Sunday, December 1, 2013

How the Detroit Lions Saved the World

Heroes (via FOX's broadcast)

At halftime of the Detroit Lions' Thanksgiving game against the Green Bay Packers, their doomsday clock was at 11:59 and 30 seconds, and I was the man with the trembly finger over the big red button. Though they led 17-10 at the break, their execution left a lot to be desired. Three turnovers, a missed 31-yard field goal, and just a seven point lead despite complete dominance in every non-turnover aspect of the game.

The Lions were just as we left them against Tampa, a wildly superior team that couldn't get out of their own way. It started to take a toll on me. As the second quarter continued the game's unbelievably frustrating momentum of blunders and gaffes, I started to lose it. My eyes may have been directed towards the television, but all I saw was what this team was doing to me. I saw myself 10 years in the future, corrupted by the years of wasted opportunities and myriad of hilariously awful moments. I was a sad, pathetic man. Watching Lions games only to smugly denounce the team at every opportunity I got. I watched each game shirtlessly by myself -- my friends having abandoned me after several failed attempts to get me help. The words "Same Ole' Lions" tattooed over my rotund abdomen.

As the hallucination briefly wore off and I, through my glassy eyes, witnessed Stafford's first interception of the game (and the Lions third turnover), I time-traveled 20 years ahead. I was a monster. My eyes were now forcibly sewn shut. My ears were mere nubs with drums resembling spoiled deli meats. My gruesome face was lit only by two objects: a monitor displaying a Lions game and a glass vial of some glowing, radioactive substance. My face wore a sadistic smile, but I said nothing, my tongue having been cut out years ago. My mangled fingers furiously scribbled down my final manifesto on cracked floorboards; mostly nonsensical ramblings about an obese dolt only identified as "M***en."

Just as I was lowering the vial into some sort of warhead, I snapped out of it as Ndamukong Suh was laying Matt Flynn to sleep in the endzone in a way that was frighteningly similar to Wayne Brady setting down a slain cop in the middle of the street. From there, the Lions dominated the Packers with no turnover or penalty caveats. In all three phases of the game, Detroit forced their will and beat Green Bay into submission...then beat them some more. No asterisks, no "almost blew its." They won in a manner so decisive that, in a moment of complete disgust, Aaron Rodgers disposed of his contract with the Packers.

With Chicago losing to Minnesota on Sunday, the Lions have now taken a commanding lead of the division. They are in prime position, and anything less than a division title at this point would be a huge letdown. But most importantly, they saved a soul like me. The last two weeks of countless foot-shooting and face palming would be enough to break a normal NFL franchise's fan. But we Detroiters have developed an amazingly high tolerance for incompetence. Still, another half of that against Green Bay, with division hopes on the line, in front of a national audience, with Joe Buck reading the Lions' obituary, would have likely been the end of me -- and all of you. And that's how the Detroit Lions saved the world.


I'll have more on this game later in the week.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Six Days Late "Live" Blog: Lions vs. Buccaneers

I apologize for the further lateness of this, but holidays and a short week pushed this down the priority list. Because I'm already a game behind, this will be briefer than usual, which is probably a good thing.

First quarter:

14:13 - Lions quickly go 3-and-out. The offensive line is struggling early, specifically LaAndrian Waddle, who was responsible for a TFL and a pressure on the first three plays.

13:14  - Lions respond with a three-and-out on defense. Likewise, it was the defensive line that forced the punt. Ndamukong Suh with great penetration on the first down rush, and Nick Fairley with the pressure on third down...and what was that thing Jeremy Ross did after catching the punt? You're allowed to run downfield after catching a punt? Why didn't anyone tell the Lions this sooner?

11:24 - I don't know the play call on Matthew Stafford's interception, but it looks like at least some of the blame should be on Nate Burleson. At the moment Stafford throws the ball:

...he is leading Burleson where there's room in the Bucs' zone. However, Burleson sits at the end of his route, allowing the safety to get to the ball first and tip it. Burleson needs to find the hole in the zone and get there.

9:24 - Brutal roughing the passer penalty.

Fairley is clearly getting pushed into the quarterback, and as he stumbles that way, he has no choice but to come into contact just below Mike Glennon's waist. Nothing else he could've done.

7:05 - Unbelievable read from DeAndre Levy on the end around.

5:30 - Tampa picks up a couple of third down conversions. Coverages on both were decent, not great. Good throws by Glennon.

5:21 - Ziggy Ansah does a great job shoving the left tackle to the side and picking up a big sack on first down. Nice to see some strength to go with that speed.

2:05 - Ballsy play by Stafford. Does a great job escaping pressure. He had Reggie Bush on his side of the field with a step on his defender. But Stafford opts to throw against the grain and finds an open Burleson for a first down.

0:00 - Beautiful set-up and execution of the screen to Burleson. The Lions get a little lucky, as the play-side safety sprints backwards at the snap to play deep middle.

But the play is made by Riley Reiff, who disposes of the defensive end, throwing him aside immediately, then takes out a cornerback in textbook fashion. But, hey, Nate. No fumbling.

Second quarter:

14:50 - I call this piece: Calvin Johnson: Epic Distraction.

14:15 - Weak call on Waddle, but he probably should have been for a personal foul after the play, anyway.

11:52 - Nate does a great job selling the run-block on his touchdown. The safety completely bites, and Burleson is way too quick for the hesitant cornerback.

11:50 - Rashean Mathis gets victimized by a double move, takes a smart illegal contact penalty, then allows Vincent Jackson to make the catch anyway. Harumph.

11:21 - Suh beats the wham play with his speed. Remember when this use to be his fatal flaw?

9:59 - Not enough pressure from the front four allows Glennon to improvise and pick up a third and long. That one is on the line, not the secondary.

7:56 - THE NATE BURLESON END AROUND!!! How I haven't missed you.

7:14 - To remain impartial, this was also a terrible roughing the passer call. In fact, there's very few roughing the passer calls that I agree with any longer.

4:38 - I am still not convinced Joseph Fauria got two feet down after having possession of the ball here, but it was too close to overturn.

4:21 - Great blitz (!!!!) by Glover Quin. Got a round the blocking running back, and finished the play.

3:33 - Tampa continues to run on second and long against the Lions. I don't think they read the scouting report correctly.

2:07 - You may think I was mad about the Lions not using a timeout here, but you'd be incorrect. The Lions were still getting the ball back with two minutes and three timeouts. That's plenty of time to go downfield and score. Calling a timeout in this instance opens the opportunity of giving the ball back with too much time.

Also, not sure how the Lions escaped without a roughing or running-into-the-kicker penalty. Lately the refs have cut down on roughing the kicker penalties with the same amount of vigor that they have enforced roughing the passer. It's weird.

1:01 - A stunt confuses Larry Warford and especially Waddle, leaving Gerald McCoy free to pressure Stafford. Still, that was a poor throw regardless of the pressure. Brandon Pettigrew was too late to look back for the ball and his instincts caused him to flinch when he turned only to see a missile flying towards his head. Blame: 40% Waddle; 50% Stafford; 10% Pettigrew.

Third quarter:

14:27 - Another second-and-long rush from TB. Strange coaching.

11:45 - I have no idea what's better: the pass or the catch.

I love these two guys.

10:22 - The Lions' Almost-Touchdown of the Game:

The Lions' Almost-Touchdown of the Game is brought to you by Bacon-Flavored Foods. Bacon-Flavored Foods: "All of the potential, rarely executed well."

9:41 - What a great catch by Pettigrew. This has got to be his greatest stretch of football in his professional career.

8:34 - Great job by Rob Sims clearing out McCoy to open a huge lane for Bush. 39 yards later. The Lions are rolling with the lead.

7:10 - Lions get double lucky on this play. McCoy splits Sims and Dominic Raiola and probably should have drew a holding flag. Instead, the Bucs get called for a pass interference penalty on a route that was a good six yards short of the first down.

5:43 -

At this point, Calvin looks wide open. However, the safety makes a very quick play on the ball, and Johnson's route is too horizontal and not enough vertical. If he runs more of a seam route, and Stafford throws it away from the safety, it may be a touchdown. But the post route was run directly towards the safety and it was picked.

This is the second time the Lions had a great opportunity to go up two possessions and take control of the game. Both drives ended in interceptions, and this one frustratingly happened on first down.

3:45 - 2nd-and-22 for the Bucs. Anyone want to guess the play call? It rhymes with "run."

2:29 -

Reggie Bush only picks up 4 yards on this play. I don't know how that's possible.

1:44 - Burleson with a solid effort to get the first down, but comes up half-a-yard short. For the record, I would not have been against going for it here, though I don't feel strongly either way.

Fourth quarter:

14:17 - This long touchdown has to be on Louis Delmas.

The Lions are very clearly in man coverage, with Quin playing deep coverage on half of the field. This means with almost certainty that Delmas had deep coverage on the other side of the field. However, he tries to read Glennon and jump the tight end's route. Houston gets burned overtop without help from Louis, and then flubs the tackle.

10:38 - Stafford takes a sack on third down after Joique Bell fails to hold his block on the blitz. Stafford was looking for Calvin on the post route, who likely would've broken open.

9:58 - So if people are blaming Akers for blocked field goals, can I blame Sam Martin for this blocked punt?*

9:11 - Ansah with another sack. First, he used his speed to get the edge on the left tackle, then used his strength to fight through the tackle's last ditch effort to keep him at bay.

7:48 - Nice to see the opponent miss a field goal. I was beginning to think it was impossible to miss field goals in Ford Field.

7:35 - What an effort by Kris Durham to fight for the extra yard and a half. I thought he picked up the first down, but he got close enough for Stafford to sneak it on fourth down for the conversion. Love this Durham kid. I don't think he could do anything wrong to change my opinion of him in the next four plays or so.


4:41 - No idea why Glennon took that sack on a play he could have easily thrown the ball away on. I'm sure those extra yards lost will have no impact on the gaOH MAN, HE MISSED IT AGAIN!

2:00 - Really don't like Stafford forcing this ball to Calvin on 2nd and 7 with the Lions on the edge of field goal range.

1:06- Really don't like Stafford forcing this ball to Calvin on 2nd and 12 with the Lions on the edge of field goal range.


This last one is a little more forgivable because Stafford was pressured, but Bell and Fauria were both breaking open and were much safer options. Of course, this ignores the fact that Calvin probably should have held onto it, and the Lions would have won the game if he had. But, still, this is insanely frustrated.


*I realize this snark carries less weight after Akers missed a 31-yarder on Thanksgiving, but I don't like punters nor do I like people blindly hating Akers because they wanted a youtube star on their team.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


When we last left the Detroit Lions....(via Fansided)

Oh God, no....

But then... (via Fansided)

And then... (via GIFD Sports)

And then.... (via GIFD Sports)

I did this a lot... (via SBNation)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. And I finally mean it.

Monday, November 25, 2013

One Minute to Midnight

Thanks to for the original image
With Sunday's disastrous loss against the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Detroit Lions edged their doomsday clock forward, and now sit on the brink of losing their season, and squandering their best opportunity at the division title in well over a decade.

After defeating the Chicago Bears for a second time, the Lions had seemingly made a statement as legitimate contenders for the NFC North crown. As the Bears and Green Bay Packers slowly began to concede and put down their arms, all the Lions needed to do was avoid shooting themselves in the foot and hegemony would finally be theirs.

But shoot themselves in the foot they did. To the point of 8 turnovers in two weeks, while forcing none of their own. And now, though the Lions' reign atop the division continues, the forces in Chicago and Green Bay are slowly regaining their footing. Their warriors' wounds are quickly healing. And if the Lions don't come together soon and deliver the death blow in the next week or two, they will soon find themselves in an apocalyptic world with no kingdom to rule and peons calling for their heads.


I don't know how much more frustrating this team can get. This game was exactly the Dallas Cowboys game, just without the goal line leap. The Lions once again dominated their opponent all over the stat sheet. The Lions gained nearly 70% more yards than Tampa (390 to 229). They gained more yards per play (5.4 to 4.7) and had over 20 more offensive plays than the Bucs. They were better on third down (8/15 to 4/14), they had more sacks (4 to 2), and even were penalized less often.

Every moment in which the Lions felt like they were going to get over the hump and just win this game, they absolutely killed themselves with mind-blowing ineptitude.

The defense played perhaps their best game all season. They got off the field on third down, they held a good Tampa running team to just 22 rushing yards on 24 carries. They finally got to the quarterback and tallied a season-high 4 sacks. But just as they were given a great opportunity to keep the Bucs deep in their own zone potentially giving the Lions good field position, they broke down for one play: 85 yards and a touchdown. In just two pass plays in the game, the Buccaneers gained 57% of their total offense for the day.

People will clamor that the defense was horrible because the rookie Mike Glennon threw all over them. That is not the case at all. Sure, if you look at his final statline of 14-21, 247 and 2 TDs and a 138.4 passer rating, you can easily come to that conclusion. But if you watched that game, Glennon was hardly efficient in those yards. Take away those two big plays, and he's left with 12-19, 115 yards and a TD. And 23 of those yards came on third-and-long situations that did not pick up first downs.

Of course, you can't take away those big plays, because they happened, and they continue to happen. The Lions have forfeited 12 passing plays of 40+ yards this season, which is only topped by the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens.

And the offense...what can I say? There is no reason a team with this much talent should be struggling like it is. Five turnovers. That's the only relevant stat in this game. The offense had every chance to win that game on Sunday, and squandered every single opportunity. Of the five interceptions, three happened within the Bucs' 20-yard line, while the other two happened just as the Lions were crossing into Bucaneers' territory. By conservative estimates, the Lions gave away at least 12 points, while handing the Bucs 7 of their own.

Sure, Tampa deserves some credit on defense for pressuring Stafford all day and forcing him into some of his mistakes, but some of these turnovers were just plain, stupidity on the Lions' behalf. Calvin Johnson should have held onto that final ball, and he would've played hero again. If anyone could offer an explanation on Kris Durham throwing the ball away or Brandon Pettigrew ducking out of the way on a poorly thrown ball, I'd love to hear it.

All of this is terribly embarrassing, extremely frustrating, but mostly self-inflicted. And that's what gives me a glimmer of hope in the face of impeding doom. It's the handful of plays every week that sink this otherwise extremely talented team. At the beginning of the year, it seemed they had these breakdowns under control. They only had 8 turnovers through their first seven games, and Stafford was a calm, calculated killer. But in the last four games, they've turned it over 12 times, while Stafford's accuracy and composure have plummeted. Through five weeks, Stafford completed 63.8% of his passes. In the last six, that number has fallen to a mere 55.4%.

There's no rhyme or reason for this drastic change. The Lions are playing the same game they did in the first half of the season, and for the most part, their opponents aren't playing them any differently either. The Lions proved they can play fairly clean ballgames earlier in the season, and I want to believe they can return to form for the last stretch of the season. But staring down the barrel of another season gone awry, it's hard to have true confidence in this team any longer. Judgement day comes early this week, so they'll have little time to eliminate the mistakes. If they don't right the ship by Thursday, you can find me in a bunker for the rest of the year.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Three Days Late "Live" Blog: Lions at Steelers

First quarter:
13:53 - Great third-down play to Reggie Bush, but that's an awfully ominous sign seeing him fumble it away. The Lions were probably lucky to have him called down by contact here.

13:05 - Here's another brilliantly designed screen pass that failed to pick up the yardage it should have.

It's an end around fake to Bush that gets more than half of the defense going in the wrong direction. Joique Bell has all sorts of room to take it down field.

But Bell is weary of Larry Warford's block and tries to cut it back inside. That cut allows the defender catch him from behind. With his back turned to the play initially, it's hard to fully blame Bell here, but it's pretty clear he could have beaten everyone to the outside and taken the play for at least 20+ yards.

11:10 - Man, they've been saying that Joseph Fauria has been a liability in terms of blocking. They're right:

Fauria should be taking care of the safety in the second level. Instead, he....well, I don't know what the hell he's doing.

10:25 - That third down overthrow to Reggie wasn't going to be a touchdown, but it certainly should have been an easy pickup.

10:22 - Then a drop by Calvin Johnson to end the drive. Wonderful.

Thing I learned from this drive: the Lions had plenty of chances to make big plays on this drive, but failed to execute.

8:46 - Poor awareness by Stephen Tulloch, dropping three yards beyond the first down line on a 3rd and 8.

7:05 - Two big mistakes on this 3rd and 11 converstion by the Steelers. First, Don Carey evades a block on the wrong side of the blocker, taking himself completely out of the play. Meanwhile, Tulloch does a good job evading his block, but then misses the speedy Antonio Brown completely.

6:28 - Glover Quin quickly identifies this pass to Brown, but completely whiffs on the tackle. Chris Houston, enamored by the play of Quin, quickly follows suit and it's 7-0 Pittsburgh.

By my rudimentary counting skills, all but one of the passes on that drive were thrown within two seconds of the snap. Good luck, defensive line.

5:28 - And the Lions respond with a quick three-and-out, after Matthew Stafford overthrows an open Kevin Ogletree for a likely touchdown. frustrating.

4:08 - Oh, Delmas. My sweet, sweet Delmas. He lines up trying to disguise coverage by lining up directly over the inside receiver. In reality, he is covering Brown, the outside receiver. At the snap, he strangely tries to jam them both. But ends up whiffing on the two.

Already in desperation mode, Delmas (bottom of the screen) tries to hold onto Brown and give himself a chance to recover, but he's lost all of his leverage and Brown blows by him.

The defensive line did what they could and forced Ben Roethlisberger out of the pocket, but he had an easy read from there.

1:59 - Bell showing some speed there, outrunning Troy Polamalu to the outside.

Second quarter:



oh, hamburgers.

That's all on Stafford. The defense didn't force a high throw. In fact, Stafford could have thrown this ball anywhere and it likely would have been caught. But a fully-extended Brandon Pettigrew could only get his fingertips on it.

14:05 - It's absolutely unreal how fast DeAndre Levy sniffed out this end-around, blowing it up for an 8 yard loss. This dude's instincts are off the charts.

12:41 - I'll just go ahead and quote myself after this Bush fumble on first down (with good field position):
"For someone as valuable to the team as Reggie Bush, he sure does a lot of things that annoy me."
12:31 - Pressure finally gets to Roethlisberger, and of course he pulls a play out of nowhere and shovels the ball for a first down.

10:34 - Good pressure by Israel Idonije to force the incompletion on third down. Nice to finally say that guy's name, too.

10:27 - Another excellent play design from Scott Linehan:

After the play-action to the left, Stafford bootlegs to the top of the screen. This gets the defense, whose original momentum was taking them in the direction of the run, to scramble back to the top of the screen, where all of the routes are being run....except one. Johnson appears to be running a fly, but then cuts his route against the grain of the defense. The safety does not see this and tries to undercut a crossing route. And Calvin does the rest.

9:07 - Levy just got Reggie Bush'd by Le'Veon Bell.

Again, pressure was ALMOST there from Willie Young, but Ben got rid of the ball quickly.


5:27 - Bush showing his value on a play he isn't targeted on. His crossing route swallows up a few defenders leaving Pettigrew wide open for a big 31 yard gain.

3:58 - And Stafford finishes the drive with ease, hitting two wide open receivers for 25 and 19 yard gains.  Football is easy again!

3:22 - OoooOOOooo. A defended pass. That's new.

2:31 - Stafford's near interception is forgiven because Calvin was getting held pretty bad on the play. Uncalled.

2:00 - A strangely-conventional screen pass from the Lions, and Joique takes it for 37 yards. That's just great downfield blocking. Finally, some good execution!


1:11 - I don't even have to say it anymore:
0:52 - That is a rough timeout to take. I sure hope it doesn't come back to bite them.............

0:21 - OH LOOK, it came back to bite them. First and goal from the Steelers' 4 yard line with no timeouts. That pretty much means you can't afford to run it once. A run means you likely don't get three plays off, and puts even a field goal at risk. The Steelers know this and it severely limits the Lions' options here. Three plays later, the Lions are forced into a field goal.

Third quarter:

13:41 - Consider this my obligation to point out that Delmas made a good play here.

12:23 - That's a bunk roughing the passer call on C.J Mosely. Also, the word bunk isn't used enough.

12:18 - THAT'S WHY LEVY PLAYS DEFENSE, HARHARHARHARDAMNIT. Seriously, bud, you have to catch that.

10:31 - Dropped pass, Bush slip, sack. Looks like the offense's third quarter slumber is in effect.

9:13 - Houston has his hands full with Brown. Houston got turned around several times on this play, allowing Brown to pick up 21 easy yards.

6:07 - Strange play on this should-have-been-touchdown from the Steelers.

Ashlee Palmer and Delmas are in coverage. First, Palmer jabs his man, but then releases him and chases down Heath Miller, who Delmas also rushes to cover. This leaves the other tight end wide open. I don't know whose responsibility that man was, but Delmas and Palmer were chirping at each other after the play.

4:39 - That is just an unreal throw from Stafford on the run.

The ball actually gets tipped slightly, but still hits Jeremy Ross in stride.

Fourth quarter:
(leave while you still can)

15:00 - This was not a designed quarterback draw. The receivers are clearly running routes, though there may have been a draw option. Rob Sims makes a huge block down field and Stafford picks up the first.

13:44 - It's really tough not to have Bell in this situation. He had been rushing the ball extremely well on this drive before going down with an injury. Bush does an okay job replacing him, but this slip on 2nd and 4 was killer.

12:56 - I'm not going to say anything more about the decision to fake the field goal, but here's where the play broke down. It was Don Muhlbach and Riley Reiff who messed up the play.

Their job was to seal their guys from the inside to prevent any defenders from the backside of the play to get involved. At this moment, they are in good position...

Unfortunately both failed to keep this containment. Credit to both Steelers defenders, who sniffed out the fake pretty quickly, but if Reiff and Muhlbach hold those blocks, it's an easy first down.

11:25 - The Lions with a big opportunity to get off the field with the Steelers deep in their own zone on 3rd and 9. But Houston whiffs on another jab, then DeJon Gomes is way late in recognizing the play and Brown picks up an easy 16.

9:44 - Mosely with a great swim move to pressure Roethlisberger, but he got no help from Don Carey, who was extremely soft and hesitant in coverage.

7:30 - Hesistation by Rocky McIntosh on the play-action allowed the Steelers to pick up the fourth-down conversion with relative ease.

6:16 - Carey does a good job of avoiding the natural pick play from the Steelers...but then he overruns his man and misses the tackle, resulting in a near touchdown.

4:50 - I think the Lions can expect a lot of goal line passes on defense from now on. To their credit, Detroit is stellar in run defending on goal-to-go situations. But that leaves them woefully unprepared to defend the pass. It burned them twice here. Once, resulting in a holding penalty. The other, resulting in a touchdown...and we aren't done yet.

4:36 - Killer drops by Theo Riddick and Ross to start the drive. Ross' drop was inexcusable.

4:28 - I'm not sure I like the design on this play that resulted in an interception. It looks similar to the roll-out that resulted in a touchdown earlier, but there are some key differences.

First, there is no play-action on the play (it was 3rd and 10, so that makes sense). As you can see, the defense is not scrambling to recover from anything. Everyone on defense is right where they want to be.

The second issue is Kris Durham's route. Rather than crossing over the middle of the field, he runs a post-route designed to draw the safety over to his side. Here's the problem: with Stafford rolling way to his right, that makes the post route on the opposite side an impossible ball to throw. Therefore, the safety doesn't go with Durham, but rather reads Stafford and stays back.

Even though Calvin burns the safety on his side, the backside safety easily makes the play. If the play was designed to have Calvin's route a little more vertical, Stafford may have been able to slip the ball in before the backside safety could have recovered, but the route basically went exactly to where the safety was waiting.

2:35 - And Don Carey drives the stake through the heart by trying to jump the bubble screen that never was. Hurry back, Bill Bentley.

Quick thoughts:

- Even though that fourth quarter was brutal, this game wasn't as bad as I thought. There were some early, silly mistakes, but the Lions really controlled a lot of the game from the second to third quarter.

- Mistakes from backups really killed the Lions at the end of the game. See: Riddick, Ross, Carey, McIntosh and Gomes.

- Aside from the strange 3rd down call that resulted in an interception, I had no qualms with the coaching. The plays were there; the players didn't make them.

- I stand firm on my belief that the Lions defensive line played a good game. They can't control how quickly Ben is getting the ball out. And they actually pressured him a good amount given how little time he held onto the ball.