Thursday, November 24, 2016

Game 11 2016 - Detroit Lions vs the Minnesota Vikings @ Home

Happy Thanksgiving 2016!

The 7-4 Detroit Lions beat the 6-5 Minnesota Vikings for the 2nd time this year with a score of 16-13 at home on Thanksgiving Day. This makes it 11 games out of 11 that were either won or lost by one score and the 7th win out of 7 where the Lions were behind in the 4th quarter then came back to win. This time though, it wasn't all on Stafford, sure he got the team down the field far enough to get within field goal range for Matt Prater to tie the game, but it was the defense, more specifically it was Darius Slay, who got the interception within field goal range for Prater to hit the game winning field goal as time expired.

Matthew Stafford was 23 of 40 (57.5%) for 232 yards one touchdown and no interceptions. His percentage was the lowest in over a year but then there were a couple of drops, a few passes thrown away to avoid being sacked, and 3 spikes to stop the clock. Without all those things (6 of which were required to win the game) he would've easily exceeded 75% completion. Now even though the defense won the game at the end, they did allow Bradford to hit 83.87% of his passes... an extremely effective day, primarily due once again to the lack of any kind of pressure. If defense wins championships then the Lions may be in trouble down the road.

Why am I mentioning the possibility of the playoffs? Well the Lions are now in sole command of the division, having the tie breaker over the Vikings means they are a full 2 games ahead of both the Vikings and the Packers, three ahead of the Packers should they lose on Monday night football this week. Meanwhile the Lions have a few extra days to get healthy and prepare for the playoff push that is coming up (can you say 'important games in December' anyone?).

The Lions also tied the NFL record for the number of continuous games played with results of 7 points or less. All in all it's a great season so far, and their next game is December 4th in New Orleans. I suspect that to be a very high scoring game, and a tough one to win. But no matter what, you have to watch the game until the final seconds as you just can't count the offense out no matter the score. As unbelievable as that is.

Lions have games away at the Saints, then home against the Bears, away at the Giants and the Cowboys, then finally at home on New Years' day against the Packers. It's going to take a lot of hard work and if indeed any of this season is due to it, some good luck, to continue with the plot the Lions have been following so far this year. Just like today though, I'm looking for to what's next. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Game 10 2016 - Detroit Lions vs the Jacksonville Jaguars @ Home

Slow Start

The 6-4 Division Leading Detroit Lions beat the 2-8 Jacksonville Jaguars 26-19 with the Lions' sixth 4th quarter come-from-behind victory. The game was tied 9-9 at half time in a contest that was off to a very slow start. The Lions scored a touchdown ala a punt return and via an interception (pick 6) to go along with Eric Ebron's first run (from a hand off) for a score in the NFL and a couple of Matt Prater field goals.

Matthew Stafford was 24 of 33 (72.73%) for 278 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. The Lions netted a whopping 14 yards rushing and 7 different players had at least one reception. Bortles was never sacked but he did give away two interceptions. Fumbles were lost by both teams, one by the Jaguars and two by the Lions. It wasn't a great game, but it was a win, keeping the Lions in the lead in the NFC North.

The Lions continue to be overly cautious in their play and their play calling. Doing enough to win (well, 6 out of 10 times anyway) and all ten games so far were either won or lost by no more then one score (8 points or less). I'm uncertain if this kind of constant conservative play calling will produce a playoff team or not... but it has produced a lead... so it's hard to criticize things too much, especially when they win. You'd think they could do more then win by less then one score and you'd think they wouldn't have to come back from behind every single fourth quarter, but when you play to keep it close that's what you get, a close game.

The next game is only 4 days away, the traditional Thanksgiving Day game. This year it's against the Minnesota Vikings who also won today. In fact, the Vikings are also 6-4 but the Lions have already won their first game against the Vikings this year which breaks the tie in their favor... so the winner of this turkey day game will become the sole leader of the division and will have control over their destiny during the final 5 games of the regular season. With a Vikings win the Lions will fall one game behind and the head-to-head tie breaker will remain a tie making the divisional record the tie breaker going forward. With a Lions win the Vikings will have to win 2 games more then the Lions in the remaining 5 games of the season for the Lions will lead in any tie from then on. It's a critical game in the playoff hunt, and whether the game also has a slow start or not, the Lions need to somehow find a way to win the day. At least they are used to that sort of thing this year, even if we fans aren't used to it.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Game 9 2016 - Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings

At present.

The 5-4 Detroit Lions defeat the 5-3 Minnesota Vikings 22-16 in overtime. Since the Lions win the tie breaker (at present) they lead the division, right? Well no, the Vikings have already had their bye week so they have a half game lead, but next week, when the Lions are on their bye week, should the Vikings lose at the Washington Redskins, the Lions then would have a half game lead over the Vikings, and depending on how the Packers do, either a one game or two game lead over them, making the Lions the division leaders.

Matthew Stafford was 23 of 36 (63.889) for 219 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception, in one of his worst games of the year so far. Yet, he was the guy, he lead the team to field goal range in the final seconds of the game to give Prater a chance to tie things up, and he led the first (and final) drive in overtime to score the game winning touchdown. The running game produced 97 yards on 25 attempts, led by Riddick for 70 of those. The leading receiver was none other then Eric Ebron for 92 yards on 7 receptions. Riddick had but 1 reception for 6 yards. The defense allowed Bradford to get 31 of 40 (77.5%) for 273 yards and a TD with no INTs (or any other turnovers for that matter). The defense helped with a few key stops, and special teams definitely helped as well, but even though Stafford had some issues with true accuracy and touch he was definitely the MVP of the game via putting together a couple of drives at the end of the game when it mattered the most.

The Lions have some issues still with coaching, and with keeping their composure, and even with consistency, but when it comes to focusing and driving in the final moments of a game, Matthew Stafford and his offense are able to get the job done, even against a top NFL defense.

Next week nearly every Lions fan will reluctantly root for the Redskins to beat the Vikings while hopefully the Lions get healthier, do some self evaluation, and even more hopefully, get better, as they prepare to either gain or maintain their lead in the NFC North. It's not like they are a power team, but they do have just as much a chance of making noise this year as any other team, not only in the NFC North but in the NFC period. Not every fan is "there" yet, not many fans are willing to get their hopes up, and they have some very good reasons for that, but despite it all, at present the Lions are among the top teams in the NFC, and in fact, in the NFL. So get ready for an interesting ride.