Monday, August 22, 2011

What it is Ain't Exactly Clear

Those of you who have completed any Psych 101 class are probably well aware of the concept of confirmation bias.  For those who are unfamiliar, confirmation bias is the equivalent to the saying "you hear what you want to hear."  It's the phenomenon when people interpret an event to match their preconceived notions.  If you think Obama will be a bad president, you're more inclined to view each of his subsequent acts as president in a more negative manner.  If you think Final Destination 5 is five too many movies in that series, you're more likely to hate it upon watching.  Friday's 30-28 victory over the Cleveland Browns was the Lions' Confirmation Bias game, and consequently, my opinions of the team did not change much .

Last week's Panic Du Jour* was the running game.  This week, it's a hot bowl of "Oh my god, our defense is terrible!"  On paper, it's easy to see where the hysteria is coming from.  Colt McCoy went 10-18 for 96 yards 3 TD 0 INTs and was not sacked.  By the time he was out of the game, the Browns led 21-10 and the memories of last week's bloodbath had been stabbed into oblivion.

But, in reality, the damage was much less catastrophic.  Just take a look at this drive chart that the local Browns broadcast offered just before halftime:

Note to local Cleveland TV station: No six play drive has ever taken 9:49 off the clock
After four possessions, the Browns had gained only two first downs.  McCoy was a measly 4-10 for 24 yards and a TD (81.3 QB rating).  Running back Brandon Jackson had 5 rushes for 7 yards.  Not exactly stellar numbers.

As for the other two possessions, the Lions started to sub in some second stringers.  On McCoy's second TD pass, Detroit was working with the second-string defensive line, but the rest of the team looked to be first-stringers.  The play was pretty well covered, and on passes like that, you just have to tip your hat to McCoy.

The last possession listed was almost entirely against backups.  It was by far the Browns' most successful drive, yet it was aided by 45 penalty yards (including a weak PI call.  Note to refs: just because a corner's back is turned doesn't mean he's interfering).  No real reason to panic there, either.

That's not to say there aren't troublesome signs.  Detroit's short-range pass defense has looked soft for two consecutive weeks, and the run game continues to struggle.  But these are things that we saw last week and presumed before then.  This team is far from flawless, but much better than any team we've seen in the past decade.

As I mentioned before, though the final result looked much different from last week, my basic thoughts on the Lions remain the same.  Stafford and the first-string offense looked very strong, even in the absence of Calvin Johnson.  Nate Burleson made another awe-inspiring grab.  The offensive line continued to excel in pass protection and struggle in run blocking.  And the defense looks improved but not quite there.

If you were riding a high after last week, there's no reason to come down to Earth after Friday.  Stafford is still Stafford.  The defensive line continues to have their way.  But if you were worried about the running game and the inconsistency of the back seven on defense, Friday didn't do much the quell those fears.  Interpret away, but always remember: it's only preseason.

*Uh...Du...Week?  Sorry, my entire French repertoire (ooo, that's French!) is derived from Muzzy commercials.  For years, I unknowingly referred to myself as "a little girl" in an attempt to impress women.  

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