Thursday, November 23, 2017

2017, Week 12, Detroit Lions vs Minnesota Vikings @ Home on Thanksgiving Day

Now we know.

The 6-5 Detroit Lions lose to the 9-2 Minnesota Vikings 23 to 30 on a otherwise fine Thanksgiving Day afternoon game. The Lions defense has allowed nearly double the rushing yards per contest in the 6 games since Ngata went on IR as they did in the 5 games in which he played. The Lions defense had similar issues the year after the departure of Ndamakung Suh. So now we know that the defensive coordinator is simply unable to field a decent defense unless he has a healthy pro-bowl caliber defensive tackle on the team.

Matthew Stafford was 20 of 35 (57.14%) for 250 yards and 2 touchdowns along with an interception and he lost a fumble as well on a botched hand off early in the game. Case Keenum was allowed to go 21 of 30 (70%) for 282 yards and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions. That along with the 136 yards rushing by the Vikings gave them nearly a 10 minute advantage in time of possession. The Lions managed 53 yards rushing. That's somewhere in the area of 3 years now without a 100 yard rushing running back. The OL that was supposed to start for the Lions played for a whole game and a half this year before Swanson was injured in this game. But the revamped OL still does not seem to be able to run or pass block as they should. Still, even with these issues, a Stafford led team has once again been (for the most part) unable to beat a team with a winning record. Of course the mere fact they beat a team alters their win/loss record and makes those at or near .500 fall into the losing record category so I don't hold to this fact very hard. The Lions have 5 games remaining and at this point in time none of the upcoming opponents currently have a winning record. Still, that may not matter, as somehow the Vikings would need to lose 3 games in the next 5 while the Lions win all 5 in order to take the division. The playoff picture is looking very bleak tonight... in case you were wondering... as the Lions do not hold the tie breakers with many of the potential wild card candidates. Regardless of opponents records though, the Lions quite simply need to fix the run game, need to fix the defense (or get a healthy pro-bowl DT for Austin), and need to have some way to beat good defenses... whether that means to make sure Stafford gets plenty of sleep before a game or getting him a lucky rabbits foot or even a better offensive coordinator. I don't know the exact formula to fix things, but now we know that the 2017 team is going to be extremely lucky just to have a post season this year.

Speaking of coaches, who's decision was it go for it on 4th and 8 with nearly 3 minutes to go when you have a time out and the 2 minute warning in your pocket? Considering if they fail to convert the ball it would already be in the Vikings field goal range (as limited as that is) wouldn't it have been better to punt and try to get a 3 and out and after getting the ball back, having it be a first down? The answer is, yes it would. This makes more then once when what I call "stupid coaching tricks" has reared it's ugly head. Kind of up there with nearly 90% of 1st downs being a run play, or failing to get the stop on 3rd and long... over and over and over again.

Anyway, I had high hopes for this team this year and would have still had they beat the Vikings today. That did not happen and the hopes are all but gone. As for the near future, the Ravens have the Monday night game this weekend and then play the Lions 6 days later, while the Lions now have 10 days to get ready for the Ravens. The Ravens are 5-5 at this point in time, so not currently a winning team... that could change Monday night and be padded if the Lions lose to them next Sunday. Longer term, the Lions can't afford to lose even one more game, because as we now know, they could win all 5 remaining games and still not make the playoffs, depending on how the other potential wildcard teams do. Even longer term, the Lions need to seriously evaluate their coordinators and other coaches on the staff, and the roster turnover is quite obviously not yet anywhere near finished, assuming Quinn gets to keep working on the roster.

The Quinn honeymoon is over, and fans once they realize that this season is yet another lost cause will begin to crump about every player and some of the coaches and even some in the front office. Mrs Ford will be another year older and her patience may be either longer or shorter then the fans, that we do not know, not for sure. The only immediate cure for what ails them is to win, every single game, for the rest of however long the year is going to be. I shan't hold my breath.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

2017, Week 11, Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears

Rambling thoughts.

The 6-4 Detroit Lions beat the 3-7 Chicago Bears 27-24. The Lions had a mere 4 point lead at half time, scored two field goals in the 4th quarter, then allowed the Bears to get into field goal range in the final minutes of the game only to have them miss wide (very wide) right their attempt to tie the game (after having scored a TD earlier in the 4th quarter). There was nothing easy about the game but the Lions managed to eek out their third and final divisional away game win of 2017. I can't recall the last time the Lions won all 3 divisional away games in the same year... come to think about it, I don't think they ever have, since it was probably 1991 or before and at that time the Tampa Bay Bucs were also in the Lions division (the old NFC Central).

Matthew Stafford was 21 of 31 (67.74%) for 299 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions, and he gave the Bears great field position for their first touchdown when he fumbled after being hit by the guy who blew right by Zach Zenner early in the game. There was a whopping 65 yards rushing by the Lions offense, but the Lions defense allowed 222 yards rushing. Trubisky went 18 of 30 (60%) for 179 yards and a touchdown. What turned out to be the game winning field goal by Prater was just over 50 yards into the wind and while it went through the uprights nearly dead center it had just barely cleared the bar as it actually hit the padding of the pole that holds the whole thing up in the air... so inches to spare. Hayden scored one of the Lions touchdowns via a fumble recovery of his own. The Lions defense didn't have a lot of luck after that though, creating only one sack and getting no interceptions. Still, they did just enough to help. In fact, one could say all three aspects of the team (offense, defense, and special teams) were helpful in getting the win, and all three were at various times responsible for the problems they had allowing the Bears to nearly beat them.

The next game the Lions play is coming up this Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, against the division leading Minnesota Vikings. The Lions have only won 2 games at home (losing 3) so it's not really a home field advantage necessarily but it is the first of their three remaining home games for this year and all 3 of them are against division rivals, so hopefully a home field advantage begins to show its self this week. How they will handle this national game is also hard to predict as they have won 2 of their 3 national games so far this year so no track record to go by there either. Finally, the Vikings have only lost two games so far this year and one of them was to the Lions in week 4. Can they do it again? The Lions have won 3 in a row to keep them in the playoff hunt, but if they want to win the division then beating the Vikings (again) is going to be a very critical part of that.

Enough of my rambling thoughts and hopefully the Lions find a way to stop opposing teams from rambling along with so many yards by the running backs. If they can't, hopefully they can find ways to score enough points to win anyway. My prediction? If the Lions can keep the game close going into the 4th quarter I think they can and will win... I'm just not so sure they can keep it close. I'd love to be confident they will win, but lately their wins seem to be harder to come by. It was nice to see their starting offensive line intact and playing together for the first time this year... more of that could help everything on offense a lot... but the Lions defensive line is not intact nor being especially helpful much of the time, they will have their work cut out for them once again. My final rambling thought is... I hope Lions fans can get loud and remain loud for the entire game. The harder they make it on whomever the Vikings have at QB, the better.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

2017, Week 10, Detroit Lions vs Cleveland Browns @ Home


The 5-4 Detroit Lions beat the 0-9 Cleveland Browns 38-24 in a game that at first was going a little tougher then many expected. In fact the Lions tied the game late in the 3rd quarter before regaining and keeping the lead in the 4th. In the end though, the Lions topped the vegas odds given and won by 14 points to keep them in the playoff race (as the Packers and the Vikings also won their games). To the best of my knowledge the Lions didn't have any major injuries and in fact their left tackle (Decker) managed to play quite a few snaps for the first time this year as he gets back into game shape.

Matthew Stafford was 17 of 26 (65.385%) for 249 yards 3 touchdowns and 1 interception with no fumbles. In fact, no Lion had a fumble but they did manage to cause one, and it was caused and then run back for a touchdown by CB Lawson. Abdullah, Riddick and Stafford tallied up 104 yards on the ground with Abdullah getting the lone rushing touchdown. Touchdown passes were caught by Riddick, Tate and Ebron. Big play Slay had the interception on Kizer, who missed about a quarter of the game after a hit by Diggs (a legal hit) bruised his ribs. Kessler was only 1 of 3 (33.33%) for 5 yards and Kizer was 21 of 37 (56.757%) for 232 yards a touchdown and the interception. The stats make it sound like the Lions easily won the game and excelled in all areas, where in fact it was anyone's game up until the 4th quarter, when the Browns started doing things poorly and the Lions started doing things better (then they had earlier in the game). In the end the Lions won, as they should have, and face the 3-6 Chicago Bears next Sunday before they play the Thanksgiving Day game the following Thursday (against the Minnesota Vikings). Two VERY important games coming up with only 4 days between them.

The Cleveland game showed the Lions still need to work on just about everything from run blocking and pass blocking to reads to routes to retaining focus throughout the game. The defense had good and bad moments and they too have plenty to work on. What was nice though was that many things were worked on during the game and some things were turned around before the game got out of control in the wrong direction. The Browns have a pretty decent defense, a rookie but up and coming quarterback, and what appears to be a pretty decent rookie tight end as well. Despite them being 0-8 (now 0-9) they are not push overs. When it appeared early in the 2nd half that the game might spiral out of control a comment was made in the chat room that the Lions were just protecting their 0-16 season record, was caused me to laugh despite all the errors being made. Some of us didn't quite give up on the Lions as there was plenty of time left plus the Lions are known for doing well in the 4th quarter and unfortunately for Browns' fans the Browns are getting known for losing it later in their games. That's pretty much what happened too, so those of us that didn't give up on the game were rewarded for our patience.

In the end the Lions won, things are still looking okay, and 11 days from now the picture may be clearer or just as foggy as it is now, so patience will be required for at least the time being. I'm not sure if fans can learn to be patient that quickly, so for sanity in the forums and Lions fans stress levels, I'm hopeful the team will be 7-4 before my turkey dinner is over. If so, the entire month of December will be that much more interesting. A month in which children have to learn patience before opening presents might just be what fans need to learn how that works... or not. In fact, probably not, but one can make wishes.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

2017, Week 9, Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers


The 4-4 Detroit Lions handily beat the 4-4 Green Bay Packers in Green Bay 30-17 with 7 of those points recorded in garbage time (yeah, I went there). This marks only the 2nd time the Lions have won in Green Bay in something like 25 years. Also, during the game, the Lions never punted, not even once, and that hasn't happened to the Lions since I was in 3rd grade (think President Nixon and Apollo Space Program) and never once at Lambeau Field by ANY team. In addition to all this, Stafford became only the 4th QB in NFL history to hit 200 touchdown throws before the age of 30... a very major milestone, and not just a Detroit Lions one this time, but an NFL one. Anyway, I have to temper my enjoyment of the win due to the fact that Rodgers is injured and not playing for the Packers. Okay, that was enough tempering, I'm going to enjoy the win instead.

I'm keeping track of the Lions record, their opponents records, and which teams are common opponents to the other NFC North teams all at in case you want to view it in this format.

Matthew Stafford was 26 of 33 (78.79% wow) for 361 yards and 2 TDs with no interceptions or fumbles (also wow!). Meanwhile the Packers backup QB Hundley was held to 26 of 38 (68.42% which is too much) for 245 yards and no TDs or INTs (which is both good and bad). The Packers also had 78 yards rushing, which was good for the Lions run defense without Ngata. I realize that Hundley is no Rodgers, but it was nice to see the Lions defense get at least some of their swagger back, even if it may not be enough just yet for later on. I will simply enjoy it when it works out.

The Lions only had 64 yards running the ball so they still can't run block or run for beans (and AA had 2 fumbles, losing one as well, getting himself benched before the end of the game). The Packers had no fumbles lost. In addition to fumbles, Stafford was only sacked one time while Hundley was sacked 3 times and hurried for a few more. Once again, with a different QB the game may have come out a lot closer (or the Lions might have even lost, but they did let up off the gas when in a closer game they might not have). Basically what it comes down to is, enjoy the wins. Sure the Lions had a few "stupid coaching tricks" in this game just like previous games, but not nearly as many, and they weren't nearly as important.

Next week the Lions play the Cleveland Browns at home. The Browns have yet to win a game in 2017. They are 0-8. If ever there were a trap game, this one might be it, but I don't think the Lions will give in to it, so I expect to enjoy their 5th win of the season next Sunday afternoon and would be severely disappointed if that were not to happen.

The Lions still have to play the Bears twice, and the Packers and Vikings again (having won their first game with each) so it is at present a positive thing as far as owning tie breakers go. Not that I'm counting on needing to have a tie breaker just yet. After all, only the Lions have their starting QB playing this year at present, which normally would mean your division is yours to lose, if not for the fact that the Vikings have a 2 game lead on them at present. The Lions are past their hardest part of their schedule, they are 4-4, and things are looking up. I'm just going to have to stop complaining about the coaches and enjoy it... for now.