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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Game 3 @ Tennessee Titans


Blew it.

The Detroit Lions blew it, losing to the Titans 41-44 in overtime in one of the strangest games I've ever seen. The Titans scored a field goal in overtime first leaving the Lions a chance to win or tie it back up should they be able to drive down the field and score. They did drive down the field, then stalled, then while trying to draw the defense off sides on 4th down Raiola snapped the ball and a very surprised Hill (who was at Quarterback for an injured Stafford) tried a two man quarterback sneak that failed utterly for an immediate loss.

Coach Schwartz said that noise was a factor in the play. I assume that means that Raiola failed to hear that there was not supposed to be an actual snap of the ball. If so, he blew it.

I find myself unable to adequately explain all the blown plays by both teams, all the blown calls by the refs (I don't choose to use the word "replacement" since I've never been all that impressed with the full timers either), and then there's the coaches who I believe blew it as well.

My one point of criticism this week is why is this high powered offense with a quarterback who threw for over 5,000 yards last year being choked to death by called run plays which are only somewhat effective for 3 weeks straight? Who is it that is so afraid of going down the field via passing? That person may be doing what they are supposed to by the rules of their scheme, but if so, the scheme is in need of some serious adjustment as teams apparently have figured it out.

In fact, if the scheme, or play calling, or play execution, or whatever it is that is causing the Lions to blow these games instead of challenging teams (read as attacking) doesn't change immediately, then the Lions will have blew this season as well, they have roughly 12 hours from now to figure that out.

The 2012 season is in the balance... don't blow it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Game 2 @ San Francisco 49ers


Mistakes.

Mistakes by the Lions contributed to a loss against the 49ers Sunday night in San Francisco. The final score was 19-27 but it never seemed like the game was that close, even though it pretty much was all game long. This is not to say the 49ers didn't make mistakes because they did. If you actually care about the officiating battle going on and the replacement refs then you could harp about the mistakes they made too. I'm not going there, the normal refs make errors, the replacement refs make errors, and as long as they are more or less consistent in their calls so what. I will note though that the results of not calling the holding penalties negates the Lions DLine just like it did in the playoffs last year against the Saints. (see the January blog entry on the Saints game).

So assuming the refs make nearly the same number of and same kind of mistakes for both teams, and assuming the 49ers would make mistakes regardless of the Lions, what mistakes matter?

Alex Smith was 20 for 31 for 226 yards and 2 touchdowns with 0 interceptions.

Matt Stafford was 19 for 32 for 230 yards and 1 touchdown with 1 interceptions.

Gore had 17 carries for 89 yards and 1 touchdown with the long being 16 yards.

Kevin Smith had 16 carries for 53 yards and 0 touchdowns with the long being 9 yards.

The Lions recovered 1 of the 2 fumbles the 49ers had, the Lions had no fumbles.

Backup Running Backs had the same number of total carries, 49ers produced more yards. Time of possession was nearly identical.

3rd down efficiency perhaps? The Lions Third Down Efficiency was 6 of 15 for 40% and the 49ers Third Down Efficiency was 4 of 11 for 36%. Surprised? Me too.

First downs though is where the two teams diverged. The Lions had 15 First Downs to the 49ers 24 First Downs, that 60% better and obviously from the previous stat on 3rd downs these first downs came on 1st and 2nd downs. The 49ers have a better defense (duh) and the Lions needed to play a perfect game to win, they did not and they lost. It wasn't a single player, it wasn't a single thing or call or even a big mistake... it was the total accumulation of all the small mistakes.

The good news? This IS the best defense in the league and the Lions lost by 1 score... no one else they play will have as good a defense. Bodes well for the future.

Meanwhile the coaches have material to work with, things to correct, mistakes to fix, and that will make the team even better for the time they play another good defense.

The Lions are 1-1. I am batting .1000 in my pre-season prediction, and get ready for a nice roll starting next week... assuming there are no large mistakes made.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Game 1 2012 @ home against the St Louis Rams


Confidence.

In the first game of the official 2012 season the Detroit Lions managed to win the game 27-23 in a game that should've been a lot easier to win. During the game a lot of tweets suggested that the 3 turnovers were Matthew Stafford's fault. As in completely his fault. I didn't agree with them about that then and I still don't.

I blame the new coaching staff of the Rams and the Rams players for executing the defense perfectly. Jeff Fisher (previously Schwartz's boss) had a great game plan that I hope other teams aren't able to emulate. The coaches realized that if various players on the Lions offense are in single coverage that they immediately become the target. So what did they do? They pealed off guys who were defending one guy (which originally left a player such as Calvin Johnson in single coverage) and had him flow to that single covered player, allowing the defender to make a play on the target who suddenly finds himself in double coverage.

The Lions eventually figured out how to counter those moves but not until playing more then a quarter gun-shy. Now I'm not saying that Stafford couldn't make better throws or saw the coverage shifting, but the bait and switch that was the Rams' defense was pretty ingenious.

Stafford still nearly doubled Bradford's completion numbers and except for the 3 interceptions had a much better day. The Lions also doubled the Rams first down numbers. One of the most notable stats is that the Lions kept the Rams running game to a mere 78 yards rushing. They may have had only 83 yards themselves but in their offense that is pretty much normal. Those numbers won't cut it for the Rams.

The most notable item of the game though was the lack of Titus Young for the majority of the game, and once the commissioner gets done with him, he may be a whole lot broker. Apparently Titus decided to, after a play, head butt a defender.

Special teams did well, the offense started and finished great, the defense was up and down but did enough, in the end it was Stafford who drove down the field and got the winning touchdown with less then 2 minutes to go... and I'm betting many a fan didn't think that was going to happen when the drive started. Instead of confidence in our team we are still jaded from the Millen decade (heck, even the Scott Mitchell decade) and just can't quite muster up the swag needed to root for a final drive to win the game with any expectation of the Lions pulling it off.

We fans... we need as much confidence as Stafford already has.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Detroit Lions 2012 Season Prediction


The Detroit Lions are coming off of a 10-6 season making the playoffs as a wildcard and so are back to their pre-Millen form (complete with a 1 game playoff loss), so what happens in 2012?

First, if you scroll through this blog far enough you will see that I predicted a 10-6 season last year, with that in mind, let's take a peek at the crystal ball for this year...

Week 1 vs. St. Louis Rams: New coaches should help the Rams improve this year, but this is week 1 and they still have a lot of work to do, Lions win this one before half time 27-17. Record 1-0

Week 2 @ San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers pick up where they left off and it's strength vs strength in this matchup, home field advantage helps just enough and Lions lose this one 17-20. Record 1-1

Week 3 @ Tennessee Titans: Another road game and another tough opponent, this time though things turn out a little different. Lions win 13-10. Record 2-1

Week 4 vs. Minnesota Vikings: AP can give any team fits, but the Lions have more weapons and win this one at home easy enough 24-17. Record 3-1

Week 5 is the bye week, a long long week.

Week 6 @ Philadelphia Eagles: With two weeks to prepare the Lions contain Vick and surprise the pundits 28-17. Record 4-1

Week 7 @ Chicago Bears: The Lions always have trouble with the Bears when playing them on their turf... and they do put up a good fight this time too... Lions barely take this one 27-24. Record 5-1

Week 8 vs. Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks have a much better defense then some expected but they are on the Lions turf, Lions win 20-17. Record 6-1

Week 9 @ Jacksonville Jaguars: An away game in a warm climate ... doesn't matter, Lions win 24-17. Record 7-1

Week 10 @ Minnesota Vikings: Ho Hum, another road game, let them "Ponder" this game for awhile, Lions win 35-17. Record 8-1

Week 11 vs. Green Bay Packers: Packers are still good, Lions lose at home 24-27. Record 8-2

Week 12 vs. Houston Texans: 4 days later it's the national stage on Thanksgiving day, what a shoot out. Lions still lose 28-35. Record 8-3

Week 13 vs. Indianapolis Colts: At home playing last year's worst team, hmmm, they are better then they used to be, just not quite there yet, Lions take it 20-12. Record 9-3

Week 14 @ Green Bay Packers: Lambeau Field, ick, Lions lose to the cheeseheads again 27-34. Record 9-4

Week 15 @ Arizona Cardinals: an extremely important game for the Lions and the division record... so of course they lose it 17-20. Record 9-5 after being 8-1 not too long ago.

Week 16 vs. Atlanta Falcons: Falcons need it, Lions need it... home field advantage wins it (man was it loud) 20-17. Record 10-5

[Sidenote: at this point we must hope the Mayan Calendar actually does start over] Week 17 vs. Chicago Bears: Last game of the season, at home, playoffs on the line... good thing the Bears are old and injured (again). 31-17. Record 11-5

One caveat about my predictions... they assume that Stafford, CJ, Suh and Tulloch stay relatively healthy for the season. Any two of them gets hurt and misses more then 3 games and the Lions don't even get to 8-8.

One last prediction, call it my long shot, Lions vs Texans in the superbowl... a rematch of Thanksgiving Day... with a slightly different outcome.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Lions have their 53... or do they.

After months of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), working out, meetings, summer camp, 4 pre-season games and 2 cut down days the Detroit Lions finalized their selections for their 2012 team. Then promptly picked up a player (Florence) who had been cut and to make room for him, let loose Ricardo Silva. Prior to that change my estimated roster was scored... getting 49 right. My best result to date.

Two of the players the Lions kept weren't even on the team when I made up my estimated depth chart a few weeks ago (prior to week 3 of pre-season, which I do every year at about that time).

The Lions had picked up WR Kasim Osgood after the 2nd preseason game and he remains on the roster instead of Patrick Edwards (who did land on the Lions practice squad). I am, of course, going by what I predicted, I have no idea what the Lions may have done had various players stepped up their special teams play.

The Lions also traded for DB Kevin Barnes causing Alphonso Smith to lose his job.

I had the Lions keeping Sean Jones but they opted for Ricardo Silva (as I said above, he lasted for one day or so).

Last, I had the Lions keeping 2 QBs and DE Everette Brown. The Lions opted to cut Brown and keep QB Kellen Moore as a third QB.

Keeping the older veteran players and releasing the younger players has already had one repercussion though... it has been reported the Lions are now over the salary cap and have until Wednesday to get into compliance.

I don't have contract figures for any of the new players (yet) so I can not confirm this, but I have no reason to believe it is in error. That means either some contracts are about to get re-worked (making issues for next year's cap) or a vet is going to be cut and/or traded.

In other words, the final 53 going into week 1 may not be all of these 53 players.

If you go to my depth chart and actually do a count you're going to add up more then 53 players. That's because Mikel LeShoure is suspended for 2 weeks and will not count against the roster until that time is served. In addition to him, Jahvid Best and Chris Greenwood are on PUP and won't count against the roster until 6 to 8 weeks into the season.

The current practice squad consists of:
Rodney Austin (G)
Carmen Messina (LB)
Ross Weaver (CB)
Stephfon Green (RB)
Patrick Edwards (WR)
Kris Durham (WR)
Lorenzo Washington (DE)
Shaun Chapas (RB)

You will note, that at least so far, no 2012 draft pick was cut. The Lions truly are trying to build through the draft.