Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017, Week 17, Detroit Lions vs Green Bay Packers @ Home (Season finale).


The 9-7 Detroit Lions beat the 7-9 Green Bay Packers 35-11 and the first time they have swept the Packers since 1991. This is the second 9-7 season in a row, but this time it was not enough for them to make the playoffs. How large is that stupid loss to the Steelers now? Or that called TD that wasn't against the Falcons causing 10 seconds to be run off the 8 second game clock when it overturned? Or any other game that could have or should have been a win but was not for whatever reason. So even though it was another winning season the 2017 season can be summed up in one word. Fail.

Matthew Stafford was 20 of 29 (68.97%) for 323 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. This makes his 7th season in a row of exceeding 4,000 yards passing, only Drew Brees has more (11 or 12 I think it is). This was also the only game Stafford ever has had with 3 passes of over 50 yards in it. Proving it could be done if the plays were called and/or attempted, but were not until the playoffs were out of reach. That means too much conservative play calling when it matters. Another data point in that vein is the trick play called for a 2 point conversation which ended up with Tate III throwing a 2 point conversion to Matthew Stafford. Despite all these beautiful records, the offense for the Lions in 2017 has but one grade. Fail.

Hundley was 14 of 24 (58.33%) for 172 yards 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. The Lions defense also allowed 103 yards rushing and recovered 2 fumbles (well, 3 fumbles but one was Agnew recovering his own fumble so I'm not counting that). The Lions defense went from a top 10 defense (primarily from it's run defense at the beginning of the year) to 32nd by year's end. The turning point was exactly due to one player. Ngata. The pro-bowl DT was healthy for the first time as a Lion to start the year and was playing like a pro-bowler, then he got injured and put on IR and the defense never was the same again. How can a defensive coordinator not be able to counter for the loss of one guy in 3/4 of a season? This isn't the first time Austin lost a pro-bowl DT and failed to do anything after that... same thing happened when Suh left the team (they did get Ngata, but he was playing injured the entire year and was not himself). Apparently, and as I have said often, Austin can NOT field a decent defense against a winning team unless he has a pro-bowl and healthy defensive tackle on the team playing the majority of the snaps. So the grade for the 2017 defense? Fail.

I haven't too many complaints about the special teams coach other then why wait until week 17 to do a trick play that helps score points? Was that a head coaching decision or something self inflicted? Special teams won't get a failing grade, but I'm forced to go no more then B+ because of those two questions.

Now after reading my post(s) you might think I want all the coaches canned. But, there are issues with that. You see, new coaches mean new systems, new playbooks to learn, new language, new problems even. The talent may no longer fit. The time for everyone to sign on and be able to execute can often be measured in years not games. I'm not looking forward to a whole new coaching staff, not at all. But, at the same time, the current OL coach was the TE coach until Lombardi was fired then he was moved (and the not so great OL coach at the time was canned along with Lombardi). I don't think he is the answer at OL coach. Cooter is a great QB coach, but he needs training on how to be an OC, and perhaps, maybe, he could be worked with by hiring an assistant with play calling experience to help him learn his position that he was never properly taught. As for the defense, I do not want Austin back unless we have a pair of pro-bowl caliber DTs on the roster. But I don't want a whole new defense either, just a DC who is not afraid to blitz. So perhaps let Austin go and promote one of the assistant coaches to DC, such as the DB coach maybe. Does that mean I want to keep Caldwell? Well, it would make my choices easier, but it's also possible that Quinn will bring in Patrica (the Patriots current DC) as the head coach and he could do the things I suggest above. That is, fire Austin, promote the DB coach to DC. Replace the OL coach. Bring in an assistant to properly train Cooter in the art of play calling... and perhaps just perhaps Patricia won't go for it on 4th down when in field goal range and only 2 points down... maybe he'll take the points and the lead and not lose that game giving the Lions a wildcard game. Perhaps he can even find ways to improve other aspects of the game and win the division, especially in a year in which Rodgers is out for most of it and the other two teams in the division are going to backup QB plans of their own due to injury or ineffectiveness. Anyway, that's my say on the coaching issue at this point in time.

I have a lot more to discuss on the players, and will, but until the coaching decisions are made that can wait... what's the point of replacing half the OL if the OL coach remains. What's the point of getting a top notch RB if the OC always calles run plays on 1st downs and can't call more then 20 run plays a game. What's the point of getting a DT if... oh, well, we need one anyways... but if we need a pro-bowl ready made DT to make Austin's D work it would have to be a very expensive free agent and not just a draft pick. (could or should be both is Austin stays). Anyway, I'll get into player eval and other comments later, after I see what the coaching situation is.

Have a good New Year's everyone, see you on the flip side.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

2017, Week 16, Detroit Lions @ Cincinnati Bengals

It's Official.

The 8-7 Detroit Lions lose to the 6-9 Cincinnati Bengals with a score of 17-26. With the loss the Lions can no longer mathematically make it into the 2017 playoffs. Though the Lions play the Green Bay Packers next week to end the season it's officially the time to begin off season talk. Before we do that let's get to the official numbers for this game.

Matthew Stafford was 19 of 35 (54.29%) for 203 yards a touchdown and an interception. A good part of the incompletions were desparation throws at the end of the game in an attempt to make something happen in the limited time left in the game. Another chunk can be attributed to drops. That's not saying Stafford played well, he's not blameless. Meanwhile Andy Dalton was 27 of 41 (65.85%) for 238 yards also with a touchdown and an interception. The Lions had 87 yards rushing if you combine four different runners, while the Bengals had 142 yards rushing. The Lions had 9 penalties to the Bengals 5. The Lions also lost the time of possession battle, if there was a battle for it that is.

The numbers show once again that the Lions are incapable of stopping the run (even when the starting RB leaves the game early) without a pro-bowl and fully healthy DT in the mix. They also failed to pressure Dalton enough to win the game, as Dalton has proved early in this game and in most games on film that he slightly panics when he's about to get hit. Of course, it's hard to create pressure when your DC refuses to blitz, even when your opponent is starting a new tackle on their OL. The Bengals had no issue blitzing the Lions who were playing without their starting center, starting right guard, and starting right tackle. I would not hesitate to trade the Lions DC for the Bengals DC even up... I'd even spot them the Lions OL coach to sweeten the deal.

The Lions had chances early in the game to put pressure on the Bengals (and many other teams this year) by taking a few calculated chances early in games to pile on the points but as is constantly the case, they don't. The conservative play calling is well beyond stupid, into the area of impossibly idiotic. But I digress. Actually, no, I'm not digressing. Now that the Lions wasted yet another season by not making the playoffs and since we're already into the time we can start talking about the off season then the very first thing that will be talked about the most is if the coaching staff should remain. I think Jim Bob Cooter is a great QB coach. I'm far from impressed with him at OC. I'm far from impressed with Austin at DC. I'm far from impressed with the OL coach. I'm okay with the TE coach and the DB coach. That's about it. The rest haven't shown me anything to make me even comment on them one way or the other. With this much lack of enthusiasm for a coaching staff it makes think there will be changes coming. What exactly those will be I'm not yet certain. I do know that the team in the division who plays its starting QB for the entire year when none of the other teams in the division are able to, you would think said team would practically walk into the playoffs ... instead of failing to even make it into a wildcard slot.

Next week the Lions finish the season at home against a Rodgers-less Packers team who also has failed to make the playoffs. The outcome of the game only affects the draft slot both teams will be in. It's also possibly the last chance for some players to prove they are worthy of remaining on the team just like the coaching staff. Though I'm not sure many fans will be rooting for a win, as a loss improves their draft position and improves the chances the coaching staff getting replaced. I know there will be some fans who won't want to start over with all new coaching philosophies and all new playbooks and all new problems with player fitting systems and so on, and I'm actually one of them... but it's also kind of proven that this coaching staff is not able to get it done so do you fix part of it or start over from scratch? We won't know until it's official, and that's at least a week away yet.

So Merry Christmas Lions fans. Sorry there won't be any presents this year. Older fans are maybe more used to this then other fans, but it still sucks.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

2017, Week 15, Detroit Lions vs Chicago Bears @ Home

Catching Up.

The 8-6 Detroit Lions beat the 4-10 Chicago Bears 20-10 on a Saturday Afternoon. You'll note I failed to blog about the Baltimore Ravens loss or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win due to work related issues so now I'm catching up.

Matthew Stafford was 25 of 33 (75.76%) for 237 yards and 2 touchdowns and no interceptions or fumbles. The Lions produced another 91 yards rushing but more importantly the Lions defense held the Bears to 43 yards rushing and also got 3 interceptions on the Bears rookie QB Trubisky, who was 31 of 46 (67.39%) for 314 yards and a touchdown.

The leading receiver for the Lions was TE Eric Ebron (again) who had 5 catches for 33 yards and a touchdown. Marvin Jones Jr had the most yards though, 3 catches for 85 yards. The Lions took the lead with a field goal on the first drive of the game and never lost it. The Bears were the team spending an entire game trying to catch up, which made for a more comfortable job of watching the game (just hours earlier I finally got to watch the Ravens game I had DVR'd, that was not comfortable to watch). The Lions even had some new plays in the Bears game, that worked, and up until the 4th quarter when the defense went into prevent (the dreaded zone defense) the Lions proved they were the better team. Of course, the record says they are even before the kickoff, but with the "any given [Sun]day" and the "that's why they play the games" you just never know for sure.

I could go into all the things the team still does wrong... maybe complain some more about the coaching... even talk about the next off season (including the draft)... but there is still a chance the Lions could make the playoffs so I won't, much. I mean the Lions still would have to win both their next two games AND have a couple of key teams lose one or more games in order to actually make the playoffs, but that is also not new news (or fake news either for that matter).

After the Sunday and Monday games perhaps I can get into more catching up on the playoff picture, if I have the time to do so. If not, the Lions next game is against the Bengals in Cincinnati (the Bengals are currently 5-8) and the Lions will need to play even harder then today to win that game... thing is, the Lions have shown they can... and the Bengals are not playing with a winning record... so most likely the Lions will be favored to win... even if it could end up being another uncomfortable game to watch. Here's hoping the Lions can once again get an early lead then keep it, makes life so much less stressful (except for Bengals fans I suppose). Meanwhile Lions fans need to root for the Panthers, the Falcons, and the Seahawks to lose. An eye must also be kept on the Cowboys and the Packers, but if the Lions win their last two games neither of those two teams can do anything about it, and the Lions play the Packers New Years Eve day.