Thursday, November 26, 2015

2015 - Week #12 Detroit Lions vs Philadelphia Eagles @ Home on Thanksgiving Day

Thank you.

The 4-7 Detroit Lions whooped on the 4-7 Philadelphia Eagles 45-14 in an impressive victory on Thanksgiving Day. Considering it was the 2nd game the Lions played (and won) in a 4 day span the fact the Lions came out and played hard, under control, and with proper execution is almost beyond imagining, especially after the way the season started. As a big time Lions fan all I can say is thank you. In the only game being played and nationally televised it's great to not have to hide my Lions apparel for the upcoming weekend. Jim Bob Cooter had the offense making play after play and the Lions defense took the excitement they generated and turned it up another notch.

Matthew Stafford was 27 of 38 (71.05%) for 337 yards and 5 touchdowns with no interceptions and he two runs for another 13 yards on top of that. I understand his passer rating was 137.8 but more importantly, he looked like the QB we have all been expecting for, well, ever. Cooter has the OL blocking better, the offense is once again productive, and the play calling is not predictable nor appearing lost. I still lament the switch from Lombardi to Cooter didn't happen 4 weeks sooner, but thank you for finally making the switch.

Calvin Johnson had 3 touchdowns to go with the one from Theo Riddick and Golden Tate not to mention the one rushing TD from Joique Bell. In total the Lions exceeded 100 yards once again in the run game and spread the catches around to 8 different players. I have no complaints about the play calling, the officiating, the defense, the offense, the QB, any of the coaching, nothing. I feel I should be complaining about something, but in all honesty, I just don't want to. The game was a thing of beauty. I'd rather just lavish in the wonderful feeling it produced.

Next up is another Thursday night game, at home (for the 3rd time in a row), against the Green Bay Packers. Lions fans are going to be hoping for a sweep after the Lions already beat the Packers in Green Bay just 3 weeks ago. After that game the Lions travel to St Louis and then New Orleans, some more tests for the newly revived team (and updated coaching staff). I'm actually looking forward to it. Go Lions, and thank you.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

2015 - Week #11 Detroit Lions vs Oakland Raiders @ Home


The 3-7 Detroit Lions beat the 4-6 Oakland Raiders at home 18-13 despite losing the lead in the 3rd quarter with too many conservative play calls. Once the Lions turned back up the heat they retook the lead and kept it for the win. They now have only 4 days to prepare the entire team for the Thanksgiving day game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Matthew Stafford was 22 of 35 (62.857%) for 282 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. The Lions even managed to rush for 109 yards if you include Stafford as one of the 5 rushers. More importantly, the defense held Carr to 13 of 25 (52%) for only 169 yards also with no touchdowns or interceptions. There actually was an interception by Diggs but the officials called holding on Lawson (when there was none) and the play was voided. The Lions defense did get a safety in a game that saw no official turnovers lost by either team.

The Raiders gave up one sack while the Lions offensive line gave up 4. Had the Lions drafted better offensive line players and then developed them correctly it's entirely possible the team would've had a winning record this year, well that and had they fired Lombardi and the offensive line coaches much sooner then they did. Still, it's great to see the team winning games once again even though there is basically no chance of them making the playoffs. It means the people who were fired were in fact the correct ones that needed to go. Now it's a matter of getting a GM who can actually improve the team through the draft rather then making the roster worse. Whether that person is already an employee of the Lions or if they go outside the organization remains to be seen, I know where my money is even if it's not what I would want them to do. But if it's not Xanders or White or someone else already working there then perhaps it'll be an experienced qualified individual who can build and sustain a winning team. This year has proven it's more then just the players that are needed to make a team win.

Another aspect of the team that appears to have helped them win games is the benching or replacing of various players that were not producing as expected. At right tackle Michael Ola took over for LeAdrian Waddle in the middle of the first quarter last week and kept the job this week which has helped the OL somewhat. Ola was picked up by the Lions on 10-21 most likely under the recommendation of the current interim GM White (who was in charge of pro-personnel then). Safety Isa Abdul-Quddus has seen the majority of snaps at starting safety over James Ihedigbo which also began last week. Finally, I've been seeing linebacker Tahir Whitehead instead of Travis Lewis though that may be due to injury rather then production. Identifying which players deserve snaps took way too long but it finally happened and it's likely the recent team shakeup (White?) is responsible for this as well.

The more this team wins the more they prove that a complete sweep and rebuild may not be necessary. A new GM is going to want his own coaches and they as a group their own starting QB and so forth. The wins and these other facts make me believe that Mrs Ford and her daughter might keep White in as the GM to see if he can improve the drafting and thus the team without the need of replacing the entire coaching staff and the roster turnover that always follows that type of move. Many fans won't want to hear me say this, but a handful of moves appears to have made this team competitive, it's quite possible the owners will not further upset the apple cart unless things turn back down again. Especially when a simple "salary cap advisor" position (newly created) might solve the remainder of the problems this team has endured lately.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

2015 - Week #10 Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers (Week 9 was the Bye Week)

Not a misprint.

The 2-7 Detroit Lions narrowing beat the 6-3 Green Bay Packers (no, that is not a misprint) in Green Bay for the first time since the year 1991 (no, that is not a misprint either). Matthew Stafford was 24 of 38 (63.157%) for 242 yards 2 TDs and 1 INT. Aaron Rodgers was 35 of 61 (57.377%) for 333 yards 2 TDs and 0 INTs (you guessed it, not a misprint). Nevin Lawson, who was targeted at least 7 times during the game, had got the start for Rashean Mathis who the Lions placed on injured reserve the other day to join teammate Deandre Levy. Appears the Packers game plan consisted of targeting the corner during his first start, and it nearly worked, until he too went out with an injury and the recently signed (as in yesterday) Crezdon Butler took over to prevent the game tying 2 point conversion.

There was plenty of bad during this game, but there was also some good, and I must say the coaching from before the bye to this week did seem to improve at least a little, perhaps the self reflection that likely occurred during the bye week had just enough of an affect to show the problems with the Lions is not 100% on the players but was and is in effect partially and correctly placed also on the coaching staff. A few players received snaps due to injury and during the game RT Waddle was benched in favor of Michael Ola (signed on October 21st) who made some errors but not nearly as many as Waddle had in his limited play. I expect the Lions will be trying out a number of different players along the offensive line as they work towards trying to find out what they have before this upcoming off season.

The moves and try outs on the OL won't be the only changes though, out of necessity the defense will be getting new looks as well, primarily due to more injuries, but also due to some players not producing as they should. I would have loved to have heard all the discussions that happened during the bye week that got the entire team to turn things around (at least for one game) and to get the win at Lambeau Field (I swear, no, that is not a misprint).

Next Sunday the Lions host the Oakland Raiders then 4 days later they host the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving day. I'm not predicting wins for the Lions at either game but I will take more all out play by whoever is healthy enough to take the field. I also rather enjoyed the slightly improved coaching, may it too continue. While some fans feel the Lions should lose all their games just to make sure the front office is cleaned out and they get the 1st overall pick in the draft, I am not of that camp. Never settle, never quit, never stop trying to win. It's a culture the Lions need to instill in their team regardless of who is in charge.

At present the Minnesota Vikings are leading the division (no, that is not a misprint) and I'm pleased the Lions were able to prevent the Packers from sharing that spot with them. May they continue to play the spoiler this year as much as possible.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

2015 - Week #8 Detroit Lions vs Kansas City Chiefs in England


The 1-7 Detroit Lions lose this one to the 3-5 Kansas City Chiefs 10-45 while playing in England proving the roster built by Martin Mayhew is the underlying problem with the 2015 Lions just as much as the coaching, if not more so.

After the Lions loss last week the Lions fired their OC Joe Lombardi and two OL coaches. Despite having their coaches fired the offensive line still did not improve their quality of play allowing sacks and pressure throughout the game. That's not to say there wasn't issues with the coaching as there was, but it most certainly wasn't the ONLY problem with the team. Just like Matthew Stafford's inability to recognize blitzes isn't the only problem at QB, or Ebron and Calvin Johnson's drops aren't their only problems at WR. Now the new OC has had almost no time to affect any major changes to the offense since he's only been on the job 6 days and much of that was taken up traveling to England and preparing for the Chiefs game in a foreign country... but the coaching changes most assuredly did not light a fire under the under-performing roster, it merely removed the problems that those coaches were adding to the mix.

Matthew Stafford was 22 of 36 (61.11%) for 217 yards a touchdown and two interceptions (though one was delivered and almost caught before deflecting the pass into the waiting defenders hands, a stat that shouldn't fall on the QB but does for all QBs in the league). Stafford was also seeing ghosts, that is, feeling pressure that was not there because of all the times there was actually pressure. In addition to this, the Lions wanted to run the ball at least 25 times this game, but managed only 14 (one by Stafford himself) for 81 yards total. Much of the above issues, in fact much of the problems on offense period, is the offensive line. It's just not the only problem.

On defense the Lions allowed 20 completions (out of 28 attempts) for only 149 yards but two touchdowns and got no interceptions. In fact, the defense got no turnovers of any kind. They also allowed 4 rushing touchdowns by four different players along with 206 yards. This is the same DC who's run defense was one of the best in the league just last year. One major problem of course is that WLB Levy is and has been injured for most of the season... plus the DL isn't causing as much pressure as they did when Suh and company were on the team, but that doesn't mean you can just give up. I'm not saying the players are giving up, but they sure are giving up points, yards, and helping opposing teams with untimely penalties. No one on the team seems to have any answers for any of these problems either.

I do not see how Martin Mayhew can possibly salvage his GM job with the Lions after this 1-7 start, nor do I see much that he (or anyone else for that matter) could do to correct things as they currently stand. When a GM is fired the new guy typically wants his own coaching staff, and I think the Lions coaching staff can see the writing on the wall. The players who have 8 more games of pain to play through having basically no chance of making the playoffs need to dig deep to find some pride to play for (as well as their own jobs). When a team has this many problems spread throughout the entire organization there is little hope of a bright future, but as they say on broadway, the show must go on. Perhaps during this upcoming bye week the Lions players, coaches and front office can make a few corrections that help things, perhaps these will help other things instead of having an opposite negative domino affect, but personally I am not holding my breath. The time to build a solid team was prior to August, not November. This is the hand that has been dealt, and no amount of bluffing is going to fix the problems... it just would be nice if they could fix A problem here and A problem there, like they did last week by replacing several on the coaching staff. What these new moves might be, or what problems they may still be able to correct, is hard to say. No one has exactly shown they can identify or correct much of anything so far this year. Myself, I would start by actually coaching the players on the roster even though it'll probably benefit the next coaching staff and not the current, just so they can have it on their resume.