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.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Game 8 2016 - Detroit Lions @ Houston Texans


Goal.

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. http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2016/10/23/matthew-stafford-makes-100th-game-history/

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 http://www.nfl.com/teams/profile?team=DET 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


defenses.

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.