Sunday, October 30, 2011

Game 8: Lions at Denver Broncos

What a difference

What a difference a week makes. The Lions took Denver to task (in Denver no less) and won the game decisively 45-10 bringing their record before the bye week to 6-2. For me, I'm just glad it's over, if I had a quarter for every time I heard the words "Tim Tebow" I'd be able to make a house payment.

Matthew Stafford was 21/30 for 267 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. He's still limping (his ankle injury isn't healed up) and it appeared he hurt his hand during the latter part of the game but that didn't stop him from looking much better then the previous couple games. He was sacked twice and hit a number of times more so I'd bet he's looking forward to the time off for the bye week to heal up. Shame the bye week probably won't fix the offensive line which played a little better (or they simply faced a worse defense) then recently.

Speaking of defenses, the Lions defense played much better, sacking TT seven times (I ain't going to type his name no more). He apparently didn't get the memo, or his OC didn't, that the way to beat the lions is to get rid of the ball quick.

While I would love to attribute the win to the Lions playing better, it was more due to the inept Denver O and D. Had Denver played better, the Lions probably still would've won, for they are the more talented team, but it wouldn't have been so lopsided.

Regardless, a win is a win, they all add up the same, and having a win before the bye week makes for a better situation the losing would have.

On special teams, it should be noted that the next Jason Hanson field goal for 50 yards or more will be his 50th such field goal. His one and only field goal today for 50 yards was number 49.

Up after the bye week is the Chicago Bears and a chance for the Lions to get another win adding to their tie breaking situation (which may become very very important at the end of the season). Hopefully the Lions 6 game win streak for away games will continue on. I think the Lions will win it, I just hope the injury situation improves rather then the opposite.

There is one thing that I recalled (and was tweeted repeatedly by others)... the last time the Lions whipped the Broncos to go 6-2 it was 2007 with a score of 44-7, they then went 1-7 the rest of that year then came the 0-16 2008 season. What a difference 4 years make. No one expects anything like 2007 to happen now. Of course, the head coach and offensive coordinator in 2007 for the Lions are now the defensive coordinator and the offensive coordinator in Chicago. Yep, what a difference.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Game 7 Atlanta Falcons @ Home

No Swag

Seven weeks into the 2011 NFL season the Lions find themselves at 5-2 after losing to the Atlanta Falcons 16-23. Once again (for the second home game in a row) the Lions offense appeared lost, bewildered, lacking swag of any kind. The bad news is that it is spreading. The defense appeared to be losing it as well. Oh, and the fans... the Falcons with the exception of a couple plays had it very easy today... no help, no swag.

Stafford was a meager 15 of 32 for 183 yards, 1 TD and 0 INT. Pedestrian. CJ had 115 yards and a touchdown, but the #2 WR Burleson had 1 catch for 1 yard and nothing for Titus Young but missed opportunities. Maurice Morris was the only RB to have any completions with a mere 2 catches for 13 yards. TEs Pettigrew, Heller, and Scheffler combined for 7 completions and 54 yards to complete the anemic passing attack. The run game totaled 104 yards which is actually an improvement but it didn't help in the slightest. Stafford had no swag and I've all but lost hope that the OLine can be anything more then mediocre this season.

The defense seems to be losing ground as well. The DLine didn't pressure as often, the new found ways of allowing big plays to happen is getting old, and probably most importantly, nothing happens when the defense does get a turnover. The momentum just dies.

I could go into how disappointing the special teams play is but that was obvious. Making a joke about hearing a pin drop during at least 2 quarters of play at Ford Field also doesn't seem right.

I guess when things aren't going right everyone loses their swag.

Maybe this upcoming away game against the Denver Bronco's is just what is needed... then again, if the Lions lose to Tim Tebow the chances of finding any swag during the rest of 2011 is very much in doubt. The coaching staff and the players simply can not allow that to happen. Someone needs to figure out what is wrong and right it, and I think now would be a very good time for that to happen.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Game 6 San Francisco 49ers @ Home


The Detroit Lions lose to the San Fransisco 49ers on their home turf with the final score being 19-25. Both teams are now 5-1. Both teams played hard, very hard, and I'm sure the left coast press will state how overwhelming Gore and the 49ers were but I saw the opposite... that being how underwhelming the Lions played.

At first glance the stats show one thing but having watched the game my eyes saw another. I'd almost think the entire team had their gatorade spiked with sleeping pills during half time... or perhaps they were just dehydrated... either way, Matthew Stafford had a very underwhelming day never really finding his "groove" or even some semblance of consistent accuracy while the defense lost about as much enthusiasm to play as the fans did to make noise. Even the play calling was "sleepy" or perhaps "inadequate" would be a better word. I even wondered a couple times whether both Linehan and Stafford weren't suffering from concussions (or perhaps having sympathy symptoms for Scheffler and Durant). The longer the game wore on, the worse the players got... Backus became old and slow, Stafford looked lost or in the wrong time zone, the receivers started playing less sharp, actually, most everyone on the team played less sharp, not to be outdone the officiating got worse, heck by the end of the game Schwartz forgot he was a head coach on television and lost his cool... and I don't really know the reason for any of it. Monday Night Football hangover perhaps? Sounds too easy.

The winning teams' quarterback had a whopping 17 completions for 145 yards 1 TD and 1 INT. The losing teams' quarterback had 28 completions for 298 yards 2 TDs and 0 INTs. Yet Stafford never really strung more then a couple of passes in a row together with any kind of accuracy. Both teams converted only two 3rd downs.

The safety the 49ers defense got was simply a bad play by Stafford and bad play calling by Linehan, but the 49ers defense got the points whereas the Lions defense got none all game, although the Lions defense did create a fumble on the first 49ers offensive play of the game and an interception later on.

The winning team had 15 penalties for 120 yards, the losing team had 6 penalties for 54 yards.

Both teams had 2 TDs but the Lions went for 2 points at the beginning of the 4th quarter and failed to convert. Jason Hanson also missed a 52 yard field goal making his other two while the 49ers made all 3 of theirs.

The Lions time of possession was just over half the game at 30 minutes 21 seconds.

The officiating was questionable on and off all game long but unless the Lions tanked the game due to being upset at the officiating that isn't why they lost.

No, the reason the Lions lost was due to the next two sentences:

1. Stafford was sacked 5 times (and hurried many more) while Smith was sacked only twice.

2. Lions had 66 yards Rushing, the 49ers had 203.

The Lions defense failed to stop the run, being gored by Gore on two huge plays, and they failed to sack Alex Smith. That is what lost the game.

The Lions offense failed to compensate for the underwhelming defensive play by being, well, average. The offensive line was below average as was the quarterback while the rest of the team was at or above average for the most part.

I had expected more from the offense and a lot more from the defense.

Much was made after the game about the pushing match between the head coaches (apparently Harbaugh said something profane and shoved Schwartz) but while newsworthy to others it meant nothing to me and still doesn't.

What concerns me is the inability to stop the run game by the defense, the inability by the offensive line to protect Stafford, the inability to execute the basic plays efficiently when the officiating is suspect, and the team being out coached by the 49ers.

I blame this loss on coaching and age.

Age: I'm just now starting to wonder if Jeff Backus' age isn't catching up with him, he really didn't have the stamina to play the whole game (I think you'll see that his play in the 4th quarter was simply terrible) while at the same time the defensive tackles are relatively young and failed to play the run on the way to the quarterback a few key times.

Coaching: Reinforce the run defense when struggling during the game. Hydrate your players if they are getting sluggish. Settle down your players when the officiating is suspect. Get short yardage fast when backed up into your own endzone. Save the 2 pointers for the last half of the 4th quarter. And finally, FOCUS.

Hydrate, Communicate, and then Celebrate but never lose focus.

When the coaching is underwhelming the players play that way.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Game 5 Chicago Bears @ Home

Good days.

The Detroit Lions beat the Chicago Bears 24-13 on Monday Night Football to remain undefeated with a 5 and 0 record.

You will probably need to read the above sentence over and over again for it to really sink in. These are good days people. Sure there is room for improvement (individual play wise) but just stop and go read that sentence again. The last time the Lions started 5-0 it was 1956, as in the good OLD days. The good old days I heard about but wasn't alive for. These are the good NEW days. When the Lions can play away, home, national tv, three scores down or what-have-you, and win. Quit worrying about the game ending collapses that have so ruined our minds and enjoy this. We fans are embarking on a football thrill ride and there are no lines to wait in or a curfew. Scary isn't it.

Records were broken tonight. Some I'm sure of, some I haven't researched but believe accurate. Ford Field attendance of 67,861 has to be a record. Jahvid Best's 88 yard run for a TD was something that, believe it or not, Barry Sanders didn't do. I'm not sure when the Lions last had a WR with 9 TDs in 5 games or when they had a QB with a season rating exceeding 100 (after 5 weeks) but they too could be records. And the fans helped with a record too... the most penalties in an NFL game with 26... which included many false starts by the Bears.

All this fun (or damage if you prefer) was done in less then 21 minutes TOP (Time of Possession). That's right, the Bears had the ball nearly twice as much as the Lions in this game.

You could complain about the penalties the Lions had, or how Stafford missed a few open receivers (some he saw and threw towards, others he missed seeing completely), you could complain about all kinds of things if you wanted to... and be accurate... and be wrong, because now is not the time to complain. Now is the time to enjoy knowing the team has room to get better. They are no where near playing a perfect game and can get even better! Will that be the 49ers game? The Thanksgiving day game? When will they put in that perfect game? Time to get your mind geared that way instead of waiting, holding your breath, hoping that the Lions don't "blow it".

I know that some will not go "all in" just yet. That's okay, I'm sure not everyone was happy in the 50's either, but since most of us were raised knowing the 50's was the Lions good old days, it might be worth getting a little enjoyment out of things right now if you can. Many us enjoyed watching Barry Sanders play in the 90's even in the years the Lions had a losing record, this is more then that (sorry Barry). This is a team playing well. Coaching, players, fans all contributing, heck even Barry Sanders was on hand to flip the coin and introduce the game. A mixture of the two previous "good old days" and now the new.

The Lions went 6-0 back in 1956, their sixth victim being the 49ers, who they just happen to play next week. Yep.. Good days... the old ones AND the new ones.

Enjoy it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Game 4 Lions at Dallas Cowboys

More then one.

The Lions played two football games Sunday against Dallas. In the first half they lost 3-20 quite decisively. In the second half the Lions fought for all they were worth and won 31-10, making the final score of the game a Lions victory of 34-30.

The Lions won their second away game in a row today, and won all 3 away games so far this season. Those 3 wins along with the home win a couple of weeks ago puts the Lions tied for 1st place in the NFL at 4-0 along with the Green Bay Packers. It's not unusual to have more then one undefeated team after only 4 weeks of NFL football, but it would have to figure that the Lions best seasonal start since 1980 is a tie with a fellow NFC North team.

The Lions were really getting their butts handed to them in the first half. Stafford was trying way too hard and struggled mightily, as did the OLine, the WRs, basically everyone on the team really. Lucky for them (and us fans) there is more then one half to the game. It was the Lions defense who got the ball rolling so to speak, with two consecutive (as in back-to-back, or more then one) Pick 6s. A pick six being an interception for a touchdown. Those plays took the wind out of the crowd and brought the Lions their much needed kick in the backside. Dallas and their star TE Witten did try to bring the game momentum back to their side, but the Lions were able to crack down just enough to win the day. It is a very good thing that the Lions have more then one playmaker on their team, no one person took control of it, they worked together and got it done.

Stafford didn't crack 50% completions with a 21/43 record, 240 yards, 2 TDs and 1 Int. No one topped 50 yards rushing, no one topped 100 yards receiving. Even the time of possession was subpar at 23:21. But that's not the end of it. Calvin Johnson did get more then one TD again today, bringing his total to 8 TDs in 4 games. His 2 TDs a game means he's on pace for an amazing 32 TD season. Jason Hanson still hasn't missed a field goal or extra point. The coaching staff does not curl up and die during half time but makes functional adjustments that the players follow, the players definitely are imitating the coaching in not giving up.

The Lions are 4-0, I'm 3-1 in my prediction of the Lions season so far, and both records are better then any of my fantasy football teams. I still have time to turn my FFL teams around, after all, if the Lions can come from behind more then once down 3 scores, so can I.

The next game for the Lions is a Monday night game. It's a home game. It's against last year's NFCN division winners. A team that won their first game last year as they defined the Calvin Johnson rule. It's the Bears... coached by a couple of recent former Lions coaches, including the former 0-16 Lions head coach. Does anyone think the Lions won't be playing this one to win?

Hopefully, the Lions won't be trying "too hard" and blow it. Then again, if they do start that way, no matter how far behind they get in the first half, there is more then one half and the Bears won't be safe until the final second expires.

There is even a chance Nick Fairley will get his first plays in the NFL this game. More then one first round defensive tackle on the field for the same team the same night... if this game is as good as I think it will be, perhaps the Lions will get more then one Monday Night game next year.