Sunday, December 11, 2016

Game 13 2016 - Detroit Lions vs the Chicago Bears @ Home


The 9-4 Detroit Lions narrowly defeated the 3-10 Chicago Bears 20-17 to remain first in the division. This makes the 8th time this season the Lions came from behind in the 4th quarter to win the game, after having led the scoreboard up until the 4th quarter when the Bears briefly took the lead from them. Luckily the game was played in a dome as the weather outside was quite frightful, snowing so hard that players, fans and employees will find it difficult to make it home.

Matthew Stafford was 21 of 35 (60.00%) for 223 yards 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. While he had injured his middle finger on his throwing hand early in the game he wasn't playing particularly crisp before it happened. He was forced to play with a glove on his throwing hand the rest of the game, which was likely at least partially responsible for both some errant throws and for his having to concentrate even more about throwing. One of the interceptions was a great defensive play by the Bears, and came about due to a tipped ball that bounced off of the receiver in the end zone and conveniently landed in the hands of another defender. The other was a very poor choice of a throw that was picked off and returned for 6 points nearly costing the Lions the game.

Meanwhile, the Bears quarterback (Barkley) was 20 of 32 (62.5%) for 212 yards 1 touchdown and no interceptions. The Lions rarely blitzed (again) but when they did it was quite effective. Why it didn't happen more is beyond me, but somehow the Lions pulled off a win so once again my complaints about this will fall on deaf ears. One thing the Lions defense did fairly well with was preventing Howard from gaining too many yards on the ground, limiting him to 86 yards (and 24 receiving).

The Lions played without their starting center (Swanson) and they moved Glasgow the rookie starting left guard to center and played former first round pick Tomlinson at left guard. This was a noticeable reduction in offensive line quality and probably responsible for Stafford's finger injury. They also played without their top receiving running back, but despite not having Riddick the others managed to get 114 yards (15 by Stafford himself) on the ground. The Bears also played without a lot of their starters due to injury, obviously, considering who was at QB, but others on their team stepped up and played a tough game. Whether the Lions played down to their competition or if the Bears were truly that close to being a decent team this year is up for debate, but as a fan just watching the game was once again a frightful nail biting game right to the last seconds. It's the reason why more fans haven't jumped aboard the Lions bandwagon just yet.

In the end, the Lions pulled off the win, taking another divisional game (for possible future tie breaker purposes) and remaining in control of the NFC North. The Vikings won their game today and as I type this the Packers have the lead against the Seahawks so it's a good deal that the Lions did win their game today to not lose ground in the playoff race. Of course, the ongoing Packers/Seahawks game has more at stake then just the divisional record, as Seattle has the 2nd seed spot (or 2nd bye week spot) for the playoffs, if they lose the Lions take that spot for this week but of course the Packers stay on their heals for the division, while if the Packers lose the Lions get another game ahead of them in the division but lose a game on the Seahawks for the bye week in the playoffs. So I am rooting for a tie game, of course.

There was one or two tidbits in the Lions game that I'll add in here, one is that Golden Tate leads the NFL in yards after the catch, which is no small thing. The other is that the officials during the game gave the Lions a penalty for hands to the face when it was the Bear player who actually had his hands in the Lions players' face.

How do officials get it so wrong, and it seems always against the Lions? Truly frightful.

Okay, so, despite it all, the Lions won, retain the division lead, and need to prepare to play in New York against the Giants. They need to get healthy if possible, and play much better then they did this week, for the Giants aren't quite as hurt as the Bears and will give them a run for the money. Not only that, but the Lions are either the 2nd or 3rd best team in the NFC (depending on how the Seahawks do this afternoon), it's high time they started acting like it. That means imposing the teams' will on other teams, not squeaking out a win in the final minutes of the game... even if all wins count the same in the record book. Having some swagger, some confidence, as you go into the playoffs is no small thing, especially if your defense hardly ever blitzes.

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