for a TD being the most obvious. The Lions who supposedly practiced against trickery during the bye week were caught with their pants down on that one.

There was some good in the game like the Lions using cut back lanes for the running backs more in this game but so much bad, like throwing the ball away on 4th down instead of doing everything humanly possible to convert the 4th down, that I don't want to even talk about the good things.

I don't want to talk about the bad things either for that matter. This was my sure thing game the Lions would win (after the Redskins game) and now I'm very concerned about my other predicted wins. The only reason I'm not completely despondent about it is I know that the coaching staff will be all over the players for the penalties, and the drops, and the bad tackling, and some of them might even respond in the next game well enough to make a difference.

So, my 6-10 season prediction is now in jeopardy, but there are some Lions players who's very careers (as in livelihood) are in more jeopardy and that makes my issues seem small in comparison. Those players who wish to continue to play (either for the Lions or at all) might just want to start paying attention. As in FOCUS!

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After I wrote this I realized something. The Lions players were not undergoing a lack of focus because of bad coaching (like some are sure to say). No, they are putting too much pressure on themselves and that obstructs the ability to focus. What they need to do, what will be nearly impossible to coach, is to have fun. Have fun playing football. That is the "it" that is missing.