Sunday, September 25, 2016

Game 3 2016 - Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers

A tale of two halves.

The 1-2 Detroit Lions lost this game to the 2-1 Green Bay Packers with a score of 27-34, well actually they lost the game during the first half when the score at the end of the half was 10-31. In my opinion there is exactly two reasons why the Lions lost this particular game, with a couple of extra sides that didn't help matters along any. But more on this tale of two halves in a moment.

Matthew Stafford was 28 of 41 (68.29%) for 385 yards 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. Sounds great, except in the first half his completion percentage was no where near that. However, once he started stepping into his throws, started using proper mechanics, in the second half, he was once again his accurate self. So Stafford was one of the two reasons the Lions lost this game right? Wrong, that's one of the sides, and while some fans call it an excuse, I call it a reason, for if you can identify the reason you can fix it, an excuse is when you have no intention of fixing anything. So why was Stafford's mechanics so messed up in the first half? Part of it was that the offensive line isn't going to rank in the top half of the league and part of it was the Packer's defense was dictating what the plays being called on offense were. Once again why? Because the coaching staff for whatever reason decided to keep Riddick in the game on all run plays and apparently thought running him up the middle over and over was a great idea. Riddick had 10 run plays for a grand total of 9 yards in the game with a long of 8 yards (so the other 9 tries netted 1 yard). In the second half they played Washington on many running play snaps and he got 38 yards on his 10 attempts with a long of 9. Why is this one of the two reasons the Lions lost the game? Because just about every knowledgeable fan absolutely knows you can not run Riddick up the middle and expect any kind of result unless the OL is run blocking in a manner in which they are not capable of. So some are going to say it was lack of execution (and blame the players). Some are going to say it was poor obtaining of talent (and blame the GM). Others will insist the blame goes on Stafford alone. I shall look no further then the coaching. I have no idea who made the decision to not only start Riddick over the other options this game, but then to keep Riddick in despite it not working for nearly the entire first half. Whoever it was, that's one you can blame.

Rodgers was 15 of 24 (62.5%) for 205 yards with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. Except for the touchdowns it sounds like some decent defense, and it was, in the 2nd half, when the Packers could only manage 3 points on the scoreboard. Most of the yards and all the touchdowns happened in the first half. Why? No pressure on Rodgers. Just last week the Packers opponent showed the world how to win against Rodgers, and that is pressure. So obviously the blame goes to the defensive line, right? Or perhaps injury since Ansah and Levy were both out for this game. No, those are sides. The difference between the first half and the second half is that the Lions started to blitz in the second half. That led to hurried throws and other bad decisions all through the 2nd half. Why Austin will not blitz unless, in his words, he has to, is some kind of personal belief (obviously). But just last week it was proven how to win, and to me that means "you have to" blitz... not just in the second half, but from the first play from scrimmage. So some will blame injury, some will blame lack of execution by the players, others will blame Stafford (no idea how that works), and I will blame Austin, the defensive coordinator... unless I find out Caldwell told him not to blitz then I shall blame him instead.

So there you have, my tale of the two halves point to the stubborn determined insistence to play Riddick on every running play in the first half along with the stubborn determined insistence to not blitz at all during the same half. Those two factors directly caused (again, in my opinion) the Lions to go 10-31 by half time only to come back 17-3 in the second half. Same QB, same OL, same DL, heck same players period, same playbooks, same coaching staff, same field of play. In the second half the Lions played Washington at RB and blitzed on defense. That is what worked, and failing to do that in the first half is why they lost. Some would say they made half time adjustments and it almost worked, that the coaching identified the issue(s) and almost got the win because of it. I call b.s. Nearly every fan knows you don't run Riddick up the middle over and over especially if you have other options, and many a fan watched the game last week and knows there is a way to defeat the Packers... that being to rattle Rodgers and his iffy offensive line by getting pressure. So blitz, and play the rookies, stop the mandatory start of veterans only and waiting until it's too late to give the rookies some play time. It's going to cause the entire season to be a waste of everyone's time.

We can assume that Cooter made the Riddick decision, and we can assume that Austin made the non-blitz decisions, and they may have. But there is still one guy who can over rule them... the head coach. All that remains to find out is if he over rules them before the game starts or at half time. Is he the problem or the thing that gets things sorted out for the 2nd half? You could say though, since he can do either, the fault is his and his alone for not demanding things differently.

Not everyone is going to agree with me, and that's fine. I'm only pointing out how I see it. Next week the Lions play the Bears away. Perhaps that match up will work out better for the Lions and perhaps they can win the game despite the coaching... or will it be because of the coaching... we shall see next Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Game 2 2016 - Detroit Lions vs the Tennessee Titans @ Home

Flag Football

The 1-1 Detroit Lions lose to the 1-1 Tennessee Titans 15-16 after allowing 13 unanswered points in the 4th quarter. The officials called 29 (accepted) penalties for a total of 221 yards interrupting the flow of the game from the beginning to the end. The record in any given game is 37. You would've thought they wouldn't have missed anything with that many penalties but they did, and made up for it by calling things that didn't even happen. I'm wondering what the future of the NFL is, flag football perhaps? But I digress.

Matthew Stafford was 22 of 40 (55%) for 260 yards 1 touchdown and 1 interception. The interception was on the last play of the game as Stafford tried to mount a comeback down by 1 point when he threw off his back foot, an old habit that he hadn't fallen back to in a very long time. But that was far from the only mistake made during the game (and I don't mean just by Stafford).

The Lions had jumped out to a 15-3 lead by the end of the 3rd quarter but had by then suffered losses due to injury of Ameer Abdullah, Ezekiel Ansah, DeAndre Levy and for that matter all their linebackers except for Whitehead and Armbrister. CB Lawson appeared lost for most of the game again and some of the other players were constantly out of position as well. I've been saying it for awhile now but DC Austin just doesn't have the Defense ready to play. Last year it took him 8 weeks before the defense started coming together, I hope it doesn't take that long this time around. Mariota completed 25 of 33 (75.76%) for 238 yards 2 touchdowns and an interception. The Titans offense continually picked on the Lions lack of Linebackers (say that 3 times fast) and were able to move down the field (with the help of the officials) quite a bit in the 4th quarter. Despite all of that it was a pretty close game and it could have gone either way.

Once Ameer was injured and unable to come back the Lions run game all but disappeared, so too went most of their 4 minute game (the so called game plan designed to drain time off the clock) and that coupled with the lack of linebackers (needed to get stops) completely destroyed whatever game plan the Lions had developed for the Titans. The problem is, in my mind at least, the game plan didn't get changed to accommodate the situation. For example, with the injured players on defense it would've been a good idea to keep the offense on the field as much as possible. Instead, when a drive stalled at mid-field the Lions opted to punt. I would have gone for it, pass plays were what was working and the need to keep the ball was great. But no, first the punt, then their longest play of the game followed. As did their scoring, over and over again. Getting all conservative after these particular injuries was exactly the wrong thing to do, even with the small lead.

So when assigning "blame" for the loss, I start with the coaching. I would assign a percentage to the injuries as well but then no one can do anything about those. I "blame" part of the loss on the offensive line, the left side of which really fell apart when they were needed most. Decker definitely got schooled, hopefully he'll learn, and Tomlinson still struggles here and there. Even Swanson had a few issues though I will admit he's not being pushed back nearly as much as he used to. All of the pressure they allow is having a negative effect on both the run and the pass game, but they aren't the whole problem. The receivers need to work on catching the ball, there were nearly 10 drops in this game (give or take). Too many for the talent on this team. And no, Ebron was not the primary culprit, in fact, Ebron had some very nice catches. Stafford had a nice run of 24 yards to go with his other 7 but ended up stubbing his toe trying to cut instead of sliding, he also blocked some for other plays risking injury, he was doing way more then most teams ask their QB to do, but at the end, tired and rattled, he reverted back to off balance throws and threw his first interception in 212 pass attempts. Then again, trying to do too much when the rest of your team isn't quite helping out as much isn't the worst thing in the world, but it's still necessary to not revert back to old bad habits.

The other aspect of the game that was front and center though was the flag football. Not the tackling, just the sheer volume of yellow flags that were thrown. 29 penalties in all, and those just the ones that were accepted, there were many others that were not. Fans don't watch the games to see yellow flags all game long. The officials got more air time then the QBs, and nearly as many yards. I'm not sure how all the penalties affected the game, or which team benefited more, perhaps it was a wash, who knows, but it sure was unpleasant to watch! I'm hoping the Lions never have to put up with that officiating crew again, but with the way things go sometimes it wouldn't surprise me if they were in the majority of games this year instead.

In the end the reason the Lions lost was too many injuries, followed by the coaching unable to overcome, and finally by the players who didn't execute when they had chances to do so, and possibly the officiating. The only thing that went right as far as I know is the debut of the Detroit Lions Cheerleaders. So at least there is that.

Photo courtesy of

Next Sunday the Lions play the Packers in Wisconsin, then the Bears in Chicago the week after. Two very important road games. They must get healthy, and they must have a means to overcome injuries to adapt on the fly during games, they must practice (catching, footwork, blocking, tackling, etc), and they need a means to ignore the poor officiating. Can it be done? Sure. Will it happen? That also remains to be seen. One thing for sure, neither the Packers nor the Bears will be playing flag football, so it's time to get to work.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Game 1 2016 - Detroit Lions @ Indianapolis Colts

Wild Ride.

The 1-0 Detroit Lions narrowly defeated the 0-1 Indianapolis Colts 39-35. After starting out 21-3 the Lions after the 2 minute warning at the end of the first half must have felt they had the game in hand and nearly prevented themselves from getting the win with some rather poor defensive plays, both at that point in time and later in the 2nd half. The Colts managed to even tie things up only to lose the lead and then regain the lead (by one point) before the Lions final drive of the game when Prater, who had missed an extra point not that long before, hit for 3 and the lead. With only 4 seconds left on the clock the Colts tried some razzle dazzle but ended up with a forward pass in the endzone for a penalty, also known as a safety (because it happened in their endzone) giving the Lions an extra 2 points. It was a wild ride.

Matthew Stafford was 31 of 39 (79.487%) <---- and that's amazing <---- for 340 yards 3 TDs and no interceptions. Compare that to Andrew Luck's 31 of 47 (65.957%) which is good (or really bad defense by the Lions and Colts) and you can see that both teams have a potent offense... or both teams have defenses in need of some TLC.... otherwise both teams might in for a lot more wild rides.

The Lions had 116 yards on the ground via 5 different runners (Stafford had 5 yards) and the 340 through the air to 8 different players. Considering they only have 4 wide receivers on the roster, that's not too bad. New Wide Receiver Marvin Jones Jr had 4 receptions for 85 yards, Theo Riddick had 5 for 63 yards, Ameer Abdullah had 5 for 57 yards, Eric Ebron had 5 for 46 yards, Golden Tate had 7 for 41 yards, Boldin 3 for 35 yards, with Roberts and Wick a reception apiece for 8 and 5 yards respectively. Most of the missed passes were well defended plays not counting the one intentional throw away at the end of the game. Of course, there were only 7 missed passes that got defended or missed unintentionally, so there's not much to complain about. I would say the goat on offense would have to be left guard Tomlinson, who still is having issues keeping his guy in front of him.

On defense there were two touchdowns given up when Whitehead would release a tight end to continue his route behind him and no one, no one even close, came over to pick him up. I think that happened to a corner and a safety on those two plays, but I can't be sure who messed up. Regardless, the entire wild ride wouldn't have happened if those two plays didn't occur. Then again, there was a stop in the 4th quarter that got negated due to a 15 yard penalty when a Lions player was called for taunting (he was taunting the crowd, not an opponent). It was a stupid thing to do and nearly cost them the game too. Needless to say, the coaching staff has a few things to work on, but at least they are obvious things, and hopefully these things will not happen again this year.

A win on the road to start the season is great, and the ride home for the players will be a whole lot more pleasant then if they had lost, but the team has got work to do unless they want even more wild rides like this one. Tomlinson needs a lot of help with his footwork, and the LBs and DBs need to get on the same page with their coverages. Prater, Muhlbach, and Martin need to get comfortable with extra points as well (on that last field goal for the win Muhlbach sent the ball high, nearly hitting Martin in the chin, then there was the missed extra point by Prater before that). Like I said, plenty to work on, but at least the quarterback isn't one of those things. That was perhaps one of the best games by a Lions quarterback that I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot of games and Lions quarterbacks. Stafford truly put the team on his shoulders and carried them into the win column, wild ride or no.

Next week the Lions open at home against the Tennessee Titans. Since the Packers and the Vikings also won this week the Lions need to continue their success by taking this game as well. Preferably without all the highs and lows, after all, there are some Lions fans out there watching who have heart conditions, and I worry for their health, assuming that is that they survived this Colts game. As for myself, I think I'll take an aspirin before the game starts next week, just to be safe.