Sunday, October 30, 2016

Game 8 2016 - Detroit Lions @ Houston Texans


The 4-4 Detroit Lions lost to the 5-3 Houston Texans 13 to 20. The Lions have won all 4 and lost all 4 so far this year by one score. If their goal is to just keep the game close and then try to win it at the end they are going to continue to struggle to win around half their games. Teams are just too good, too close to parity, to count on getting that one extra try you need every single game. Half the time it won't work, and that kind of explains the 4-4 start to this season.

Matthew Stafford was 27 of 41 (65.854%) for 240 yards a touchdown and no interceptions. A nice clean basic standard game (stat-wise). There were only 58 yards rushing, but then their best running back (pure runner, and also in my opinion) was not active (talking about Washington). Riddick did have 77 yards receiving, (2nd on the team), and a touchdown, to go with his 56 yards rushing, a great fantasy league situation, but the best receiver on the team today was Eric Ebron (7 catches for 79 yards). Drops continue to be an issue, Lions are the worst in the league for that, and 8 penalties for 75 yards wasn't efficient either. The defense allowed Osweiler to go 20 of 29 (68.966%) for 186 yards, which isn't horrible stat-wise, but there was rarely any pressure to keep him from accumulating what he did. It was stated during the broadcast that the DC Austin doesn't prefer to blitz to create pressure, which is obvious, but I dare say that is a recipe for disaster (actually, I've said that pretty much forever so yeah). So what (else) went wrong?

I would say that most fans, and probably many others as well, would say the failure to challenge what appeared to be a fumble that was recovered by the Lions would be the number one issue with the game. That falls squarely on the shoulders of head coach Caldwell. I too believe he should have challenged it, and have no idea why he did not.

Some fans would say the officials were purposely flagging the Lions, and they were calling a tight game, but then this group of officials are known for doing that, they do the 2nd most flags in the NFL. This should have been known prior to the game and stressed before the game even started. I didn't get the sense that the players were prepared for a tight called game. Instead of throwing this on the officials I might throw at least some of it on Caldwell.

With time left on the clock to perhaps get a stop and get the ball back the Lions elected to try an on-sides kick. Martin (the Lions Punter who does the kick offs now) is no Hanson, he is not good at it, and most everyone would say 'kick it deep' was the right move. So look at splitting the blame up between the special teams coach and the head coach on this one too.

Did I mention the lack of pressure by the defense? The Lions may have the wrong defensive coordinator, but then I've harped on Austin before and it gets me no where, so I'll save it for when it's more obvious, as I'm sure at some near future game it will be.

Lack of execution could be talent, or depth (due to injury), and some may point at Quin... while others do but give him a pass as he's only had one year to work on the roster. My hope, other then that he's learned a few things about talent acquisition, is that he's learning what I (or should I say, we) have learned about our coaches. The only truly decent top coach on the team is Cooter. But at 4-4 you don't make changes yet, though you could perhaps discuss some of the issues with the staff and see if perhaps they can't do better. Maybe he has, maybe this is the result and it would have been worse had he not, we (I) just don't know.

So the Lions head towards the Vikings next week before their bye week. While the Vikings have this week's Monday Night game. Despite their short week, I don't see anything good coming our way for this upcoming game, but I've been wrong before. I'm sure the team would like a win before they get the bye week, and I know as a fan and owner of a forum I would definitely want one, but getting this next one is going to be hard work. By all involved. Instead I just have this feeling the Lions goal will be to make it to the bye week without getting any more players injured.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Game 7 2016 - Detroit Lions vs the Washington Redskins @ Home

For the Record.

The 4-3 Detroit Lions defeat the 4-3 Washington Redskins 20-17 in yet another come from behind victory. Of course, had the defense held off the scoring of the skins late in the 4th quarter the Lions wouldn't have fell behind and needed a touchdown to win. But they did and they did (did fall behind, did score the td to win). The Redskins were trying for their 5th win in a row after winning their previous 4 but failed to do so allowing the Lions their 3rd win in a row instead. Meanwhile, the Vikings lost their first game of the year putting the Lions one game behind in the divisional standings. It's early yet, I'm not advocating anything, just stating it for the record.

Matthew Stafford was 18 of 29 (62.07%) for 266 yards and a TD with no interceptions in a game that saw more drops (Lions rank 2nd in the league in drops) and some very inaccurate throws. However, there were some amazingly great plays mixed in as well, including yet another game winning series with under 2 minutes to go. Despite missing many of the quality players that would otherwise make up the Lions roster, Stafford was able to produce when it was needed the most. Not only that, but apparently he has set a new record, for most yards in his first 100 games.

Despite some issues with some throws, and injuries, and even the replacement of left guard Laken Tomlinson with this year's 3rd round pick Glasgow (a rookie center playing left guard) the offense is not really the problem with the team overall. The problem, and injuries are a part of it, is the defense. They allowed Cousins to go 30 of 39 (76.92%) for 301 yards and a TD with no INTs. In fact, the Redskins won every statistical category (or tied) except for punting average, including time of possession and penalty yards, yet due to the timely difference in when various aspects of the game happened, the Lions managed to end up victorious. I did note a number of effective blitzes (or the appearance/faking of the same) that in past games didn't happen, and i remain hopeful that more of that will be forthcoming.

The Lions remain 3rd in the division and yet are only 1 win behind the Vikings for a tie for the division lead. Next week, the Lions head to Texas to play Houston. I don't know if the defense has it in them to set the stage for the Lions to win this game, but I do believe the offense will make a game of it one way or another. I only hope it'll be enough to keep the pressure on the rest of the division, for as I've been preaching from my rather unattended stage, pressure is what wins (or loses) games. Just for the record.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Game 6 2016 - Detroit Lions vs the LA Rams @ Home


The 3-3 Detroit Lion narrowly defeat the 3-3 LA Rams 31-28 in a somewhat evenly matched game. I can promise you that just about every Lion's fan gave up on this game at one point or another, and yet despite allowing the Rams to score a TD once in each quarter the Lions somehow managed to do the same plus add an extra field goal to it in the 4th quarter to snag the win. Zach Zenner matched up with Gurley (stat wise) and Golden Tate slightly exceeded the doings of Kenny Britt, while Keenum may have actually did better then Matthew Stafford again stat-wise, or so the Lions defense allowed him to... yet in the end the Lions defense out performed the Rams (despite a certain DT named Donald on the team).

Matthew Stafford was 23 of 31 (74.19%) for 270 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions while Keenum managed 27 of 32 (84.375%) for 321 yards, 3 touchdowns and the one interception. Gurley managed 58 yards on 14 attempts, compared to Zenner with 58 yards on 14 attempts (so yeah, a tie). Britt at 7 receptions for 136 yards and 2 TDs compared to Tate's 8 receptions for 165 yards and a single TD. Quick and Boldin were one yard apart. Like I said, "evenly matched". You'd be hard pressed to just look at the stats and figure out how it is the Lions won the game... unless you stared singularly at the score, 31-28. Eventually you'd have to look at turnovers and then the stats give up the story.

Now I'm not proclaiming the Lions defense to be all that, but in this game they finally did just enough to help their team win. I've no idea if they can do it again or not, or how they managed on this day, but they did. That despite the obvious lack of pressure on the opposing QB and the total lack of any kind of aggressiveness such as blitzing. It's hard for me to argue with a victory though, so I shall refrain from further harping on the conservative play calling. Though I do suspect this kind of play will be hard to win with in future games.

Next Sunday the Washington Redskins come to town for the Lions 3rd home game in a row. I truly believe they will need to do more if they wish to win this next game. But I also truly believe the play calling needed to win won't be there. I'm really having issues with Austin as DC and yet I've just attributed the win in this Ram's game to the defense. Not sure how to reconcile that, but there it is. We shall see if the Lions defense continues to play conservative ball and if that will be enough to win next week. Both the upcoming QBs are slowly getting known for their completion percentages and ball security. If it truly does come down to the defenses on both sides, I fear for the Lions fans in this one.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Game 5 2016 - Detroit Lions vs the Philadelphia Eagles @ Home

It's a start.

The 2-3 Detroit Lions narrowly defeated the 3-1 (and previously undefeated) Philadelphia Eagles 24-23. The Lions were up 21-7 in the 2nd quarter before slowly allowing the Eagles back into the game and eventually giving up the lead. The Lions managed a couple of really nice plays at the end to retake the lead and then Slay sealed the deal with an interception to allow the offense to show off their victory formation (kneeling it). It doesn't mean that all the Lions ills are overcome, but it's a start.

Matthew Stafford was 19 of 25 (76%) for 180 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions (though he did have a fumble). There was another drop or two in the game and prior to this weekend the Lions lead the league in drops, but there were also some quality catches. There was some erratic QB mechanics especially when the OL struggled or appeared they might struggle but Stafford was able to recover and make many a decent throw. The OL is still the weak link in the offense. It appeared that Tomlinson was benched for a part of the game, plus there were a number of plays that included 6 instead of 5 linemen, but there were times when the OL held up and played well. The problem with the occasional lapse is it makes a quarterback (any quarterback) a bit jumpy. Feeling relatively safe in the pocket and trusting the OL is definitely not happening at this point in time. It does appear though that at least some progress is being made there (finally).

The much beleaguered Lions defense was able to occasionally generate some pressure, and they did create some turnovers this game, all of which were needed. Wentz was 25 of 33 (75.8%) for 238 yards 2 TDs and an INT. The problem on defense still seems to be the times when there is no pressure at all, of which happens way to often. That and the failure to tackle properly is making these games much more difficult to win. Defeating an undefeated team may just instill some confidence in the team and perhaps will create some much needed synergy for the next game.

The Eagles have a very high ranked defense, so it was nice to see the early lead. At times the Lions made it look easy even. But eventually things tightened up and the game was starting to go the way most expected the entire game to go. The Lions were resilient enough to retake the lead and then hold it in the final minutes. So while it was a struggle, it was a win against a very good team. There are still a lot of things to work on, but it's a start.

The Lions have the Rams coming to town next Sunday. They too have a decent defense so I expect it to be another hard fought game. Hopefully the Lions can feed off of the Eagles win and keep the energy going into the Rams game.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Game 4 2016 - Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears


The 1-3 Detroit Lions lose to the 1-3 Chicago Bears in a 14-17 mediocre game (you Mad Maxx fans will note the reference) that was today's contest. In a game in which no one stood out except in various forms of inadequacy, there can be no winners. In fact, the 2016 season is slowly becoming yet another train wreck playing out in slow motion. It's no longer required to point out the blame, since you can pretty much spin a bottle and find something to blame regardless of direction. Yet and still, I shall attempt to describe the term "Medicocre" as it applies to the 2016 Lions.

Matthew Stafford was 23 of 36 (63.899%) for 213 yards 0 Touchdowns and 2 Interceptions (one of which wasn't his fault in the least, and it's debatable on the other). While at the same time Hoyer, the backup QB for the bears, was 28 of 36 (77.778%) for 302 yards 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Some of that was to be expected, the Lions were playing without DE Ansah and MLB Levy, to name but two. Still, remaining in the spin the bottle mode, let's see if there can be blame other then injury to this debacle.

Matthew Stafford was not terribly accurate. His mechanics including footwork left much to be desired. He was blitzed, sacked, hurried, and generally uncomfortable for much of the game. He refuses to trust his offensive line and rushes play after play. Of course, he has reason to not trust them, after all the worst player on the offense in my opinion in this game was Swanson, but that does not mean you can play "scared"... or perhaps a better word for it would be "nervous". Still, that is not an excuse for forgetting to step into your throws, to throw out an accurate pass, to give your receivers at least a chance to not only complete the catch but to attempt some yards after. Nah, I'd have to give Stafford a C (as in, mediocre).

The officiating was once again suspect. The Lions having 10 flags (accepted ) for 76 yards in penalties versus 8 for 55 yards by the Bears. In the early part of the game the officiating appeared to be fairly one sided, and it appeared to upset a number of Lions players, before things started to even out at least somewhat. The problem is the coaches seem to have a problem getting the players to actually settle in and play in a controlled manner.

I suppose this is a perfect opportunity to now list the coaching as mediocre as well. The Lions were 1st and goal at one point when the score was close but were being man-handled most of the game as far as the center of the offensive line goes when someone apparently decided that running little ole Riddick up the center of the line 3 times in a row was the best chance to score instead of a roll out, or a pass play, or a QB option, or pretty much anything other then rushing an undersized RB next to or slightly behind an undersized center with obvious issues in this game. In addition to that, someone on defense decided early in the game that undersized corner Lawson should handle the defending of none other then Alshon Jeffrey man on man for nearly the entire first quarter. These are but two examples of the mediocre coaching that was being exhibited this game.

Golden Tate had but one catch for one yard (a 2 point conversion), the only touchdown in the game was by none other then Roberts on a punt return, and there were once again way too many drops. On top of that, Stafford was inaccurate at times, receivers were running incorrect routes, the OL blocking was terrible in both pass and run, and tackling was mostly a figment of someones imagination. We won't even discuss the half time adjustments (or lack thereof) and other aspects of the game not already mentioned, because for the most part, there was nothing particularly good or particularly bad to say.

The NFL is a game of inches, of the team with the fewer mistakes often winning, of the better coached team having an advantage, and of talent proving they will succeed despite other factors. Injuries and officiating not withstanding, most of the rest of the team play is directly related to coaching in one form or another, and in today's game that, along with every other aspect of the game, was at best, mediocre.

Next week the Lions play the Eagles at home, and unless something changes, I can not possibly foresee any chance of a win. That's not to say that a win isn't possible, it's just not nearly as likely as it was a few weeks back. Back before it started to become painfully obvious that the team can not overcome a couple of injuries, that the coaching was going to continually challenge no none, and that once things started to go bad that almost everyone on the team would fold instead of standing tall. I'm not seeing the leadership needed to turn this season around at this point in time, and I'm not always talking about the players alone when I'm stating this.

It's not too late to turn things around, but it is too late to assume that doing the same thing will produce different results. Time to shake things up, in my opinion, though I know that doesn't usually happen until mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Who in the Lions organization will recognize what is needed remains to be seen. I can only hope I am wrong in the direction my compass is pointing, it's hard to win when everything points to mediocre.