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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Game 11 @ home against the Houston Texans


Too much.

The now 4-7 Detroit Lions lost to the Houston Texans 31-34 Thanksgiving afternoon in overtime. Too much happened in this game to blog it all in one sitting... so I'll post a link to an NFL article on some of it and go after a few key points.

http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2012112200/2012/REG12/texans@lions#tab=recap&menu=highlights&recap=fullstory

Matthew Stafford was 31 of 61 for 441 yards and 2 TDs with no INTs. Great fantasy numbers, not as great winning numbers. Oh he played well at times and spread the ball around pretty good. He made some smart decisions to avoid sacks. I probably wouldn't even mention his game at all except I know he could do better, especially at the end to put the game away.

Titus Young may have watched his teammates play from his home as he wasn't allowed to practice this week nor play in the game. If he did he got to see Broyles get 6 catches for 126 yards and generally play very well. If this punishment doesn't fix his issues then I got to believe we won't be seeing too much of him in a Lions jersey any more.

Joique Bell ran for 47 yards on 5 plays, got a TD, and outplayed Mikel Leshoure (who had 32 yards on 12 plays and 1 TD). Mikel's numbers are more in line with what I expected from him every game, so perhaps Bell will now be moved up the depth chart to starter. Kevin Smith failed to make the best of his opportunities today and that makes Bell the best RB on the team (in my opinion).

When all's said and done, there were just too many mistakes, too much gone wrong, for the Lions to pull off a win. There were a number of plays that single handedly could've won the game for the Lions, such as the Flag on the Lions challenge flag, the strip of the ball from Pettigrew, the failed Pick 6 by KVB, and the missed field goal by Jason Hanson... but there were multiple other less noticeable plays that affected the final outcome as well. More wrong routes, more bad run fits, various untimely penalties, and on the list goes. Don't get me wrong, there were a ton of good and even great plays throughout the game, it's just that there was too much that went wrong to make them matter.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Game 10 @ Home against the Green Bay Packers


Crash and Burn

My original blog entry is no where to be found, apparently the reboot occurred before the report was published, so I shall start over from scratch.

The Lions don't get to start over though, they have to live with their 4-6 record after losing to the Green Bay Packers 20-24 on Sunday. The Lions led the Packers for 3 quarters before they crashed and burned.

Stafford had a whopping 17 completions on 39 attempts for 266 yards 1 TD and 2 INTs. Considering the defense they were up against these numbers are somewhere in the neighborhood of horrid. Not the interceptions so much, but the completions and TDs. Give me 3 more TDs and 1 more INT and this game is all Lions... but no, despite a few aggressive plays early (which were absolutely great to see) the conservative nature of either Linehan or Stafford (or perhaps both) eventually came through... and with Stafford simply incapable of completing even half his passes there was no room for the lack of aggressive play.

Some will point out that Rodgers only had 19 completions on 27 attempts for 236 yards and 2 TDs with 1 INT. Not superb numbers on his own behalf. However, the completion percentage was not below 50% and his TDs outnumbered his INTs. Rodgers did not crash and burn, not in this game.

I'm going to skip my complaints about various other players on the team for a week so I can look into the past and make good on a bet I made about a year ago. I was wrong, utterly wrong, about Mikel Leshoure and his playing in the NFL again (after injuring his Achilles last year). I said back then that he would never accrue 500 yards rushing as a Lion. His record now exceeds 500 yards this year with the numbers from this game, so I was wrong. I think my bet was with Ty, but after an hour of searching the archives I can't find the wording... so I'll post more on this later when someone with more time then me finds what it is I'm supposed to be saying... I still think Leshoure is slow, has poor hands, and isn't the best RB on the team, but I can't account for the stubborn coaching staff so I'm left eating crow. I must say that crow would taste much better with a 6-4 record then a 4-6 record, so I may, just may, be getting a little more critical of various parts of the 2012 Lions team from here on out. I'm not too keen on losing bets or watching my team crash and burn.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Game 9 @ Minnesota Vikings


Not that good.

The Detroit Lions went to 4-5 on the season when the now 6-4 Minnesota Vikings beat them today 34-24 in Minnesota. Now that Chicago lost tonight the Lions had a perfect chance to level the division playing field and blew it. Blew it so bad in fact that I guess I'll just have to admit that they are not that good.

Matthew "Harrington" Stafford (my new nickname for him) went for 28 on 42 for 329 yards and 3 TDs with 1 INT. Most of the positive coming in the last third of the game once again. If he is going to continue to play that conservatively for the first 40 minutes of every game the Lions will never be sniffing the playoffs again with him at quarterback. Ponder was 24 of 32 for 221 yards, 2 TDs and no INTs and he's not that good (in my opinion).

Calvin Johnson, who is that good, got 12 receptions for 207 yards and a TD despite playing in quite a bit of pain. If every Lions player gave it their all like he does they'd be near enough unbeatable.

Special Teams played much better this time around though they still have room for improvement.

Defense started out great but it wasn't long and the run fits went AWOL. Too many players trying to make splash plays instead of just playing solid and allowing the splash plays to happen when they can. Or, perhaps, they just are not that good either.

What it boils down to is simple... the easier way to the playoffs just went out the window... now it's all dog fight every week. The team needs to play much better if they want to play into January. If they do not, then they are not that good after all and we'll be talking draft by December 1st (some started tonight).

Friday, November 9, 2012

Extra! Extra! A Vikings Pre-Game Extra.


The writer for Kick Ass Blog (Vikings) and I agreed to write an article for each others site. Mine can be located at his blog http://kab-vikings.blogspot.ca/ So without further ado, here is a Vikings Pre-Game Extra Edition:

The Minnesota Vikings are going in the wrong direction. A surprisingly strong 5-2 start is a fading memory. The club has lost three of its last four games and had their asses handed to them two weeks in a row by Tampa Bay and Seattle. Confidence is at a season low. This is great news, of course, if you’re a Detroit Lions fan. What better way to keep the recent good times rolling than to play a young team that is struggling badly.

The struggles start with quarterback Christian Ponder, who didn’t do much in the road win against your Lions in late September. But that performance (16-26, 111 yards, no TDs or interceptions) was All-Pro-like compared to how he played last week in the loss to Seattle (63 passing yards! 63!). Ponder’s shown poor pocket awareness during his 19 starts in the NFL, but poor has morphed into abysmal the past three weeks. It’s affecting his decision-making, his mechanics and his throwing accuracy. He might be the worst starting QB in the NFL right now.

While Ponder has been playing unwatchable football, the Vikings ineptness in the passing game has truly been a team effort. Their wide receivers can’t beat opposing DBs one-on-one, whether they are running short or long routes. The offensive line has really struggled to pass protect the pass two weeks, particularly against blitzes. And tight end Kyle Rudolph has gone from a dangerous weapon to Mr. Blank Stat Sheet during this slump. What should really make Lions fans smile is that Percy Harvin – the NFL’s Most Dangerous Man – has a sprained left ankle and said on Monday he was a “long shot” to play Sunday. Without Harvin around, the Vikings offense become even easier to defend. Harvin's absence also means the Lions don't have to deal with him on kickoff returns.

I understand the Lions aren’t a very good blitzing team (your defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has said so). But it might be worth a try in this game because Ponder has been curling up in the fetal position at the first smell of pressure. If the Lions front seven can get any type of heat on Ponder Sunday, it should be a banner day for the Detroit defense.

Offensively for Detroit, in the first game against the Vikings, Minnesota made the Lions one-dimensional by smothering Mikel Leshoure and Company. That allowed the Vikings to play their safeties deep with an eye towards preventing the big plays to Megatron, and forcing Matt Stafford – who looked out of sorts most of the game – to beat them with short stuff. It worked. But the Lions run game seems to have improved of late and I don’t think the Vikings defense will be able to shut it down like it did at Ford Field. The Vikings last four opponents have run wild on them. Its front seven is getting pushed around and not playing its gaps very well. And the tackling – so solid in the win against Detroit – has been awful of late.

We all know Detroit is a passing team, but it should try to establish the run with Leshoure and Joique Bell running at what has been a very soft middle of the Vikings defense. Force the Vikings to respect the run, and it will allow Stafford to use play-action effectively and give him a clean pocket to pass from. The Lions offense doesn’t have to worry about turnovers, either, because the Minnesota defense doesn’t force any (just three in the last four games). The secondary is much improved over the sorry crew the Vikings ran out there in 2011, but if the Lions are able to run the ball effectively, and Stafford gets time to throw it, the Vikes Cover Two zones will only hold up for so long.

To win this game, the Lions really just need to stay out of their own way. Play a turnover-free game on offense and take advantage of the Vikings poor tackling and gap coverage to score 25-plus points. Then force Ponder and his wide receivers to beat you – it’s highly doubtful they are up to the task.

Oh, yes, one other thing – your defense must stop Adrian Peterson. Roughly 10 months removed from blowing out his left knee, Peterson is on fire right now. He’s rushed for 458 yards in his last three games on just 55 carries (8.3 yards per carry), and he’s shown the agility, burst and “make-you-miss” ability that guy’s coming off reconstructive knee surgery just aren’t supposed to possess this soon. Peterson’s generally run very well against the Lions, and if Detroit’s defense can’t stop him, that gives the Vikings a chance to win this game. Bottle him up somehow – especially if Harvin can't play – and it's hard for this Vikings fans to envision how Minnesota wins this game without the Lions totally self-destructing.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Game 8 @ Jacksonville Jaguars


Not bad.

The Detroit Lions beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 31-14 today bringing their record to 4-4 on the season. All 4 touchdowns were run plays, 3 by Leshoure and 1 by Bell. The Lions were up 21-0 at half time for a relatively stress free game. However, instead of my proclaiming the team fully cured of all woes I think I'll grade them out at "not bad".

Matthew Stafford was 22 of 33 for 285 yards, no TDs and no INTs. He started out with some throws that were much too high (accomplished by his refusal to step into his throws, or in other words, bad mechanics) but eventually settled down and began to make more throws then not. It wasn't one of his higher yardage games considering the opponent nor was there a single passing TD, still, his game wasn't bad.

Mikel Leshoure had 3 touchdowns which is great, but his total yardage was a mere 70 yards. When he did get into the open field with one guy to beat he'd usually lower his shoulder and punish the tackler... but he'd still get tackled. I'm not convinced he couldn't juke his way past the sole defender and actually put up a run bigger then 14 yards if he wouldn't lower his shoulder but apparently he'd rather seek contact. I did notice his patience has improved greatly when it comes to waiting for his blockers, in fact, I was most impressed with that in this game. So for having patience and 3 TDs despite the lack of yardage I'll give him a "not bad" as well.

I should note that the Lions rotated in Bell a lot (and even Kevin Smith a couple times) so while Leshoure had 3 TDs on 16 carries Bell had more yards (73) on only 13 carries to lead the team (and 1 TD to go with it).

The passing game was also in the "not bad" category with Calvin Johnson going for 129 yards on 7 catches and Broyles 52 yards on 6 catches. Titus Young didn't catch a sure touchdown (it was perfectly thrown too) and had some other bad attempts to net only 2 catches for 20 yards in a week he should've established himself as a big time threat. Since that didn't happen there won't be much game planning around him any time soon.

The Lions special teams did nothing great nor anything stupid for a nice solid "not bad" grade and the Lions defense held the *ahem* "mighty" Jaguars to 64 yards rushing and 215 yards receiving further cushioning their single digit rank in the NFL (the Lions went into the game with the 9th ranked D in the league). Not bad.

Overall while the game wasn't spectacular, while it wasn't a huge blowout, it was a win over a team they were supposed to beat on the road, and it was relatively stress free watching it for there was never any feeling that the Jaguars were going to force a 4th quarter come back or overtime or other odd finish.

The coaches will be happy there were only 5 penalties for 42 yards, the coaching was good, the play calling sufficiently mixed to make predicting what play was being called difficult, and I don't recall any serious injuries.

I'd love to get all confident that the next game will be equally as easy to win but I think I saw a team simply coast to a win... perhaps it was all the prevent defense that got me in that mood. (My readers know how much I love the prevent defense).

There is one more stat of interest though, Matthew Stafford is AHEAD of last year in passing yardage. That's right, through 8 games this year he is ahead of last year to this point. Not bad.