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Sunday, September 29, 2013

2013 Game 4 - Chicago Bears @ Home


In the lead.

The Detroit Lions defeat the Chicago Bears 40-32 to take sole ownership of the division (by tie-breaker rule). Now it'll be a matter if they can hold on to that lead... something they were barely able to do in this game. Leading 37-16 at the start of the 4th quarter the Lions started giving back to the Bears, who scored 16 points to the Lions 3 in the 4th quarter. Granted the Lions lost both their starting cornerbacks by then and had to rely on rookie Darius Slay along with 2nd year players Bill Bentley and Jonte Green... plus the team never really tried to go into any kind of 4 minute offense (or whatever you want to call a clock killing long drive). Still, the lead was sufficient to make it very difficult for the Bears to win and Durham managed to ruin their on-side kick idea while taking a dirty shot in the back for it (and no flag)... something we likely won't hear much about considering the focus on Suh and Fairley by the league instead of true culprits in the game... but I digress.

Matthew Stafford was 23 of 35 for 242 yards 1 touchdown and 1 interception (plus had a QB sneak into the endzone where he lost the ball, recovered it in the air, and still scored a rushing TD all while moving roughly 3 feet forward). Not bad, but not exactly hall-of-fame numbers either. The receiver with the most yards? Durham (the same Durham mentioned above) with 58 yards. The most catches? Brandon Pettigrew with 7 catches on 7 targets for 54 yards. The touchdown belonged to Calvin Johnson who had 4 catches for 44 yards. Reggie Bush had 139 yards on the ground with 18 rushes and a TD. Obviously the offense didn't win the game (not with those numbers).

This game belonged to the defense and special teams. Quin had an interception, Delmas had two. Suh caused a fumble, Fairley ran it in for a TD. Akers was 4 for 4 on field goals, and any punts or kickoffs were well played by my new favorite punter in the league, the Lions 5th round pick, Martin. Tulloch had 10 tackles to lead the defense in that category, and the whole team helped out by making fewer then the normal number of penalties and other self-inflicted mistakes. Sure there were still mistakes, and at times I questioned Linehan's play calls, but in the end the 2-1 Lions took the lead from the division leading 3-0 Bears to tie it up 3-1 and now owning a tie-breaker. Hopefully Houston and Mathis heal up to face the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau field where the Lions haven't won in pretty much forever.

Yeah, that's right, the Lions face the Packers in packerland, and they get to face them the week following their bye week. There is absolutely no way the Lions can win this one, unless, unless they play a near perfect game. Should they win this one, they will have to be taken seriously as playoff contenders. If they lose, they will continue to have to battle for wins, for the lead, and for respect. Sorry Lions fans, I would love to think the Lions can put together a perfect game but I just can not, not at this point in time, so I will have to predict a loss for next week... 28-38.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

2013 Game 3 - Detroit Lions @ Washington Redskins


Time.

The Detroit Lions win this one 27-20 in Washington, the first time winning in that city since 1939, a 21-game streak that comes to a halt as the second longest in NFL history. That is 2 years BEFORE Pearl Harbor and the start of the USA's involvement in World War II, a very long time ago.

Mathew Stafford was 25 of 42 for 385 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT. The interception came early in the game and the Redskins took it back for a touchdown after Calvin Johnson failed to see the pass coming his way in time to make any kind of play on it. After that score the Redskins only managed to make one other touchdown. There was a second TD called back as the receiver failed to complete the process of the catch (how many times have we heard that one Lion's fans?). There was also a turn-over created by the Lions when Griffen III ran for a 1st down and dove for yards only to lose the ball, however since he was never touched the ball was still live and the Lions recovered. Some call it luck, but it was the defense that caused Griffen to take off in the first place, it was the Lions who recovered it, and it was the Lions closing in that caused him to dive... so I simply say, it was about time something abnormal in a game went the Lions way (instead of the other direction).

In this game, the play calling was better, the players executed better, there were fewer mistakes, and even the officiating crew did a better job then normal. The one negative in the game was the fact that the Lions have lost DE/DT Jason Jones for the season with a knee injury when it buckled as he drove towards the QB (it was not hit in the leg by anyone). That's not to say the Lions were perfect, they still have a ton of things to work on, but overall, the team played a better game... good enough to win in a city they haven't won in in 74 year, two years before my father was born.

In a game that saw the ball going through the air to 8 different receivers, with 4 of those receivers each having a play in excess of 20 yards, things just seemed to flow better then normal. Was it all luck? I don't think so, quite simply, the Lions put enough good plays together in various series to win the game. Something they have had a hard time doing in the past.

It wasn't a blow-out, the Redskins don't have a power house defense to feel all confident over, but the Lions also didn't do enough to lose this time, and that is progress. After all, most of their losses are their own doing. Next week sees the division rival Chicago Bears coming to town in a game that will determine who is in first place in the division, if ever there was a time to get it all together this would be it.

My prediction, assuming they can rebuild the defensive line after Jones' departure, is another close game. I'll predict the Lions over the Bears 31-28. Let's all hope I'm right, this time.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

2013 Game 2 - Detroit Lions @ Arizona Cardinals


Adverse effect.

The Detroit Lions lost to the Arizona Cardinals 21-25 late Sunday afternoon. One would think that if QB Matthew Stafford was 24 for 36 with 278 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs while the Lions defense holds WR Larry Fitzgerald to 2 catches for 33 yards that the Lions dominated the game and won. What they dominated instead was the mistake column having a very adverse effect on the final score.

While the Lions made as many if not more mistakes last week and were able to overcome them, this week was a different tale. Last week RB Reggie Bush dislocates his thumb and pulls a groin muscle but still manages to get nearly 200 combined yards of offense. This week the same Reggie Bush tweaks his knee, gets a brace put on, and goes back in the game to fumble the ball away within yards of the opponents end zone (which they promptly convert into the game winning score). There were plenty of other errors in the game as well including missed field goals, bad officiating, and penalties, any of them could also be said to have been the reason the Lions lost the game. For sure they all in one way or another had an adverse effect on the game. I chose to pick the fumble as the primary culprit is all.

The only thing I'm not sure of is whether to blame the coaching staff for putting Bush back in the game or not, I mean, look at what happened to him last week and what he was able to do after the injuries. Who knew that the knee brace/injury would have such an adverse effect on him this week.

Suffice it to say, it did, the Lions lost, and the Lions themselves are pretty much to blame for it. Overcoming adversity helped them win last week, not overcoming adversity is why the lost this week. It makes one wonder what to believe the future holds in store. If I were optimistic about the team, I'd say they can beat the Redskins on the road next week with a score of (once again) 30-20. If I were pessimistic about the team, I might say something like they will lose 25-38. Since I am neither (due to polar opposite weeks of play) I am going to say the score will be 28-27, and flip a coin on who wins, as luck appears to have a lot to do with the Lions play these days.

I flipped 3 coins at once at http://www.random.org/coins/ and two came up that the Lions would win, so there you go, Lions win it 28-27 next week.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

2013 Game 1 - Minnesota Vikings @ Home


Overcoming Adversity

The Detroit Lions won their first game of the regular season at home against the Minnesota Vikings with a score of 34-24 which was slightly better then my prediction. Matthew Stafford was 28 of 43 with 2 TDs and 1 INT. Christian Ponder managed 18 of 28 for 236 yards 1 TD and 3 INTs.

I could write an entire book on all the plays that went wrong, touchdowns that were called back, plays that didn't count, and various other happenings that most teams don't have to deal with in a season, let alone one game. I could also write a pretty lengthy blog on the differences between this team this year compared to previous years. There will be much said about Adrian Peterson running for 78 yards and a touchdown the first time he touched the ball and a combined 15 yards on his next 17 carries. There will be complaints about various players (on both teams) and praise for others. Fantasy league officiandos will be scrambling to make sense of the stats... but if you didn't watch the game you can not completely appreciate just how the Lions overcame adversity.

Now it's totally true that much of what went wrong was entirely due to the Lions themselves (compared to being caused by the Vikings) but in the past any one of the potential turning points in the game would've caused the Lions to go into a tailspin and lose the game. Instead, I saw a team actually do what coaches have harped on about for years, the Lions overcame adversity! Not just once, not twice, but multiple times. And when I say "multiple" I do the word an injustice.

Yes, the improved special teams is going to help the Lions win games this year. Yes, the improved defense will too. For that matter, the improved run game will do amazing things for the offense (as long as Bush and Bell remain healthy). But what I took from the game as being the most beneficial to future success was the fact the team just kept on fighting (and scoring) no matter what went wrong.

Despite mental errors, officiating errors, individual breakdowns, scores being removed from the score board, players losing the results of the plays they just played, the team, as a whole, kept right on fighting for the win. If this becomes "normal" for the team, big things are on the horizon. Overcoming adversity is something we've all heard about for many many years, but this just might be the first time I can fully understand what is meant by it and appreciate just how important it actually is to a team. Of course, if I chose to be cynical, I could have just said the Lions got lucky and if they keep screwing up they will lose a lot this year. I don't think this was just luck. What I saw was effort.

I (we) will find out more next week, when the Lions travel to Arizona to play the Cardinals. My prediction, the Lions overcome the adversity of playing an away game in the September heat of Arizona with a score of 30-20.

A short pre-game Lions note on Game 1 of 2013


Hopefully in a few hours I will be able to write a great blog entry on the Lions-Vikings game, the first of the regular 2013 season. By great I do mean of course, a win. So while I could go into excruciating detail on why I think the defense and special teams will improve greatly from last year, I think I'll just let the game speak for its self, especially since if I'm wrong it would be a complete waste of time. Sound like a cop out? Yeah, well, many fans are holding their breath this year as well, it's not just me. There are reasons to be optimistic, and probably just as many reasons to be pessimistic, so it would seem that most fans this year are completely unwilling to sink a lot of hope into the season before it starts, myself included.

That said, here is my prediction for the game: Vikings 16 Lions 24.

And here, my prediction for the season: 9-7 taking 2nd in the division and drafting 13th. Hopefully this is pessimistic as well and they do better then this.

Friday, September 6, 2013

48 of 53, again.


The final roster included 48 of the players I had projected out of 53, that pretty much seems to be what I end up with every year. Just a quick summary on where I went wrong:

I had WR Willis; G Austin, CB Bartell, S Spievey, K Rugland... all of whom did not make the team.

Instead they kept; WR Durham, G Leroy Harris, S Carey, and then picked up S DeJon Gomes after Owens went on the short term IR. They also kept K Akers but I already realized they would do that after I locked in my depth chart when Akers finally started kicking field goals that were longer then the mid 40 yarders he had been doing all preseason.