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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Game 11 - New Orleans @ Home Thanksgiving Day

I'm full.

The Lions though ran out of gas about two thirds of the way into the 3rd quarter. They fought and fought and kept the score close and in fact led for a decent amount of time. Then the Patriots who have a solidly built team decided the Lions defense wasn't as good as they appeared and starting scoring... to the tune of 4 touchdowns in a row to finish the game 24 to 45.

The complete box score / stats can be found at http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2010112500/2010/REG12/patriots@lions#tab:analyze

The patched together Lions offense did okay until the chips were down, they simply can't keep their composure and play a full 60 minutes of exerting their will on an opponent. The closer to the end of the game it gets, the more tense they play, and the more errors are made. That said, 24 points isn't bad for an offense in the NFL, if your defense can stop the opponent from scoring.

The Lions defense wore down shortly after half time and before long there was little pressure at all on Tom Brady. Tom Brady without pressure is a sure fire way to lose a football game. The Lions defense was running on empty by the end of the game.

Were they running on empty because they were down on the offense for not scoring more? For the officiating? For the mistakes each player continually made... compounding the negative? I'm not sure. Were the coaches unable to settle the players down and get them to re-focus? Or, would it not matter who the coaching staff was there would be no re-focusing them? Was it lack of depth to keep fresh minds and bodies in the game? Lack of talent? Lack of preparation? All the above? None of the above? Everyone is going to have their opinion on what it was... for myself, I think it was a tablespoon of this and a teaspoon of that. The simple recipe of a half rebuilt Lions team playing against a fully built Patriots team on a national stage when the one team hasn't learned how to handle a lead, or a win, was a recipe for disaster and almost everyone knew that in August, let alone in November.

Until the team starts having fun playing, until they quit tensing up, until their confidence is built, things are going to remain ugly. Problem is, it takes wins to do that, and it takes that to win.

The Lions have a couple extra days to heal up before they start preparing for the Bears at home... if ever there was a time to go full throttle for a full hour this next game would be it, it's not going to get any easier the rest of the year.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Game 10 - 2010 @ Dallas Cowboys

Continuing on.

The Lions continue losing by going 19 - 35 this week, giving the Dallas Cowboys their 3rd win of the season and 2nd win in 2 games to their replacement coach.

The Lions also continue their NFL record road losing streak bringing it to 26 in a row that began in 2007 when Jon Kitna was their quarterback.

At 2-8 for the season the Lions are now likely out of the playoff race... continuing that new tradition of being out before Thanksgiving Day.

Lions fans continue looking for silver linings but I may have to get back to you on that one, as I have so far failed to find even one in this game.

If you look at the stats http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2010112105/2010/REG11/lions@cowboys#tab:analyze/analyze-channels:cat-post-boxscore there is nothing that immediately stands out as bad... I mean sure the Lions continue to not stop the run while at the same time continue to not run very well... and of course the Lions continue to get double digit penalties... but all in all, nothing appears completely out of whack except for the fact the Lions didn't score a single point in the 4th quarter.

So what happened? Well, the officiating. It continues to SUCK!

There was a nice play by Burleson that was called back due to a real penalty which set a bad mood by some players, yet the team continued to play. Then a break down in a punt return play allowed a TD. The team still continued to fight. Then there was a tackle, by the hair, that was called by the officiating crew as a horse collar penalty. It was a totally legal tackle. It was also the straw that popped the balloon, letting all the air out of the team. The coach was irate... the players all got upset... and instead of playing loose and having fun, to a man the team played tight and upset. That bogus call completely changed the game from that point on. One big play might have switched the mood back, but there was none. The Lions may have lost anyway despite the call, but we will never know that either.

Many will say that until the Lions quit causing penalties they'll continue to get bad calls such as that one. I suppose that is true. I suppose the team needs to learn not only how to win, how to close out a game in the 4th quarter, but also how to get over bad officiating. I suppose I should not continue to harp on that sort of thing. Guess what... that's not going to happen. I'm afraid I'll have to continue to point out what I see as the turning point in a game... and I will continue to be upset if that turning point is not a play by either team but a call by an official.

So here we are, about to watch the Lions play a great team on Thanksgiving day, the only Nationally televised game the Lions have this year. The only thing we can be certain of is that some idiots will continue to bring up how the Lions should not be allowed to continue that tradition. They don't seem to have any problem with other new traditions continuing on, but the longest standing one should be thrown away. So before all that happens, I will say it once again, the Lions should CONTINUE playing their traditional Thanksgiving Day game and there is no valid reason to break with that tradition. If you don't want to watch it, don't. Do shut up about it though. Removing the game from Thanksgiving Day does not punish the current team, only the future teams that would otherwise play that day, probably long after you are dead and gone.

Coaches and Front Office... continue on tweaking the roster.
Players... continue on playing, you all must have some pride and drive to win, try to ignore the officiating, have some fun while you can.
Lions Fans... continue on planning your draft parties.
NFL and NFLPA... START negotiating a new CBA. Everyone wants to CONTINUE watching football, regardless of all the rest of it.

You all have your instructions... now continue on.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Game 9 - 2010 @ Buffalo Bills

Getting Colder.

Yep, it's mid-November and it's definitely getting colder outside. The Lions are also getting colder... as in far far away from where they thought they would be, where they expected to be, and from where I thought they were. Lions break their own record by losing their 25th road game in a row. They also allowed the Bills to get their first win of the year. And it was raining. All game pretty much. The team looked and played cold, slow, and not too good ball.

If one was to look at the box score one would see the Lions losing 12-14 and that the new kicker missed a field goal. The temptation might be to point and say "that was why". One would be wrong.

The Bills are one of the worst teams in the league defending the run... so far at least, that could change (they pretty much had the hardest schedule in the league). Yet the Lions managed only 2 first downs by running (and 16 passing). I think it's safe to say the Lions run game has been bad all year not just because they played tough run defenses... but because the Lions are not good at run blocking. Their fastest RB (Jahvid Best) also appears to have an aversion to grass fields. He looks horribly slow when he's on an outdoor field (at least he has been every time he's played on one so far). This might have been a good game to play Smith more, but that did not happen (6 for Smith, 17 for Best). At 76 rushing yards for the Lions and 151 rushing yards for the Bills it's readily apparent who is the better team at run blocking and run stopping... and it's not the Lions.

The Lions "one-armed" Quarterback (Shaun Hill played the game with his non-throwing arm in a light cast having broke it 4 weeks ago and with a titanium plate and 6 screws inserted) got 314 passing yards versus the Bills anemic 139. This too is a complete flip, the Lions defense is known for it's poor secondary and linebackers... why only 139 passing yards by the Bills? First, the Lions are getting a bit better at defending the pass, but the real reason in this game is that the Bills did not need to pass to win. They did just enough to get the job done and the Lions couldn't really stop them. Didn't really appear they wanted to actually. The body language for many of the players was that they were cold and miserable and they played exactly that way, cold and it was indeed miserable.

The rest of the box score (stats) can be found here if you are interested http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2010111406/2010/REG10/lions@bills/analyze/box-score

The only thing that you need to know though is that the turnovers were equal to 1 apiece but the Lions had 11 penalties to the Bills 4. The sloppier team lost.

There were few big plays to add to highlight reels but quite a number of potential winter coat endorsements could be forth coming. Then again, I think most companies want winners for their endorsements, so perhaps there won't be any offers for that either. I guess the Lions will need to figure out how to get warmer before the next 11 days are over, as they have two games to play in that time frame, one being their only nationally televised game of the year. If they do not, it'll only keep getting colder and colder, on the field, in the stands, and from the fans.

It's well past time for the Lions coaches and players to get themselves focused and to get the fans something to feel all warm and fuzzy about. I don't need or want a new winter coat to beat the cold, I just need my team to not play cold.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Game 8 - New York Jets @ Home

Blew it.

Yep, the Lions blew it. Fought for and got the lead (more then once) but let the Jets back in the game to tie it late in the forth quarter only to lose in overtime 20-23. Not only that, but they may have lost their kicker and starting Quarterback (again) as well. They sure did for the last part of this game anyway. They also lost their swagger, their momentum, their whatever-you-call-it that helps a team compete just that little bit harder then their opponent. Not that the Lions didn't compete, they did, but then they blew it.

They couldn't stop the Jets when they needed to (even after doing so for much of the game) and they couldn't drain the clock when they had the chance to seal the win.

Yes there were some bad flags along with some missed ones. But there were some legit ones that were on the players who lost their focus, flags that never should have happened but were very much deserved.

Yes there were some questionable plays called by the coaches. For example: even though Suh kicked extra points in camp he won't be winning special teams player of the week this week I'm afraid... and perhaps having your 3rd string QB throw instead of calling run plays when run plays were clearly expected by the Jets (and needed by the Lions) isn't really a strategy. But had those plays been executed correctly instead of incorrectly they would've been something to see.

Are the Lions a super deep team able to overcome all kinds of injuries? No. Are they still in building (or re-building) mode? Yes. Were they really and truly expected to win this game by those outside the team? No. Did they put up a good fight for nearly fifty some minutes? Yes. Could they have won this particular game? Yes, I think they could have. But, they blew it.

So why do I sound upset? What happened that wasn't expected? What went wrong that shouldn't have gone wrong? What difference does it make?

The Lions need to learn how to win, they already learned too well how to lose and just when victory was theirs for the taking, they blew it.

Learning to win was that next step. The step was not taken today. It's now put off until some time in the future. I was ready for the team to take a "next step". Most fans were ready for them to do just that... even the ones who didn't know that's what they wanted. Establish a home field dominance, one the fans can partake in. Be able to put a team away when you have the lead. Not just any team, a good team, in your home sold out stadium. Know what to do to win the game on every play and do exactly that. That did not happen today. I did not realize that I wanted it either today until after it was all said and done.

I as a fan wanted my team to take the next step. I thought they were ready for it. I think they thought they were ready for it. I believe that many if not most fans of the Detroit Lions were ready for it. It'll still happen... some day... just not today. No today, the Lions blew it.