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


Patience.

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


Enjoy.

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 https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1nbWepLy1oQIb44oqJ9FFoMmobsaU6bzbsEHouA7tF54/edit?usp=sharing 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.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

2017, Week 8, Pittsburgh Steelers vs Detroit Lions @ Home


Ju Ju'd

What happened to week 6 and week 7 you ask? Well, in week 6 the Lions lost to the Saint in New Orleans by a score of 38-52. Unfortunately due to time constraints I was unable to write up an article about that game (hardly have time to write this one in fact). But had I wrote it there would have been much more talk about the coaching staff, and how they aren't doing their jobs to my satisfaction. Then I'd have gone on about how week 7 is the Lions bye week so perhaps some players can get healthy and perhaps the coaches will take the time to self evaluate and improve their own (and thus the players') performance(s). Then there is tonight's Sunday Night game in which the 3-4 Detroit Lions lose to the 6-2 Pittsburgh Steelers at home by a score of 15-20. Now mind you in the 3rd quarter the Lions had a chance to take the lead by kicking what would amount to a chip shot field goal but instead chose to go for it on 4th down, and failed. Then, a few plays later, Ju Ju Smith-Schuster, the Steelers 20 year old rookie wide receiver, took a short pass 97 yards for a touchdown. The Lions late in the 4th would once again get within 7 yards of the end zone and would once again go for it on 4th down and once again fail to convert. If you're keeping score that's 6 points in field goals not taken in exchange for two failed 4th down attempts. They lost by 5. Now who's decision do you think it was to not take the points? If you want to know why the Lions lost this game (and perhaps the 2 before it as well) then look no further then the HC, OC, and DC. Caldwell, Cooter and Austin (sounds like a bad law firm) have taken poor coaching decisions to a whole new level. More on this later.

Matthew Stafford was 27 of 45 (60%) for 423 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. The Lions managed 71 yards rushing. They managed 5 field goals and would easily have had 2 more had the attempt been made. But I digress. Ben Roethlisberger was 17 of 31 (54.84%) for 317 yards a touchdown and an interception. If it weren't for the fact that Ju Ju had a total of 193 yards it would've been a very good defensive stand. But Ju Ju did have 193 yards, with a long of 97 yards, and the game ending first down to run out the clock as well. There were too many times he was wide open, since Bell only had 76 yards rushing it should have been obvious to all concerned that Ben was going to have to throw to move the team down the field, so why was their #2 WR (a 20 year old Rookie in his 8th game of his career) able to get open and make so many yards? Because the defense was wrong, that's why.

If I had the time I'd really lay into the coaching decisions, both in the past couple games and in today's game... but I don't have that kind of time. Overall I thought the offense did fairly well considering the OL has been made up of guys I don't even know (today's right tackle was cut from I think it was Dallas' practice squad a while back for example) and even with the failure to make any TDs did enough to win. Despite Ju Ju's 97 yard pass play the Lions defense also did enough to win. I mean, sure, one more completion on offense or one more pass play defended by the defense might have also won the game, but the decision to not kick two field goals was the defacto reason the Lions lost. It's a stupid reason to lose a winnable game. A reason that I hope does not happen again. Ever. With this coaching staff. It's near unbearable to overcome everything only to have stupid coaching tricks cause the team to lose.

Next week the Lions play in Wisconsin on Monday Night Football against the Rodger's-less Green Bay Packers team. It should be an easy win. Something tells me it will be much more difficult then that. And, if the Lions coaching staff helps too much, could become another heart breaking loss. Here's hoping lessens were learned, of some kind, before it's too late.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

2017, Week 5, Carolina Panthers vs the Detroit Lions @ Home


Lopsided.

The 3-2 Detroit Lions lose to the 4-1 Carolina Panthers 24-27 in a lopsided game that was no where near as close as the final score. If you gave out game balls to the losing team the only two guys who would deserve them would be TE Daniel Fells and K Matt Prater, in my opinion. None of the other players stood out and for that matter, neither did any of the coaches. There was so much that went wrong during this game that there isn't much in the line of positives to write about. Very lopsided indeed.

Matthew Stafford was 23 of 35 (65.71%) for 229 yards and 2 TDs with no interceptions though he did fumble twice (one recovered by Robinson of the Lions) and Stafford was sacked 6 times. Stafford detractors will be saying that he needs to be more aware of the rush, that he needs to just get rid of the ball instead of taking the sack, and so on. Stafford defenders will be saying that the offensive line needs to pass block better, that the receivers (be they WR, TE or RB) need to get at least some separation to get open, and that the play calling was not conducive to winning the game. I would say that both sides would be right. I understand that Stafford is playing tough, standing tall and trying to give his receivers as much time as he can to get open, desparately trying to win the game. But, he (and his coaching staff) need to admit the OL is not capable of blocking regularly for either the pass or the run and do whatever can be done to mitigate the problem. Be it more roll outs, throwing the ball away instead of taking the sack, re-designing the playbook, or just benching guys for lack of production. Something, anything, as Stafford is getting whomped, he's limping, bleeding, and at times, rushing his throws while at other times taking too long to get rid of the ball. The running backs make a great play then fail the next 6 times (or whatever number it is). The blocking is even more lopsided. In the end Fells caught both touchdowns in what many will call garbage time and Ebron had only 1 catch and many drops, again. Ebron is also not playing like a first round pick. I could go on and on and on about the offense, but, let's look at the other side for a moment.

Cam Newton was 26 of 33 (78.79% which is amazing) for 355 yards 3 touchdowns and no interceptions one fumble (recovered by them) and sacked 3 times. The time of possession was around 35 minutes (to the Lions 25) and the only good stat for the Lions defense is they held the Panthers to just 28 yards rushing (Lions offense had 50 yards rushing). At one point the Panthers had scored 24 unanswered points leaving the Lions to score their only 2 passing touchdowns in the 4th quarter in a failed attempt to come back. The Panthers backup tightend had 5 catches for 175 yards, nearly a team record. The defense will get a pass because they played so well the first 4 games of the season, but really, they don't deserve a pass, they need to find what went wrong and get it fixed or the season will be over before the bye week. Then again, maybe that's just me being upset about the loss and how lopsided the score was until the final minutes.

Now I'm not saying there wasn't a good play here, or a great play there, by the Lions, but there was so many bad plays it kind of ruins the good ones. It is most certainly time for the Lions coaches to figure themselves and their team out, and find ways to have more of the good plays and far fewer of the bad ones... on both sides of the ball. It's time for players to step up or sit down, and no, I'm not actually talking about the quarterback. Even though he does need to be coached about some of the things he is (or is not) doing too. Make Ebron a healthy scratch in favor of playing Fells, that might get his attention. Shuffle the OL if you have to, or find plays they can actually block for, or coach them into doing better, or gee, I just don't know, but any QB who has to play behind this OL is going to need a whole lot of ice if he can even walk after the game no matter who is taking the snaps. Maybe it's the OL coach? Not sure. The WR coach has some work to do too, the WRs are not getting open. Not even getting a step of separation most of the time. Or is it the playbook? The play calling? Not sure on this either, but I do know that something must be done. At the same time the defense who was playing very well needs to get back to doing that, as this game exposed them badly and it can't be something they fall into when you need them to keep the team in the game. No, they shouldn't have to do that by themselves, I just covered that, but until such time as the O does come around the D needs to compensate.

In the end, the game was a Panthers win from the 2nd quarter on, it was completely lopsided despite the final score, and hope for future wins was severely diminished after watching the game. Only Fells and Prater should sleep well and feel good about their game after this.

Next week the Lions play the Saints in New Orleans. If they play like they did today they will lose by 3 or more scores. The bye week is the week after but I suggest they shouldn't wait for that week to fix things, they need to work on it now. I'm sure they are actually, I'm just not sure if they are capable. Probably they are, but forgive me if I have some doubts.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

2017, Week 4, Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings


Just Enough

The 3-1 Detroit Lions defeated the 2-2 Minnesota Vikings 14-7 in a hard fought away game. The offense, defense and special teams did just enough to garner the win. In fact, it could be said that the defense had to do even more then their share in order to make up for some issues elsewhere. The officiating was also fairly relaxed (and no, I'm not complaining). All in all, it's hard to get upset over a win, a tie for the lead in the division, and a team who was only 5 inches (or 3 seconds) away from being 4-0. Let's hope the team does just enough to make the playoffs this year as well. For that matter, more then just enough would be better yet.

Matthew Stafford was 19 of 31 (61.29%) for 209 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Ameer Abdullah rushed for 94 yards (before leaving the game injured in the 4th quarter) and the only touchdown of the game. The offense also managed a 2 point conversion in the 3rd quarter. Neither team scored any points at all in the 1st and 4th quarter. It was pretty much a defensive game on both sides, with the Lions defense notching 4 fumble recoveries (3 of the Vikings fumbles and 1 of Staffords) with no interceptions and 2 sacks. The Vikings did not recover any fumbles and got no interceptions (though it was a close thing a few times) and sacked Stafford 5 times, hurrying him many more times, and hitting him in excess of 15 times. Prater hit 2 of 3 field goals and the Vikings missed their attempts. It wasn't a pretty game, but it was just enough to win.

By the way, their backup QB Keenum was 16 of 30 (53.33%) for 219 yards. The Lions defense held their running game to only 87 yards and one touchdown, but, in a non-contact run their rookie running back Cook went down with a knee injury... word is nearly a complete ACL tear. He'll likely be out for the rest of the year and possibly into next season. Lions played without their 1st round pick (Davis) at MLB and an hodge-podge offensive line that is really having issues run blocking and pass blocking. Not sure what they are good at actually. Getting injured for sure, but one would think they could do at least one type of blocking adequately... then again, the Lions won, their tied for first in the division, and so I guess it was just enough.

Next week the Lions play the Carolina Panthers at home. I have a feeling it'll be another 1 score difference game, just not sure who will be healthy enough to play so I'm also not sure which team will come out on top. The homer pick is the Lions, but my mind is telling me the Panthers just might do just enough to win instead.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

2017, Week 3, Detroit Lions versus Atlanta Falcons @ Home


Wait! What?

The 3-0 2-1 Detroit Lions beat the lose to the 2-1 3-0 Atlanta Falcons at home with a score of 33-30 26-30. In what was ruled as the go ahead Lions touchdown by the officials with 8 seconds on the clock the play went under review and was reversed. THEN the officials ran 10 seconds off the clock because the rule book says they had to. Game over. Instead of the Lions winning the game they were declared the losers.

Now, had Golden Tate III not been touched as he fell to the goal line he could have rolled, crawled, walked, ran or did cartwheels in and still scored the TD. But Golden was touched so when his knee hit the ground the ball was to be spotted where the nose of it was located, which was about 5 inches shy of the goal line. Okay fine, it's 4th down, there is still 8 seconds on the clock, the Lions are 5 inches away from winning... BUT because they have no timeouts left there is a 10 second clock run off (or at least that is how I understand it). 10 from 8 makes negative 2... or game over. Now understand, the Lions did nothing wrong. There was no flag. There was no penalty or other thing to point at the Lions and say "no sir, you are in the wrong". The officials called it a TD. Had they not the Lions had time to re-line up and probably get off one last play to attempt to score, from the 5 inch line. But no, they are forced to have 10 seconds run off the clock. I asked a Hockey "super" fan if Hockey had any such clock depleting rules... he said nope. I asked a basketball fan, nope. I already know there is no clock in baseball, so that's a nope. Thus, the Lions lost their first game of the year against the NFC 2016 Champion team because the officials got the call wrong and due to the rules wouldn't let them try their 4th down attempt. No other major sport in the USA has any such kind of rule of any kind. If ever there was a football version of the definition of the semi-modern phrase of Wait! What? this would be it.

Okay, so now that I clarified my position on that... let's see actual facts. Mathew Stafford was 25 of 45 (55.56%) for 264 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. A respectable but not really great or efficient game set of stats. He did throw off his back foot a couple of times showing poor mechanics (on those couple throws) and he was off on his placement a few times as well. Other then those 4 or 5 (or if pushing it, 6) times, Matthew Stafford did a pretty decent job of running the Lions offense. Not everyone else on the offense even got that close to good (looking at you Ebron, and the OL).

Eric Ebron had a number of drops, at least one of (if not two of) which might have had the Lions scoring the go ahead score before the 8 seconds on the clock thing, and we would still not know about that rule that's in the books. Other players also had issues during the game, even the coaches who took at least a quarter and a half before figuring out they could not run to the left (I had that figured out a week ago and re-iterated it pregame and during the first quarter). Meanwhile, the defense and special teams played a pretty decent game. Not perfect, oh no, they will have plenty of things to talk about in the film review tomorrow. But all in all, the offense lost this game, with help by the coaching staff and the officials and the NFL Rule book. Odd how that always seems to happen to the Lions.

Now I don't want to make this all about the Lions, or the officials, or the rule book, or the coaching staff, as the Falcons played a very VERY good game. Matt Ryan (the QBs were Mathew and Matt, the kickers were Matt and Matt, how's that for odd?) was 24 of 35 (68.57%) for 294 yards with 2 touchdowns but 3 interceptions (further proof of the Lions defense doing well, in the take away department anyway). The Lions had only 71 yards rushing (19 by Stafford) while the Falcons managed 151 yards (not their usual efficient run defense there). Both teams were without some key players, though I'd say the key players on the Lions side were maybe just a bit more key then their opponent. I suppose that can be debated as much as the rule book, so I won't.

What it comes down to is this: The Lions backups on defense are not starting caliber (at this point in time, as in not ready) and the Lions OL was only 40% intact and very subpar. Stafford was not his self and the officials and rule book were their ever over-present selves, as we Lions fans have learned from repeated exposure. I'm sure I'm not the only fan who went Wait! What?! at the end of this game. I'm also sure some are still confused about it. Hopefully someone in the NFL is as well, so yet another rule can be fixed due to the Lions losing because of it.

Okay, so let's say the Lions should have won before the final play that killed the fun... well then, the Lions just went toe to toe with the current NFC Conference Champions and held their own for the most part. Not due to an overpowering offense, nor to a un-duplicate-able (sp?) defense, as the defense has done similar feats already this year. Not even to some fluke plays by special teams. No, the Lions, as a team, competed, very well, for about 59 minutes and some odd seconds. Some would even say 59 minutes and 52 seconds, and I'd have no qualms with that. So despite the loss, despite the way it was lost, I'm at least encouraged by the game being as close as it was. Since the division has suddenly become highly competitive this, if it can continue, just might make a difference before the year is over. Not this game, but the lessons learned from it and continued great play by the team its self.

Next week the Lions go to Minnesota to play the Vikings. I expect the results of that game to be a whole lot better. I don't think the Vikings will be prepared for the "payback" the Lions are going to be willing to give out by then. There is no way this loss will be taken lightly and I expect the team as a whole to respond accordingly. My prediction for next week, Lions 27-Vikings 17.