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Sunday, October 27, 2013

2013 Game 8 - Dallas Cowboys @ Home


Sorry

The (now) 5-3 Detroit Lions won at home against the (now) 4-4 Dallas Cowboys by a score of 31 to 30. While that line sounds impressive, it doesn't do any justice for describing the actual game that was played. Every week members of my Lions Forum go into the chat-room during the game as we watch it from various locations throughout the world, at the end of the chat this week I pronounced today's game the "Game of the Decade". I've been watching the Lions for 2 1/2 decades and I'm sorry, but these types of games don't happen that often.

I'm also sorry I predicted the Lions would lose this game last week, but as I posted repeatedly in my forum all this last week, the Lions aren't going to win unless certain things happened. One was that Matthew Stafford needed to cut in half his miss-throws. Bad ball placement is (in my opinion) why the Lions are losing the close games (not that other aspects of the team are innocent, not by a long shot). Well, Stafford did indeed cut in half his accuracy issues in this game, and that gave him the one stat he was deficit in, a greater then 62% completion percentage. (I'm not talking the drops, in this or any other game, those happen and Stafford can not control that). Stafford was 33 of 48 for 488 yards 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions (only one of which was on him). Now THOSE are franchise QB numbers!

Calvin Johnson set an NFL regulation yardage record, boasting a total of 329 yards to go along with his TD. I'm sorry Mr. Bryant, but there is now no doubt who is the better WR in this league (as if there were any before).

Another key to the game I was harping on this last week was the lack of balance between run plays and the passing game. Linehan and the Lions did a great job at that in this game, with 143 total yards on the ground (and 3 TDs) run by 4 different players. Including a fake spike as time was ticking down when Stafford went over the top instead for his rushing TD. I'm sorry, but that was just one sweet play (and not called as far as I can tell, Stafford did that one on his own).

The last key to the game was turnovers, I stated that the Lions had to win that particular stat by 1 or more to win the game. Well, the Lions gave up 4 turnovers and got none. If I recall correctly, only 1 time in 55 games has a team in the NFL won the game after giving up 4 or more turnovers. The Lions are the 2nd team in 56 to do so. No, I didn't see that one coming.

What I did see coming was the win. No, not last week when I predicted a loss. No, not during the week leading up to the game as I reiterated my prediction of a loss. No, not even during half time when the Lions were losing 7-10. It was during the 3rd quarter after the 4th turnover when the Lions were still only down 3 and just before the score went to 7-13, I stated more then once as fellow fans were giving up on the game and the season that I first posted that I thought the Lions would win this game. Play after play I simply became more and more confident that the Lions were going to win. I almost gave up shortly after the 2 minute warning at the end of the 4th quarter until I realized that the Cowboys weren't trying super hard to get a first down and the Lions had 2 timeouts remaining. With a minute to go the Lions drove the field for the game winning TD. Why did I believe with all my heart the Lions would win the game when they were pretty much giving the game away? Because they turned over the ball 4 times but were only down 3 points and CJ was ticked off when he fumbled the ball away. I'm sorry, but you don't want to get the Hulk nor Megatron mad. The focus in his eyes and the way the rest of the team had been playing gave me the premonition, the feeling, the Lions would win the game.

I'm sorry for all those fans who left the game early, because you missed one fantastic game, one you would gladly pay to go to again at any time in your life. You'd even be willing to pay more then you did.

I'm sorry for Mr Spurlock who (it would appear) has lost permanently his return job today. I do not believe he will be on the Lions roster come Wednesday.

I'm really sorry for Mr Broyles. Today's injury probably means the end of his NFL career.

Last, I'm sorry for the other teams in the league. The Lions almost went into the bye week having lost a game they would've known they could've won, especially after giving up 4 turnovers. Their mental state after the bye week might have put the team in the basement. Instead, the team has got 2 weeks to let this confidence sink into their systems, the team is going to be very confident going forward and very difficult to stop now.

I think my future predictions will be based more on health then on history. The Lions now know what they are capable of, this is the kind of thing that propels teams into the playoffs. It really does. They are going to annihilate the Bears after the bye week. Sorry Bears fans, but the Lions will win this next game by 3 scores at a minimum.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

2013 Game 7 - Cincinnati Bengals @ Home


E.S.P.

The Detroit Lions lose this one 24-27 to the visiting Cincinnati Bengals. A week ago, if you recall, I predicted the Lions would lose the Bengals game 24-27. How's that for E.S.P.?

The division is now tied up with a 4-3 record for the Bears and Lions and a 4-2 record for the Packers putting them in first place and the Lions in 2nd due to tie breaker rules.

Matthew Stafford was 28 of 51 for 357 yards and 3 TDs with 0 INTs. Stafford failed to hit the 60% completion percentage that I always say is a requirement for a good chance to win a football game. The team also failed to create any turnovers, another factor that usually only happens to the losing team, but since both teams failed to create any, it was a wash this game (Dalton didn't fail to hit the 60% completion mark however).

With near a minute to go in the game, the Lions had the ball with the score tied 24-24 facing a very long field. I had this premonition if you will that the Lions absolutely no matter what should NOT give the ball back to the Bengals. It was paramount that the Lions drain the clock and if at the end of regulation, with less then 5 seconds left, should the Lions be in field goal range then put it through to win the game... but I felt that under no circumstances should the Bengals have the ball with any time left on the clock. As it turned out, that E.S.P. of mine was absolutely correct. Our rookie punter who was likely nervous and under pressure to belt a great punt shanked it instead, giving the Bengals great field position, 2 completions later it was the Bengals with 4 seconds on the clock who hit the game winning field goal.

Many will blame the punter for the loss, but I have a feeling that even had he hit another 60 yarder the Bengals still would have made the completions necessary to get a game winning field goal. No way to prove that obviously, but my E.S.P. was screaming at me that that would be the result. I felt the way to control the game was to have the ball for the remainder of regulation... not to kneel it, but to use run plays and high percentage passes to try to get in field goal range without getting into a 4th down situation. Worse case, they go into overtime.

If I felt it necessary to place blame for the loss, it wouldn't be the punter, but rather the quarterback and the defense. The quarterback for his lack of accuracy and the defense for it's lack of turnovers. This would be something that could be argued for eternity without ever coming to a consensus, that's the nature of football. I don;'t feel it's necessary to place blame however, I would just hope that the team works on improving accuracy and creating turnovers. All future games pretty much depend on this.

That said, my E.S.P. tells me the only way to win the upcoming Cowboys game is to outscore them (on offense). That is going to require a team effort and a whole lot of focus. It is certainly possible for the Lions to win this game, but with the continued struggles with accuracy I'm inclined to predict another Lions loss of 20-38. Please Detroit Lions, prove me wrong, destroy my E.S.P. sense once and for all. I don't want to be right.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

2013 Game 6 - Detroit Lions @ Cleveland Browns


Good Enough

The Detroit Lions beat the Cleveland Browns on the road 31-17. That brings the Lions up to 4-2, good enough to keep their 1st place division record intact.

Matthew Stafford was 25 of 43 for 248 yards 4 TDs and 1 INT. Weeden 26 of 43 for 292 yards 2 TDs and 2 INTs. Weeden is the older player by far, but with far less experience in the NFL. Many of the stats for the two teams were similar to each other, but once again the Lions won the turnover ratio and that, along with an improved run game, was good enough to win the game.

Undrafted free agent tight end Fauria had a big night. He only had 3 catches for 34 yards but that was good enough for 3 touchdowns. Reggie Bush had 135 all purpose yards with a TD, and the injured Calvin Johnson had 3 receptions for a total of 25 yards and no scores, but his just being in the game was good enough... it kept the Brown's occupied allowing other members of the team to get the job done.

Another interesting stat... Linebacker DeAndre Levy had 2 interceptions this game, 4 on the year, which is a tie for most in the league.

The Lions were the only team to score in the 1st, 3rd and 4th quarters. The Browns only scored in the 2nd quarter. Even though the Lions struggled mightily in the first half, they really turned it around in the second half, and by all accounts following a very good half time speech by MLB Tulloch.

Early on the receivers were experiencing a bad case of the drops, most of them were on said receivers. But a number were still on Stafford, as were some catches that the receivers bailed him out by making difficult catches. Other plays were so far off the mark there was no chance at all. This has been an on going problem this season and unlike last year, it's hard to point at his mechanics as the issue. If you watch the plays in super slo-mo you can see that ball placement is a real struggle much of the time... perhaps it's just getting the timing down... perhaps it's more then that, it's something that will have to be monitored as the season progresses, for now, Stafford has played good enough for a division leading 4-2 record (with a LOT of help from his teammates).

Coming up are two home games in a row against the Cincinnati Bengals and the Dallas Cowboys. The week after these two games is the Lions bye week. The Cincinnati Bengals are 4-2, 1st in the AFC Northern Division and the Dallas Cowboys are 2-3, 2nd in NFC Eastern Division, but leading the Washington Redskins by 2 scores in the Sunday night game as I type this. It'll take a team effort for the Lions to win either of these games, let's hope the Lions are good enough.

My prediction for next week is a loss to the Bengals, 27-24. At least, that is what my mind says, my heart is screaming that the Lions will win this one by the same score. Should I listen to my mind or my heart? Can the Lions win the turnover battle at home? Perhaps. Sorry Lions fans, but perhaps isn't good enough, I'm going with my brain on this one, Lions lose 27-24.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

2013 Game 5 - Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers


Inaccurate.

The Detroit Lions lose to the Green Bay Packers 9-22 making it 23 times in a row they lose to the Packers in Wisconsin. To put that in perspective, the last time the Lions won in Wisconsin Mrs. Stafford was still poddy training Mathew Stafford. Saying it's been a long time would not be the least inaccurate.

The Packers were ranked 11th in run defense and 27th in pass defense, yet the Lions made them look nearly impossible to score on. It did not help that Calvin Johnson was not active due to injury this game, Calvin Johnson makes Stafford look accurate (as he would any QB he played with). With Burleson still out due to a broken arm (caused by a wayward pizza box) that left the Lions starting their 3rd, 4th and at times 5th string WRs (the last just signed a week ago). Am I going to blame the WRs for the loss this week? Nope. They ran their routes to the best of their abilities and experience.

The backup wide receivers were not the only options to catch passes, all the tight ends and running backs were available to catch any throws that went their way, and they ARE starters in the league. Tight ends' Pettigrew and Scheffler both had 4 catches for 59 and 55 yards respectively and led the team in yards. RBs Bush and Bell had 4 catches as well for 25 and 30 yards respectively. Durham had 3 catches; Broyles, Ogletree and Edwards had 2 apiece to complete the receiving numbers. Add them all up and Stafford was 25 of 40 for 262 yards with 1 Td and 0 Int's (but with 1 fumble). Most of those numbers coming in the 4th quarter when the Packers went into a prevent defense allowing the Lions to move down the field for their only touchdown. The run game was equally anemic, Bush had 13 carries for 44 yards, Bell 5 for 21. Despite 3.5 to 4 yards per run, the Lions only tried to run on about a third of the offensive plays. It's the coaching staffs job to find matchups and plays that might work with the players they have and the players job to execute those plays. Do I blame the coaching staff for the loss this week? Nope. Oh sure, there appears they could've made other decisions that might (or might not) have worked better, but I'm not convinced in the end that the results would have been significantly different.

There were 3 fumbles all recovered by the team who fumbled, no interceptions by either side, 3rd down efficiency was nearly identical for both teams, the Packers had more penalties, Lions made their only field goal attempt, Packers made all 5 of theirs, both teams had but a single touchdown apiece. Turnovers were non-existent so both teams were pretty much even in all respects with the possible exception of allowing the long play. The longest play the Packers allowed was 25 yards, the Lions allowed an 83 yard TD. Am I going to blame the defense for the loss? Nope. They held the Packers to a single TD on their field even if they did allow 2 big plays during the game (the other being a 67 yard rush by Cobb, yes, a trick play so to speak).

Mathew Stafford was without his #1 and #2 wide receivers and never really made many good throws back to back until the game was out of reach and the Packers went into prevent late in the 4th quarter. His passes were high, low, and behind the intended targets. In a word, he was very inaccurate. More so then a starting QB in the NFL should be. Do I blame Stafford for the loss? Nope. He was still able to complete 60% of his passes despite everything else.

So who do I blame for the loss? That's easy, it was the TEAM. To win on the road in Green Bay you have to play a near perfect game. Coaching has to be near perfect. The routes have to be near perfect. Drops have to be near non-existent. Passes have to be near perfect. Blocking has to be great. Tackling has to be near perfect. Penalties have to be very limited. Pretty much NONE of that happened. It was an utter and complete team loss. To think anything else would be inaccurate.

Now, to fix this, certain players have to get healthy, certain coaches either do better or if the team continues to lose they will be replaced at the end of the season. Those with chances to catch either have to actually make the catch or end up with shorter careers then they would prefer, and the only way they can get better is experience and coaching. But the single biggest thing that would help the team win games is if Matthew Stafford would regain his accuracy and maintain it, regardless of who is playing in the game with him or who his opponent is. I do not blame Stafford for this loss, but I do expect him to play better then he is. The coaching staff NEEDS him to play better then he is or lose their jobs. The receivers need him to be more accurate or their careers are in jeopardy. The entire 2013 season is pretty much at the mercy of Stafford's accuracy now, not in the past or in the future, but right now.

Next week the Lions play in Cleveland against the Browns and the Brown's defense is doing much better then in the past. Following that game the Lions play the Bengals and the Cowboys (who are, as I type this, competing toe-to-toe with the Denver Broncos), the only hope the Lions truly have of winning any of those next 3 games is if Matthew Stafford is MUCH more accurate then he was today. I may not blame him for today, but I am now very concerned about the rest of October. Now is most definitely not the time for Stafford to remain inaccurate.

I am no longer certain what prediction to make for next week... the higher Stafford's completion percentage the higher the likelihood the Lions win. Anything below 60% and the Lions lose. If the team doesn't have a positive turnover ratio they will likely lose. I have to make my prediction on what I think the quarterback for both teams will do accuracy-wise and what the defenses will do turnover-wise. After today I am tempted to go with the Browns 16-12. I want to predict a Lions win 24-17. Splitting the difference and hoping this game left a bad taste in their mouth they want to get rid of, I'll predict the Lions barely win in Cleveland 20-14.