Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Three Days Late "Live" Blog: Lions at Cardinals

This will be my first time viewing the game via the TV feed, as I was regrettably at the game. So expect more shock and awe about the horrible announcing. If some things were already discussed to death on twitter or other social media, I apologize. I did not contribute in any of those things during the game because I lacked the capabilities at the time.

First Quarter:

14:55 - Cardinals connect deep on the first play of the game. Both teams sending a message early. Cardinals: we're not afraid of your banged-up secondary. Lions: we're not capable of stopping anyone.

14:23 - Stephen Tulloch blitzes on the next play and runs right past Beanie Wells, without getting a hand on him. He must at least slow him down.

12:20 - Lions bringing heat early, but lack the tight coverage to prevent the easy, quick throws.

10:51 - Jacob Lacey makes a nice play and promptly has a Cardinal lineman fall on the back of his leg, dislocating his knee cap. Wasn't intentionally dirty, but when a defender has the ball-carrier wrapped up, should another player really be allowed to try and separate him from the offender?

9:11 - Patrick Peterson is good.

8:51 - Wow. Great read by DeAndre Levy. He was pretty far away from that play when Ryan Lindley wound up to pass, but Levy made up a lot of ground and got there just in time to get the interception.

8:45 - Leshoure's hesitation costing him yards in the backfield.

7:48 - Without Broyles, Pettigrew, Burleson and Titus, this passing offense is officially neutered.

6:20 - Good recognition by Jonte Green to force that toss sweep back inside.

6:00 - One thing you may not have noticed via TV: their punter is crazy-good. Every punt went 50+ yards in the air and was a perfect spiral. Watching Nick Harris punt on the same field was embarrassing. Harris didn't kick a spiral all day.

4:44 - Cardinals putting coverage on Calvin Johnson that I've never seen before. Double coverage in the slot, and Stafford lays a nice ball to him. Unfortunately, the Cardinals secondary is very good, and they get a hand on the ball.

3:49 - Suh is essentially triple-teamed.

The running back was planning on blocking a blitzing linebacker, but none came. Suh is taken out of the play and Lindley is able to scramble for 9 yards in his absence.

2:08 - Good adjustment by Mike Thomas on the end-around. The defensive end read the play well, so Thomas cut it inside and picked up the first.

Second Quarter:

15:00 - We begin the second quarter with talk of the tragedy in Connecticut. Cue the random shot of a fan holding a sign saying, "We miss hockey." Um...okay.

14:54 - Absolutely brilliant play call on third and 9. With Calvin in the slot to the left, he runs a slant over the middle of the field, drawing nearly every defender that way (one defender also happened to be thankfully blitzing). Kevin Smith sneaks out of the backfield and runs to all the empty field left by Calvin's void.

13:43 - Calvin playing decoy again on this third down to perfection.

As Stafford cocks his arm back, the two defenders close in on Calvin, cutting over the middle. Meanwhile, Heller is headed in the opposite direction and has an easy first down.

12:51 - Excellent drive. Lions used Calvin perfectly as a decoy on third downs, while also getting him his touches on other downs. Perfect mixture.

10:21 - FOX cares so little about this game. There's almost no replays of anything, except for blown snaps, which we all saw perfectly the first time around.

9:29 - No words. Okay, maybe a few words. Firstly, I'm not sure how the ruling on the field can change AFTER the referee's huddle with each other, but BEFORE you go and review the play. Secondly, fuck our special teams. I don't like dropping f-bombs in my writing, but fuck our special teams.

9:18 - Once again, the refs can't get their shit together. One ref CLEARLY called the play a fumble and was giving the ball to the Lions (can't really see this on TV, but I absolutely saw it with my own eyes). Then the refs confer, change their mind for some reason, and replay isn't enough to change it either way. Pardon the cursing, but the anger is setting in already.

7:18 - Lions getting the running game going with a couple of big cutback lanes. Credit to Leshoure for finding and exploiting those holes.

7:06 - Oh, Gosder. He obviously holds a guy and immediately looks behind him, expecting to see the flag. Surprise! It's there!

6:35 - Stafford yapping at the ref after this play. Why? Well, don't expect any sort of replay from FOX to provide any clarity. Luckily, I'm here with the coaches film:

Heller's route gets impeded and any separation he has here is completely lost.

4:10 - If you're ever wondering why teams run the ball when backed up in their own zone, this is exactly why. You cannot afford to turn it over deep in your own zone. At this point, the Lions running game was working perfectly, and although the two false starts forced the Lions even further back, the Lions needed to run the ball here. Instead, Stafford forced a ball to Calvin and handed the Cardinals seven points. There was a clear miscommunication between Stafford and Calvin, as Stafford threw outside and Calvin cut inside (partially due to an obvious hold by Peterson). But it was a bad play call to begin with.

3:16 - It's sad to me how little faith the Lions have in their kick returners. They won't even let him run out a kick one-yard deep in the endzone. If that's the case, why bother sporting a guy back there?

1:50 - If I'm not mistaken (I'm not, I checked), this was the first catch by a wide receiver not named Calvin Johnson. AFTER the two-minute warning. Not. Good.


Here are the two plays right before Stafford's first pick-six of the day. Stafford with a perfect pass to Scheffler for a would-be first down on Arizona's side of the field. Dropped. False start by Cherilus to force a third-and-15. Teammates not helping him out.


0:41 - Granted third and 15 is a tough down to convert, there is no reason to throw the ball there (obviously). Don't know if Stafford just didn't see the safety waiting for him or if he thought he could barrel it in there before he broke on it, but either way, it was too close of a call to pull the trigger. Absolutely killer way to end the half.

Third Quarter:

13:40 - Why, Leshoure, why?

It's third and 1, and if Leshoure hits the hole with no hesitation, it's an easy first down. Instead, he hesitates and cuts it outside. The back-side defensive end easily catches him behind the line of scrimmage. This is becoming a weekly problem.

9:45 - Don Carey is PUMPED about letting the Cardinals into field goal position!

8:10 - Just an outstanding play by Calvin on third down.

7:48 - Leshoure almost breaks a huge run. Again he struggles to find the hole initially, but eventually makes the right read. But if he finds that hole immediately and hits finish that sentence.

3:12 - God awful pass interference call. Maybe the worst I've ever seen. I'm honestly a little surprised you can't hear me on the TV feed. One of the few times I've yelled in a profanity-laced fashion at a sporting event.

1:14 - Ha ha. Cardinals punting on the Lions' 36 yard line on a fourth and 2. Stupid, stupid decision, even with the Lions' inept special teams.

Fourth Quarter:

14:21 - One of the few times Suh isn't double teamed and he sacks Lindley immediately. Go figure.

13:07 - Andre Fluellen reads the screen, but is nearly dragged down with a hold. Still, he's able to disrupt the play enough to let someone else clean up the play.

12:29 - Scheffler wins my love and then tears my heart out. Can't blame Stafford for the throw, as he's under immense pressure. He put the ball where Scheffler should have caught it, and even though he had to turn himself around, it went right through his hands. I want to dig a hole and cry myself to sleep in it until someone fills the hole with cement.

11:30 - Stafford getting a concussion test on the sideline. Do we get to see what happened or maybe what play it may have occurred on? Of course not, this is FOX.

10:00 - That is the reason I have a Delmas jersey. Dude is a beast in run coverage. Huge defensive play.

9:29 - "Lions need a play out of their special teams or defense..." how about ONE from their offense?

6:50 - Third and 1 from the three-yard line. I don't want to watch the rest of this game.

6:09 - Delay of game completely unacceptable here. And as the referee says, that's on number nine.

5:24 - I've watched this play the maximum amount of times before I start ripping my own hair out, eating it, then trying to sell my hairy excrement on ebay for Rogaine money. And I still can't figure out what Stafford was doing here. He could've thrown a fade to Durham or he could've thrown the out to Scheffler. Instead he threw a hybrid of those passes right to a Cardinal. Scheffler would've scored if he hit him, and God knows what Durham would've done. Probably something in between bobbling it horribly only for it to get pick-sixed anyway and making a one-handed between the legs catch while doing a backflip.

That's your ballgame. Since I'm with my family and the anger is rising, I'm going to stop things there. Have a good week folks.


Monday, December 17, 2012

When It Stops, Nobody Knows

My posse and I at the Cardinals game. I'm the handsome one.

This week I return to Ford Field for the first time in four years. The last time I took that stroll down Adams street, the Lions lost their 12th straight game to the Vikings. I remember the cold walk to the car. Ass-to-elbow with my fellow fans. Everyone yelling obscenities and calling for anybody's head. There was chaos, there was anarchy, it was Armageddon and we were walking down the steps of hell to our eventual damnation.

Those were the easy days.

If you're a frequent reader, you know that I'm not the banner-waving type. Rarely do I raise my voice during games. I deal with my frustrations by growing intensely silent and blocking out everything around me. So when walls of Ford Field were crumbling in 2008, I kept my head down, kept walking and let the city devour itself as I attempted to comprehend what was going on in the depths of my inner madness.

It's been awhile since I've felt that way. Even though this season has been wildly turbulent, including heart-devouring losses on a near-weekly basis, I never felt the sort of empty, hopelessness of 2008.

But as I walked away from University of Phoenix Stadium, bathed in gold from the setting sun, all those familiar feelings bowled over me like towering waves. After losing to a team on a nine-game skid, the Lions were once again the joke of the league, and I was wearing the jester's uniform.
After all the tough calls, bad breaks, and unlikely plays, I figured we had taken all the punishment we could physically withstand. The Lions season, after all, was by all means "over." There were no real stakes, and no rewards to be won. The winner of this game gets to be 5-9 with no chance of any real accomplishments. But this team still finds ways to have the ground fall out from beneath us. With the seat under Jim Schwartz warming at an exponential rate, I needed the Lions to not only beat the Cardinals (whose lack of talent is alarmingly obvious) I needed them to destroy them. I needed faith to be restored in the hearts of Lions fans. But I also needed it to restore my OWN faith, my own sanity, which has been despite the mounting losses had remained impressively intact. Instead, I got a first row seat* to...whatever the hell that was.

Surviving an 0-16 season is easy. Aside from the occasional assholes, you get all the sympathy from outsiders. The fan-base isn't broken and cannibalistic. Everyone bonds together knowing that we've collectively hit rock bottom and that change and brighter days were ahead.

But when you have the added weight of expectations, the highs are higher and the lows are lower. Each win feels huge and meaningful, while each defeat feels like a season-ender. Small successes bring delusions of grandeur and invincibility, while losses send strong-willed men into the depths of insanity. And when your expectations are inevitably unfulfilled, no one bats an eye of sympathy. You're just one of tens of casualties to the tumultuous NFL.

But the most maddening aspect of a team with expectations is the unknown. When you're the worst team in the league, that's an easy thing to grasp. It's an absolute. it's irrefutable, undeniable. It's something terrible, but its something real, and true. It's something we can grasp and physically claim as ours.

But when you're 4-10, fresh off a 10-6 season, you know nothing. What is the teams' true talent level? What record SHOULD they be? Who is to blame? How are we going to be next year? I thought I knew most of these answers four months ago, but now I am lost, quietly walking another fiery road of defeat as the world screams in panic and agony. Does the path lead to another pit of despair? Is it just a detour of our journey to peace, love and glory? I have no answers, and that feels so much worse than anything.

As Matthew Stafford hopelessly tried to lead the Lions to one last, meaningless score, my posse stood in stunned silence. As waves of red and blue passed us, almost assuredly looking for some sort of reaction, we kept our gaze forward. Wanting to scream, but being unable to break through the overwhelming sense of defeat and depression, we just looked ahead, hoping we had finally seen the bottom of the pit. 

We may have finally reached the final ring of hell, but who's to say the floor we currently stand on won't give out next week or even next year? But maybe this is just what being a Lions fan is: surviving the falls, pulling ourselves back to our feet only to plunge further and deeper. I just don't know anymore.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Barry Sanders: A Life.

I'm not going to do a Monday wrap-up this week. I've tried to think of a new angle to take, or a fresh way to look at things, but it's the same thing every week (or at least the past four weeks). Start with a decent-looking football team, seemingly able to hang with the best of them, mix in one improbable-but-somehow-expected horrific play, sprinkle in a late defensive breakdown, add in some offensive miscommunications, bake at 400 degrees in the fourth quarter, and garnish with horrible special teams. BOOM, you've got yourself a Lions loss. The Lions aren't HORRIBLE. They don't need things blown up. They've been in every game they've played and pretty much proven they should be on the same field with their opponents. But they are far from great. When the inconsistencies become consistent, you have a problem. You have players who can't put together an entire game without making a back-breaking mistake, or you have players who can't even make the field. It's the perfect combination of bad luck and guys who are extremely susceptible to the bad luck. The Lions may be the best 4-9 team, but they are still 4-9. And no one is to blame but themselves.

With that out of the way, I'd like to talk about Barry Sanders. I'm sure many of you watched NFL Network's documentary "Barry Sanders: A Football Life" last week. It was fantastic. It brought back all the wondrous memories of my favorite athlete growing up, and my favorite athlete to this day. He's the reason I fell in love with football. He was the reason I played sports as a child, despite my size and lack of stature. He's the reason I still wear the #20 for my roller hockey team. 

The documentary did a great job of detailing all the amazing runs Sanders had during his career. But that wasn't what drew me to the film. I know about youtube. I probably spend way too much time reliving his decleating of John Lynch or gazing in awe at the way he turned around that Cowboys lineman, whose name I haven't bothered learning out of respect for his family.

No, what really endeared me to Sanders and this documentary was what he represented to a young child like myself. He wasn't just an incredible athlete who dazzled with his agility, vision and balance. He was humble. He was quiet. He was reserved. He was everything I was and wanted to be.

Growing up on the far left of the height bell curve was tough for me. I always had an affinity for sports, and I still have a competitive nature that's hard to match. And while I would consider myself an above-average athlete, during youth, when physical stature is at its most variable, my measurables created a ceiling too low. I can still remember my only basket in my third-grade basketball rec league. Just inside of the three-point arc, I drew the ball next to my right ear (I was still too weak to get it to the basket from there with a standard shot) and heaved it in desperation. SWISH. 

So I drifted to the sports where my physical liabilities would be limited. Soccer became my new favorite sport to play, where agility, creativity and speed reigned supreme. But for as much as I loved soccer, it could never match my love for football. And while I couldn't compete in any Pop Warner leagues and my two-year stint as a middle school safety never progressed beyond a couple fifth and sixth quarter snaps (yes, that's a real thing), I excelled in back yard football. During recess, I can still remember reversing field, shoulder-shaking and contorting my body just out of reach from my opponent's two hands.

And while my visions of taking these backyard skills to the NFL never came close to being a reality. Barry made that dream real for me. And it wasn't just his ability to overcome his size that drew me to him. It was his entire personality, and watching that documentary really highlighted that aspect of his life.

Barry was soft-spoken and never fully comfortable in the spotlight. He was terse in post-game interviews, his off-field life was a mystery, and he never seemed interested in voicing his opinion on just about anything. Just watch him struggle through his Hall of Fame speech. While I'm sure the moment meant a lot to him, he would've much preferred to just receive his statue in the mail. He wanted to show everyone how talented he was, but didn't need to talk about it afterwards. He wanted his play to do the talking.

As an introvert myself, finding athlete role models I could identify with was nearly impossible, especially in the extravagant NFL. People too often confuse competitiveness with arrogance. What follows is an athletic culture that is so obsessive over itself, it can be hard to relate to. But Sanders had all of the former and none of the latter. He fought through being underestimated and undervalued with hard work, determination, and a tough-but-motivating father. It was never about being the absolute best, but trying the best. And while that sounds like cheesy, grade-school coach-speak, it was extremely refreshing to see on the professional level.

The documentary did an excellent job driving this point home with Sanders' juxtoposition with Emmitt Smith. Smith represents everything I hated (and hate) about athlete culture. The obsession with self, the trash-talk, the constant strive for stats. Smith, who apparently still can't appear publicly without an underlying sense of smugness, had everything a running back could ask for: a Pro Bowl offensive line, a national stage in Dallas, and a Hall of Fame quarterback. Smith eventually accumulated three Super Bowl victories, four season rushing titles and the career rushing leader title. And while he certainly had an immense amount of talent and endured an incredible amount of work, next to Sanders, he was the entitled, rich kid who felt the need to shove it in your face to validate himself. Even in the waning moments of the documentary, Smith felt it necessary to take one parting shot at Sanders saying, "No matter what you do, it's never enough [...] Bottom line is, what I've done, I've done." Of course, the subtext there is "I'M the one with the records and trophies, so I'M the best."

But Barry doesn't care about any of that nonsense. He doesn't care if he's the best running back or the fifth best running back. He just cares that he gave it his all on every down, every carry, every game.

Which brings us to his retirement: the most polarizing topic you can bring up for Lions fans. I have never had a problem with Barry's retirement, and Sanders made it clear why no one should. He says clearly and confidently, "The reason I am retiring is simple: My desire to enter the game is greater than my desire to remain in it." And while that may be hard for us to comprehend or understand, it is something that was true for him. And the minute Barry Sanders does not have the desire the play football is the minute that he is no longer Barry on the field. Sanders without the passion is nobody. His greatest athletic quality was his determination and desire on every single play and without it, he would be a player unrecognizable and inefficient.

The one issue I do have with his retirement was the way in which it happened. Leaving the organization out to dry by retiring the day before training camp via fax was a cold way to leave the franchise. I understand that Barry did not want to incur the media storm that was to follow, but this is one of those situations where Barry should have left his comfort zone, albeit for one day, to give the Lions organization and fanbase one final, fair goodbye.

But that minor blunder sullies nothing for me. If anything, it's a reminder that people like Barry -- like me -- don't necessarily owe the Emmitt Smith's of the world anything. You can have all the talent in the world, but you are still free to make unpopular choices and you don't have to rationalize or apologize to anyone for being yourself. Because even on one of the biggest stages in the world, the National Football league, a quiet, withdrawn man like Barry Sanders can still exist and thrive.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Just Because...

 These two GIFs need to be on the same page:

Via SBNation
and SBNation

They seem to disagree on something.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Three Days Late "Live" Blog: Lions vs. Colts

These aren't getting any easier to do...

First Quarter

15:00 - For those still complaining about the Lions taking the ball instead of deferring, I've got one question for you: do you really think the defense is better than the offense?

13:44 - I think we all know by now that Mikel Leshoure doesn't have great hands, but maybe put a little touch on it, Stafford?

13:32 - Nick Harris with a 50-yard punt with enough hang time to draw a fair catch. This will be his best punt of the rest of his career.

13:00 - Andrew Luck staring down his favorite target, Reggie Wayne, he's covered tightly by Chris Houston. Luck panics, and finds himself covered in Suh.

8:57 - On the Lions' third down play, if Stafford wasn't feeling the pressure (after Gosder Cherilus got beat terribly) he could have waited as Mike Thomas was breaking open over the middle (with a little help from a Pettigrew pick). Instead, he forced a pass to Calvin Johnson, who wasn't ready for the pass.

8:49 - *grumblegrumblewhycouldn'tyoudothatlastweekgrumblegrumble*

8:14 - This incomplete pass by Luck could have very well been a fumble. It's a shame we never got a slow-mo replay to see if the ball was loose in Luck's hands when he started moving his arm forward. Good awareness by Levy to pick up the ball and run, just in case.

8:00 - Speedy receivers are this defense's kryptonite. The reason? They can take advantage of our terrible safeties and the terrible angles they take.

6:29 - Good defensive call on third-and-11, as Delmas blitzes untouched, but Drayton Florence gets beaten badly and Luck delivers a great ball off his back foot. Disappointing defensive drive, as they were successful on four of six plays. But those two plays were killer.

5:34 - Great patience and elusiveness by Joique Bell on the screen. Also, Peterman as a lead blocker on a screen is hilarious. He runs frantically looking to his left and right, while choosing not to block anyone.

4:47 - Jesus, Tony Scheffler. Unbelievable.

4:40 - Side note, if I'm not mistaken, Ryan Broyles tore his ACL on his only catch of the day. After the catch, he got up immediately (with a slight limp) and played the next play. Love this guy.

4:00 - I love that the Lions hustled to the line to prevent a review of the Scheffler catch, but it'd be nice to run a play that isn't a complete waste.

1:48 - Yes, it was an excellent grab by Pettigrew. But that's what we were expecting of him when we drafted him in the first round. Do it consistently, now.

1:18 - Holy crap, look at the job the defensive line does on this run:

Party in the backfield, everyone's invited.
0:29 - Justin Durant with a beautiful read on the third down pass. Haven't seen a lot of linebackers make plays in the passing game this season. Gotta catch it though, man.

Second Quarter

13:36 - Third-and-1, Logan as the half back, Leshoure as the full back. Pretty obvious play call. It worked, though.

12:50 - OUTSTANDING play from Stafford. His initial read to Scheffler is not open and pressure is coming. He looks to Pettigrew, who doesn't appear to be open. But Stafford throws him open. Just look at how "covered" Pettigrew is when Stafford releases the ball:

Stafford's throw to the inside allows Pettigrew to break open and get the first down and more.

12:12 - Calvin. Johnson.

11:27 - Leshoure has been incredibly valuable in the red zone. It's nice to say that about anybody not named Calvin Johnson.

11:16 - This screen works because the linebackers are terribly confused by everything. First, the play action gets the linebackers close to the line of scrimmage. When they realize it's a pass, they turn their heads and run back at full speed.

Both Levy and Tulloch are wildly out of position and both have their heads turned away from the play, so they cannot recognize the screen. Yet Levy still has a chance at making the play. Instead, he takes a bad angle and it's a foot race.

9:47 - Really tough pass to defend, especially considering Levy is not much of a pass defender. He's in good position, but the pass is nearly perfect and the safety has no chance to get there in time.

8:55 - Mike Thomas. The only player in the world who can make me think -- even if it's for just a millisecond -- "I miss Titus Young."

8:25 - These offside penalties are like gnats. They're pesky, but easily ignorable. That is, until you finally swing at one of those gnats and accidentally smash your flat-screen TV. In this case, your flat-screen is an interception.

8:16 - Great interception by Florence, who had been having a terrible game up to this point. But perhaps one of the biggest bone-headed block in the backs I've ever seen. Jacob Lacey pushes Luck INTO Florence, allowing Andrew to force him out of bounds and picking up a 10-yard penalty in the process. Florence probably scores without the block.

8:08 - PD (Pettigrew Drop).

6:23 - Lions defensive tackles are just dominating the game. Suh and Fairley nearly force the three-and-out on their own. On second down, Suh evades his lineman and forces the run inside, where Fairley has pushed his guy back four yards. This allows Suh to catch up and make the tackle. On third down, both have a chance to sack Luck, but they miss. Still, their pursuit forced a bad throw.

5:06 - I'm not entirely sure that Stafford isn't trying to throw this ball away, but if he isn't, that is the greatest touch I've ever seen on a pass.

3:51 - PD

1:50 - Don't know what in the world Luck saw with that throw, but I'll take it.

1:06 - Stafford was throwing this ball to Pettigrew the entire way. Unfortunately, he didn't see Robert Mathis drop into coverage. Terrible mistake to make in Colts territory.

Third Quarter

12:05 - A rare missed tackle by Delmas allows Ballard to skip into the endzone. Delmas hesitated initially, giving himself a tougher angle to take him down. Rough way to start the half.

6:46 - Suh beating double teams, making a tackle for loss. No big deal.

5:45 - Mike Thomas drop #3. This does not bode well.

5:36 - I LOVE the middle screen. But the defensive tackle read this perfectly. Shame.

4:59 - Calvin Johnson's arm gets tugged hard, but no call. Megatron gets no respect.

3:56 - Logan is actually a pretty good punt returner...assuming he catches the ball.

0:02 - Third-and-12: Wait and wait in the pocket until Johnson breaks open. I like that play call.

Fourth Quarter

12:50 - Random question: is there a logical reason why horse-collar tackles are illegal but pulling a guy's hair from behind is legal? Seems to me both present the same injury threat.

11:34 - Avril with a HUGE strip sack. If Suh gets that ball, game over.

10:28 - This is why film review is so much fun. On Joique Bell's huge run, Rob Sims laid a HUGE block. Gosder almost blew it by barely getting enough of the other linebacker, but it did the trick:

If you look closely, you can actually see the linebacker's spirit leaving his body upon contact. Little known fact: all Colt players' spirits look like a 3rd grader's drawing of an angel.

9:36 - Stafford with a pass behind Johnson. If they connect there, game over.

6:49 - Great defensive series by the Lions here. After allowing the Colts a few passes underneath, burning a lot of clock, Florence breaks up a first-down pass, Vanden Bosch forces an incompletion, and Don Carey doesn't drop a pass thrown right to him. 99 times out of 100, the game is now over.

5:40 - Lions gain a first down off of two rushes. 999 out of 1000, the game is over now.

4:18 - I wrote about this clock management yesterday, but long story short: it was pretty stupid of the Lions to throw it twice here. If the Lions chose to run it three times instead, the ball game comes down to an onside kick, at worst.

4:14 - If Stafford doesn't throw it behind Calvin on third down, game over.

3:29 - Look at this screen grab for a second.

Study it. Look at the down-and-distance. Look at the field position. Look at the score and the time remaining. No professional team should lose the game at this point. None.

3:12 - If Florence doesn't drop that interception, game over.

2:39 - Ugh. If I watch this play one more time, I'm going to do something horribly regrettable. Nothing to break down, Florence just absolutely cannot lose track of the man behind him. Completely inexcusable. All the Lions had to do here was keep allowing Luck to complete passes over the middle and bleed clock. Instead, they allowed a big play which let the Colts score quickly without using a timeout.

2:29 - Very smart play to test the Colts pass defense on second down here. Running three times is the wrong call. Getting a first down is much more important than making the Colts use their final timeouts. And waiting until third down to throw the ball is a bit too predictable. The play call pays off and the Lions get a pass interference call. Now the Lions have a free down that cannot be stopped by a timeout nor the two minute warning.

1:14 - NOW, running the ball three times was the right call.

1:07 - If Nick Harris can pin the Colts inside their own 20 yard line FROM THE 50 YARD LINE, game over.

0:45 - I have no idea how, in the prevent defense, you allow a 26 yard pass downfield to the number one receiver. Delmas was late to react, Lacey didn't drop back far enough. Killer.

0:18 - If Lo-Jack makes that sack, game over.

0:14 - Hey, Don Carey made an excellent play in crunch-time. Maybe there is hope for us yet!

0:08 - If Jacob Lacey makes that pick, game over. (granted that would have been a pretty tough interception)

0:04 - Those sideline shots of Stafford break my heart. Seriously. He has stepped his game up in the past three weeks. He deserves better.

0:00 - In case you're wondering, no, it doesn't feel any better the second time around. Lacey was way out of position. Here's how the play design looked:

Lions are in zone coverage with Lacey's designation highlighted. Here's how the play progressed:

A man comes into Lacey's zone and Jacob correctly side-steps with him a few feet. Meanwhile, he does not notice the underneath route developing. Soon after, Lacey stops, still in the correct spot and allows the other receiver to release into another man's zone. HOWEVAAA...

As Luck scrambles, Lacey drifts to his right, leaving his zone. I have no idea why he does this. Obviously he does not see the inside route, but even if he didn't, he should have stayed in his zone to prevent Luck from running the ball in. Instead, there was a huge hole in the zone, and it was an easy score.

Fun stuff.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Third Down Call was Right, Calls on Previous Drive were Wrong

Normally, I would defend Jim Schwartz's decision to run the ball on third-and-4 with two minutes left in the game with percentages and probabilities. And I could certainly do that again, because I'm positive the numbers are on my side. But the argument against that quickly becomes: "Well, the game isn't all about percentages and sometimes you need to look at the specific situation and screw the numbers." While I think that's a poor, uninformed response, I accept it.

So, instead, I'll use specific examples to show why Schwartz wasn't being "too conservative' or "playing to lose the game. First let's list the most common complaints about Schwartz's play calling.

You play to the Lions' strengths. Pass the ball, that is the teams' identity.

I agree that the Lions offense is built from the passing game. But the risk here is too great. A first down conversion is no guarantee (and a rush is no guarantee that the Lions don't convert), and giving the Colts defense an extra 40 seconds is way too much. True the reward is an all-but-guaranteed win if successful, but I don't think the chance of success is that much higher with a pass than it is with a run on a third-and-4.

You have to put the ball in your playmaker's hands when the game is on the line. Throw it to Calvin Johnson.

Well, the Lions did exactly that on the previous drive. Facing a third and 10, the Lions could have run the ball and either ran 40 seconds off the clock or forced the Colts to take their second timeout. Instead, they took a risk and threw the ball to Johnson. A catch would've almost certainly won the game. But the pass was behind Calvin and he dropped it. The Lions punted, giving the Colts the ball with four minutes left and two timeouts left.

You play to win the game.

Uh, yeah. That's what the Lions were doing. People assume, for some reason, that being overly aggressive ("going for the jugular" is what they playfully call it) is giving your team the best chance to win the game. Well, let me take you way back to 2010 in Detroit. The Lions were in an almost identical situation. Up three, the Lions faced a third-and-6 against the New York Jets at the two-minute warning. The Lions, with Drew Stanton in as quarterback after Matthew Stafford went down with an injury, dialed up a play-action pass that fell incomplete. The Jets got the ball back with 1:40 left, rather than 60 seconds if the Lions had opted to run the ball. The Jets easily went 47 yards in that time and kicked the game-tying field goal. Later, they won in overtime.

Obviously, things are a little different with Stafford at the helm, but Stafford hasn't exactly been as solid as we all assumed last year.

The Lions could have run a similar play to the Stanton one and given him the option to run it if the route was covered (supposedly, that's what the play call was supposed to be against the Jets), but the Lions ran that kind of play on the previous drive. Stafford faked the run, and tried to roll out. But the Colts were expecting it and Stafford had no choice to throw it away or endure a huge hit. It may have worked if they tried it again, but the Colts' defensive ends were staying home and I doubt the play ends up any different than the run Linehan dialed up.

Why call a toss, of all running plays?

This is the easiest, cheapest argument to make. Should the Lions have called a sweep? Obviously not, it didn't work. Criticizing play calls is way too easy with hindsight. But I certainly don't blame Scott Linehan for dialing up that specific play. The Lions had not been able to run the ball up the middle all game. Outside of Joique Bell's big run, the Lions had run the ball up the middle 21 times for 48 yards (2.3/carry). From my counts, the Lions ran a toss four times this game prior to this play for 21 yards (5.25/carry). It didn't end up working, but there was certainly evidence that it might.

Here's my argument: The Lions were TOO AGGRESSIVE on the penultimate drive, and that was a big factor in their loss.

The Lions had the ball first-and-10 at the Colts' 45 yard line with 5:06 left when they ran their first play. It was a Leshoure run up the middle for no gain. The Lions then faced a second-and-10 with 4:24. They threw two incompletions and gave the ball back to the Colts with 4:02 left and two timeouts.

If you want to criticize the Lions' play-calling, this was the drive that deserves the most heat. If the Lions had run the ball on all three downs: one of three things would've happened.

1) The Colts would have used their timeouts, which would result in Indianapolis getting the ball with the same amount of time left (about four minutes), but zero timeouts. This means after the Colts scored their first touchdown (with 2:39 left), they would be forced to onside kick the ball, or kick the ball off and likely get the ball back with 0:30 left, needing a touchdown.

2) The Colts would not have used their timeouts and the Lions would've been able to burn at least 1:30 off the clock. The Colts would then have 2:30 and two timeouts left two score two touchdowns. Again, the game would likely come down to an onside kick.

3) The Colts use a timeout for one play, let the clock run for the other. In this scenario, the Colts would get the ball with around 3:10 left and a timeout. Again, it seems likely that the Colts would score their first touchdown at, or after the two minute warning. Thus another onside kick is likely.

In all three scenarios, the Lions win the game assuming they recover an onside kick. While that is no gimme, it's certainly puts the numbers highly in their favor. Not only would the Colts have to recover an onside kick, they would have to subsequently score a touchdown with almost no time on the clock. The runs would have been the correct play, but the Lions were too aggressive and it cost them. Yes, the Lions were too aggressive.

Of course, this is all moot if the Lions defense can manage to prevent two 70+ touchdown drives in four minutes, but that's a whole different article...

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Great Drought of 2012

Win or lose, I can't bring myself to write about the Lions on the day of a game. My emotional level is too high, and my mind too cluttered. Without a proper night's sleep, I tend to overreact to a few crucial plays, and overlook the big picture.

So standard procedure for me has been to remove myself from all things Lions once the clock hits 0:00. I turn off my computer, I put my phone away, and I let the game digest in my periphery while I watch the other NFL games. I avoid saying something stupid off-the-cuff, and I ignore the post-game mania on message boards. All the hate, anger and frustration, I internalize. No one else needs to hear the illogical things that run through my brain post-battle.

But this season has killed that part of me. The self-controlled, level-headed man that I used to be is probably in a dumpster somewhere, stabbed to death with his own makeshift shiv, made from the hopes and dreams of his wildest fantasies. That man withered away the moment the red flag left Jim Schwartz's fingertips on Thanksgiving. After three straight fourth quarter meltdowns, I've regrettably joined the panicked masses post-game and spewed my emotionally-charged hate towards anybody and everybody who saw things differently than I. I've been bitten by the mlive commenter and all that's left of me is an over-reactive, rage zombie.

Why is this season the one that has finally released the ugly Kraken inside? When things were worse -- way worse -- everyone was on the same page. We collectively gathered our ire and catapulted it at the House of Millen. When the castle had finally crumbled, we had all survived, together. We had endured tragedy together, and our bond had never been stronger. We all held hands and waited for the brighter days that would follow.

And last year, we finally feasted. For the first time that anyone could clearly remember, the decades of our labor finally bore fruit. It wasn't much, but we devoured the harvest with an insatiable appetite. Our eyes widened as we quickly filled our bellies and envisioned the fruitful feasts ahead. There was plenty of food right around the corner, so why not eat voraciously?

But then the Great Drought of 2012 happened. We looked puzzledly at each other as we waited and waited for our plates to be filled. "ME WANT FOOD!" we grunted at no one in particular as the Lions left Tennessee empty-handed. As the weeks rolled on, the masses grew impatient. On the "day of feasts", it seemed our appetites would finally be whetted, but then the evil Striped Tribe circled our wagons and stripped us bare.

That's when we started turning against ourselves. The hunger weakened our brains and exaggerated our emotions. A youthful warrior named Titus was driven crazy by the drought and his failed attempt at a coup had him banished from our land, likely forever.

But the masses are beginning to turn in his direction. The muddled whispered of discontent are now not only audible, but nearly deafening. There are those trying to fight back with an equal amount of passion behind their hearts. "Droughts happen to everyone!" they scream. "It's the nature of the world we live in."

But the days of the "patient" are clearly numbered.

My Hunger Madness has worn off for now, and I currently stand with the supporters. But I am beginning to suspect they may be suffering from a different strain of madness. The kind of madness that blinds one from the disaster that lay before him. The kind of madness that allows one to stand pat until everything around him is dead and gone.

I stand with the supporters, but my knees are weak and my spirit is cracked. I fear the drought will continue into Lambeau next week (where we haven't feasted in over two decades), and while the body is slowly beginning to adjust to the lack of food, the psyche is fearfully vulnerable.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

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

So, it took awhile to get the courage to watch this game again.

First Quarter:

14:57 - First play of the game, and Gosder Cherilus gets blown up by J.J. Watt and Matthew Stafford is sacked. Oh boy.

14:11 - After a smart hard count to make it 3rd and 12 instead of 3rd and 17, Ryan Broyles jukes his defender to the ground and finds himself wide open for an easy play. If there's reason to be optimistic for the future, it's Broyles. So far, he was a great pick, especially if Titus is done as a Lion.

12:10 - Brandon Pettigrew with a great block to spring Mikel Leshoure for a nice 11 yard gain. Pettigrew really popped the linebacker. Thus ends all the nice things I will say about Brandon for the rest of the article.

11:00 - Nice to see Mike Thomas be effective in the Titus Young/Nate Burleson/Jahvid Best role. Need that speed for all of Scott Linehan's screens and swing passes.

10:46 - Gotta catch that, Broyles.

9:58 - Benched Leshoure on my fantasy team because the Texans hadn't allowed a rushing touchdown all season. Five minutes into the game...I was wrong.

9:00 - Defense looks as good as it ever has on this drive. Chris Houston knocks down a pass, Nick Fairley runs down a tight end screen, and the linebackers don't get fooled by a third down draw. Couldn't ask for a better start.

8:15 - Watt pushes Riley Reiff way into the backfield and disrupts the first down running play. Not a great matchup for the Lions there.

6:56 - Broyles is toasting defenders out there. Stafford just missed him for a touchdown.

5:59 - Drayton Florence with a big third-down breakup. The Lions are all over Andre Johnson early.

4:59 - On the deflected punt: it was almost assuredly deflected by the Texans player, but there's a few problems. One, Ashlee Palmer may have touched it first. Two, it looks like the ball changes direction, but there is no direct angle where you can see the ball bounce of the defender. You can only see the ball disappear behind the Texan and come out the other end at a different angle. Convincing, but not conclusive.

3:40 - Justin Durant all over the place early. Run stuffing, coverage, tackling. The man does it all.

2:51 - Reiff gets pushed back, once again, and Stafford is forced to throw his patented fade-away, sidearm. It's inaccurate. Harumph.

0:35 - I've been awfully critical of Stafford and his pocket presence, but on this 2nd and 27, he makes a spectacular play. He barely escapes pressure, sets his feet and drops it down to Pettigrew for 24 yards. HUGE play.

Second Quarter

14:45 - Nick Harris has been absolutely terrible in terms of distance. He's consistently punting under 40 yards. That's unacceptable.

14:30 - Louis Delmas wasn't going to break up this big play to Johnson, but the fact that he was picked by the referee didn't help him much.

12:00 - Florence fails to make a tackle, to force a 3rd and 5. Instead, the Texans have a 3rd and 2, which they easily convert. Florence has to wrap those arms.

10:57 - Arian Foster fakes a juke to the inside, freezing Delmas. As Delmas tries to recover to the outside, he trips over Deandre Levy, taking them both out of the play.

7:20 - This drive is all Stafford-to-Johnson. First with an easy out. Then, a perfectly laid pass to Megatron on a deep pass. Johnson cradled it with a great fingertip catch. And on a big third down, Stafford went back to the big man. Best QB/WR duo in the league.

5:55 - Chris Houston is good. Very good.

5:40 - Linebackers biting quite a bit on the play-action, giving Matt Schaub a bunch of room in the middle of the field.

3:39 - Devastating play. Chris Houston is in position to make a play, but turns his head to find the ball just as the ball is passing by his head. He doesn't see the ball to knock it away, and Johnson makes a great adjustment to the bouncing ball. All on third down, no less.

2:15 - Durant, in a short zone, can't decide which man to cover. He takes one step to his left, which is all the space Owen Daniels needs. Too easy.

1:56 - Perfect play call for the Lions here. Texans bring a blitz, and Stafford hits Broyles on the hot read. I think if Ryan turns on the jets from the get-go, he may be able to split the safeties and score. I'll take the 37 yards, though.

1:49 - This is one of those plays that just look like Calvin Johnson is committing offensive pass interference. When the ball is in the air, the defender is in great position. But when Johnson leaps to grab it, it seems like the defender is miles away. Drive summary: 2 plays, 59 yards, 15 seconds.

Third Quarter

14:40 - Cliff Avril with two sacks in the Texans' last three offensive plays. And the second one wasn't even his "run-as-fast-to-the-outside" move!

12:42 - Leshoure starting to find that hole and hit it more decisively. Me likey.

10:43 - Lions doing an excellent job on 2nd down. They are finding themselves in a lot of 2nd and longs, and are getting about half of those yards on 2nd down. Because of that, the Lions are currently 6/9 on third down.

8:57 - 2nd and 9, 3rd and 2. 7/10 on third down.

6:49 - *deep inhale* Okay, here we go.

Let's get this out of the way. Obviously, Jim Schwartz deserves a lot of criticism for throwing the challenge fan in the heat of the moment. Obviously, he hurt his team, and that sort of thing is unacceptable. Especially when it costs your team 74 yards and a touchdown.

But the way fans flip-flop on what they want in a couch is absolutely infuriating to me. If the coach isn't screaming and yelling on the sidelines, they "don't care enough." If there's veins popping out of every inch of his face, he's "too immature" and "a bad example for their team." The truth is: there are plenty examples from both ends of the spectrum of coaches that have succeeded. A coach's demeanor on the sideline almost never directly affects the game itself. This was one of those rare, insane moments when it did. It shouldn't cost Schwartz his job, but he shouldn't be let off the hook either. And he knows that.

But let's talk about the real issue here: officiating. This is a prime example of the negative effects of video review. Referees are too tempted to let plays go, because if they're wrong, they'll just review it, and all will be well. Unless, of course, there's some crazy stupid loophole that makes a play unreviewable for no real reason.

And let's talk about this inane rule. I don't understand the point of it at all. Most rationales for the rule have something to do with preventing coaches from delaying the game so that the booth can have more time to decide whether they want to review a play or not. Which begs the questions, what is more important to the league: preventing a small delay in the game or making certain that a play that should be reviewed gets reviewed and called correctly? That question is as stupid as the rule.

0:23 - This block in the back on Pettigrew: 100% unacceptable. Leshoure already had picked up 13 yards and was one-on-one with the defender in the open field; Advantage: Leshoure. He probably would've juked the guy anyway, and Pettigrew should have, instead, blocked the safety upfield and turned a medium gain into a big gain.


Fourth Quarter


11:30 - Leshoure with a great pickup on the blitz, and Stafford makes them pay.

10:40 - Kevin Smith is late to recognize the blitz, forcing Stafford out of the pocket...and right into Watt's arms. An incomplete pass gives Jason Hanson a shot at a 54-yard field goal. The sack eliminates any chance of that. Watt was being handled by Cherilus, but then he seemed to hand him off to Pettigrew, as Gosder was leaving to handle a stunting lineman. Pettigrew just stood there and blocked no one. His lack of awareness is stunning.

9:14 - The Lions defense has been absolutely stellar to this point. They have forced SIX 3-and-outs, and only gave up 17 real points at this point in the fourth.

9:01 - First off: Logan, that is not okay. Second off, this is a silly penalty. You can't hit a guy before he catches it, I get that, I'm on board. But you can't hit a guy right after he catches it because he's defenseless? What the hell is the gunner supposed to do? Wait for him to catch it and make a move by you?

8:30 - Oh end-around fake screen, where have you been for the past four games? How I love you so.

8:15 - Ah, the kiss of death. Right before this key third down play, the announcer claims, "Detroit's offensive line has held up very well." Cue Reiff getting pushed back five yards, Rob Sims getting juked out of his pants and Raiola failing to help him. Once again, the Lions are sacked out of a potential field goal to go up two scores. That's definitely not going to come back to bite us in the ass.

6:40 - ARRRRRRRRRRGG. The Lions force a 3rd and 8 deep in the Texans' own territory. A stop here likely wins the game. The Lions would get great field position, and it's hard to imagine them squandering three chances in a row. Instead, Johnson finds a soft spot in the zone and makes a great catch on an inaccurate throw.

5:30 - Watching Andre Johnson take over the game for the Texans looks awfully familiar...guess this is how everyone who plays the Lions feels in the fourth quarter.

5:15 - People want to rag on Houston for dropping that interception. It would've been a pretty amazing play if he pulled it off. He was backing up at full speed, trying to drag his feet inbounds as he was approaching the sidelines. It was not as easy of a play as it looks like.

4:00 - Fourth down...I just have no idea. Lions obviously in zone, but there's no one within five yards of Johnson. That is worse than unacceptable. I believe the issue was with Florence. He leaves his zone to bite on the underneath route, which should have been Houston's responsibility. This left the middle of the field wide open. Killer.

3:17 - Tulloch gets crazy-held as he comes on the blitz. He still forces the incompletion, but don't know how the refs missed that.

1:55 - Well, at least they ran that play before the two-minute warning. Lions have plenty of time to get in field goal range.

1:40 - Pettigrew drop. Thanks for waiting until now, buddy.

1:34 - Pettigrew drop. You've got to be kidding me. Perfect pass, perfect grab. He just never seems to expect a defender may be trying to knock it out. Gotta hold on tight, man.

1:24 - Tony Scheffler, our savior. He's got to see more targets in the future.

0:48 - Oh man, that bomb to Calvin had a chance to work if that ball was underthrown. Instead, it was nowhere near Johnson, and he basically had to play defense to prevent an interception. Overtime it is.


14:50 - Stafford, I think I love you again. He finds some room in the pocket, and puts some amazing touch on his pass to Broyles. Credit to Broyles for immediately breaking his route downfield when he saw Stafford break the pocket. Savvy move for a rookie.

13:59 - I seriously can't even look at Pettigrew right now. Just typing his name makes me want to cut my fingers off. The Lions cannot continue to afford his mistakes at key moments in the game. He cost us the game in Tennessee, he cost us this game in regulation, and he likely just cost the game in overtime. I understand he's a decent blocker and has some pretty good hands most of the time, but his awareness and proneness to mistakes are just too costly. He has reached the point of no return for me. He will never be on my good side again. Sorry, bud. I gave you more chances than most.

13:00 - Man, Houston with some great coverage again, but Andre makes another solid catch.

11:50 - Arian Foster with a stiff-arm through the hearts of Lions fans. This is the saddest I've ever been.

9:38 - Holy Bejesus, that kick was close. Watching this game the second time through, knowing that it was missed, I still thought it might've gone in.

9:24 - You throw it to Scheffler and the big man makes a play. *Stares directly at Pettigrew*

8:37 - Texans sending blitzes on nearly every play now. Would've been nice to see a draw somewhere.

8:02 - Oh, Kyle Vanden Bosch. You had a chance. You had a chance to win the game and win back the hearts of every Lions fan.


6:22 - TONY, MOTHER-EFFIN, SCHEFFLER. Great route, great pass. DIDN'T DROP IT.

4:40 - Lions in field goal range. 47-yarder. Jason Hansen on the field. Awesome game, Lions. You struggled to make plays late in the fourth quarter, but when you absolutely needed to, you made all the necessary plays and beat one of the best teams in the...*doink*

4:35 - I don't have the heart to finish this. You know what happens. This was the most heart-breaking loss since the opener against the Bears in 2010. The Lions played one of the best games I've ever seen them play through three and a half quarters, and even played solidly into overtime. They just made two or three crucial mistakes, and you can't afford to do that against a great team like Houston. Utterly depressing.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Battered Fan Syndrome Anonymous

Hi there. Welcome to our home. Please, help yourself to coffee or donuts in the back. Feel free to talk among yourself for the next few minutes, or if you're more comfortable, you may take a seat and we'll begin shortly.

Okay, we are ready to begin, please find a seat everyone. "Roary" nice to see you again. "Ice" I'm glad you could make it this week. "Ed", how many times do I have to tell you? This is a place for fans who have been unfairly abused by referees. Those that have to deal with quarterback incompetence and head coaches who continually get credit despite zero results must go down the street to MetLife Stadium.

I see a lot of new faces today, most of them blue. And I don't just mean your temperment. Haha...sorry. I sometimes like to lead these things off with a joke, but I can see no one is in the mood this week. So let's just jump right into this. Who would like to start us off this week?

A man in spiked shoulder pads stood up. His face, smeared with running black and silver paint, was noticeably damp, presumably with both sweat and tears. As he walked towards the front of the room, he gulped quite audibly in the muted room. 

" name is...uh...Richa...uh...Ricardo, and I'm an abused fan."

"Hi, Ricardo," most attendees robotically responded without lifting their heads from their collective hands.

"IT'S JUST NOT FAIR!" Ricardo's tone quickly changed to one of ire, as it all rushed back to him. "WE'RE JUST COMING BACK IN THE GARD-DAMNED GAME, AND THE REFS BEND US OVER AND HAVE THEIR WAY WITH US!"

"I understand your anger, Ricardo, and I'm glad you got it out. But, perhaps you could explain your situation, so that other's can understand and empathize with your plight?"

Ricardo solemly nodded. "Well, it all started with the tuck rule. I mean, what the hell was that? They make up a rule...cost us the game -- which would've put us in the AFC CHAMPIONSHIP game, mind you -- and they give the Patriots, a franchise that literally has EVERYTHING, another Super Bowl. It's a conspiracy.

"And then it happened again this week. The RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIDERS tackled that puny Bengals guys, pried the ball from him, saved the ball from going out of bounds, and returned it for a touchdown. Me and my bros were going crazy! Then the referees, straight out of Nazi Germany or something, come in and tell me that they accidentally blew a whistle and there was no touchdown. But, GET THIS, not only is there no touchdown, but the Bengals now get the option to take a four yard gain or REPLAY THE DOWN!"

At this point, there were several audible gasps in the crowded room. One woman burst into tears, while a father turned his face away in disgust and covered his son's ears. 

"I spent the rest of Sunday in an angry stupor," Ricardo continued. "I don't really remember what I did or what was said, I just remember the dark, dark thoughts. The thoughts of violence, the thoughts of uncontrollable rage. I was scaring my wife. Hell, I was scaring myself. I...I just don't know if..."

Ricardo tried to continue, but the emotional toll was visibly too much for his body to handle. Trying to hold back the tears, his face contorted in every direction. Giving up on the battle, Ricardo quickly shifted back to his seat, where his emotions erupted in a screaming wail.

It took a few moments for the room to recover. Every face in the room wore the look of understanding and empathy. When he finally reached equilibrium, Ricardo noticed this and let out a deep sigh from the bottom of his stomach. He forced a smile through the tears.

"Thank you for that, Ricardo. I see that there are plenty of people here that went through the exact same thing as you. I hope that Ricardo's story will help all of you cope with your unfortunate circumstance. You are not alone."

"So who's next?"




"How about you? You're a new face."

I looked up, sensing and dreading that his eyes were upon me. When I looked up and locked eyes with him, I tried to quickly avert my gaze, but I had been caught. As I peered back out of my peripheral, his eyes drew my face back towards him. There was no escape. I had to do this. I slowly walked to the podium and slumped over it.

"This...uh...this actually isn't my first..."

"Start with your name," he interrupted.

" name is...uh...screw it, my name is Jeremy and I am a battered Lions fan"

"Hi, Jer-"

"My name is Jeremy and I am sick of this," I quickly gained momentum and couldn't see nor hear anything other than myself. "I tried and tried and tried to not care anymore. The Lions weren't in the playoff race, so I wasn't going to emotionally invest myself in the game. The Lions were winning, and it was pleasant and all, but I wasn't going to get mad if they lost the game. They were playing the Texans. No one expected them to really win, and clearly the Lions were still competitive. So there was that.

"But the refs...those freakin' refs. As I sat contently on my couch, they poked with me their fiery sticks. Nudging me, begging me to care. First, with the punt that obviously hit a Texan player. OF COURSE, CBS couldn't find a definitive angle. OF COURSE, the play wasn't called in our favor on the field. OF COURSE, it wasn't overturned.

"But I didn't let it get to me. I was proud of myself. The refs tried to mess with my day, my favorite holiday. But I had resisted their temptation to rile me up. I had simply turned the other cheek. Their constant prodding was not going to affect me, today. If I give myself up emotionally, the terror-refs win.

"But then the unthinkable happened. The Texans ran for and seven yard gain, and suddenly it was a touchdown. As my own little support group erupted in a collective fit of rage, I sat back calmly. 'They'll review it, and they'll obviously get the call right,' I said, trying to act as the rational fan, for once. But then the Texans lined up for the extra point. And there was no stoppage. No review. We all desperately looked to each other trying to make sense of the situation. Finally, we rewound the game and heard the immortal words that will haunt my existence:

'The Play Is Not Reviewable'"

A woman screamed, and ran out of the room. It couldn't be heard over the deafening gasps and groans, but the woman, in a bout of brief hysteria, ran directly into traffic and was immediately killed by a semi-truck. 

"At this point, I couldn't help myself. How could anyone? The hate, the anger, the spite. It all came rolling back in one flush of emotions that turned my face crimson and swelled my body with a tenseness that I feared would result in some sort of physical outburst. I stood up and paced around on the wooden floor, clenching my fists to make the pain go away.

"When I finally calmed the body, the mind was still racing. I went to my safe place. Twitter. I let out all of the emotions I was feeling in a barrage of ALL CAPS tweets. But it wasn't enough. I stood up again. Paced around the room again. Trying to wrap my head around the rule and why it even exists felt like fitting a rubber band around Hummer. I was going to snap.

"As I watched the rest of the game, my emotions were heavily exaggerated. Each Lions first down resulted in a fist pump that nearly threw my shoulder out of the socket. Each dropped pass and fumble led to hair-pulling and thoughts of graphic violence.

"By the time it was over, I could no longer feel anything. Anger, sadness, the thirst for blood, they were all just concepts unable for me to fathom. I was silent. I was devoid of anything. I was tabula rasa. I was broken. Life had reset me back to factory settings.

"And as Thanksgiving rolled on, I met a few new people. They spoke of the incident with a light-heartedness that would normally spark an internal rage inside. But I was beyond that at this point. I smiled. I laughed. I basically mimicked what everyone else was doing, because my robot brain told me to. It could no longer deal with the stress and torment of being a Lions fan. So for the rest of the day, I wasn't.

"And now I stand here wondering if I can ever fully recover. I survived 0-16. I survived the Calvin Johnson rule. But I stand here today wondering if it was all worth it. I won't ever be able to fully pull myself from the game, but I'm not sure I can physically afford to emotionally invest in this game when I so infrequently receive any dividends.

"But then I know things will never change. I will never change. I am a slave to this team, to this league. I will continually throw myself into the ring, and perpetually get the shit kicked out of me. And the scary things is, deep down I know there's some part of me that loves it. It's hard to recognize now, but when the football droughts of Spring and Summer come, I will beg for the agony. I will crave the bouts of insanity with an insatiable appetite.

So I will see you all again next year."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Three Days Late "Live" Blog: Lions vs. Packers

Since I'm not going to be particularly happy after doing this, let me wish you all a happy Thanksgiving now. We may not think we have a lot to be thankful for in terms of football, but we do. Despite the season not going like most people in Detroit thought or anybody wanted, the team has still come a long way. And putting thing in perspective, it's nice to be competitive again. Now be a good boy and eat some turkey, because it's delicious and has something to do with thankfulness, I guess.

First Quarter:

14:22 - Lions come out in a no-huddle look, much to everyone's delight. They predictably still go three-and-out. I never understood why people thought that move would give the offense a shot in the arm. Dropped passes don't happen because you went into a huddle.

14:06 - Drayton Florence gets concussed on the first play for the defense. Unbelievable. 

12:18 - Special teams woes continue as Nick Harris punts for 38 yards, then the Packers drop a punt inside the 3-yard line. 

11:32 - I...just don't know what's up with Matthew Stafford. Third down, has Tony Scheffler wide open. Has a ton of protection. Steps into his throw. And overthrows him badly. It's really frustrating to watch him regress. 

10:20 - Uncalled-for derogatory Suh statement. Drink!

9:36 - Not sure why FOX thinks this graphic is cool, because it's really, really pointless. A normal stat overlay on the bottom of the screen is sufficient. This is a classic case of creating a graphic just because it appears "cutting-edge". This does not cutting-edge:

7:41 - This is almost always my thought process when the opponent goes for it on fourth down, passing on a field goal:
"Please don't go for it, Please don't go for it, Please don't go for it, Please don't go for it, "
"Oh God, they're going for it"
"I wish our coach would go for it."

7:26 - No excuse for Calvin's drop. He had his head turned in time, ball was right in the hands, knee injury had nothing to do with it. Unacceptable.

6:29 - Rollout prayer to Megatron has been our best, most-consistent play. That is not a good thing.

4:40 - Lions first and goal from the 10. Play calls: pass, pass, pass (sack), field goal. Make note of this.

2:00 - Lions bottling up the Packers run game, forcing third-and-longs all quarter. Of course, the Packers are converting a a few of these third downs, but it's still very promising.

0:00 - This is a very underrated play by Stephen Tulloch that no one likely remembers. But look at the tackle he makes on this run play:

Tulloch is draped by a fullback, but is able to shed the block and take down the back with one hand. This play forces another third down, giving the Lions defense another chance to get off the field (they don't).

Second Quarter:

13:56 - I want to blame everyone on the defense for the Packer's touchdown to Finley, but that was just a really cool play. Everyone bites on the screen look, leaving him wide open over the middle of the field. Not sure what the safeties were doing though...

13:07 - Stafford steps up and avoids pressure!!!!! He annoyingly still throws a side-armed duck, but it finds its target and picks up a first down.

11:24 - Routes taking too long to develop. Stafford takes a sack, but minimizes the damage.

9:14 - Calvin is starting to take this game over, and not with his size. Great route running. 

8:30 - Leshoure running downhill with little hesitation in the backfield is good Leshoure.

5:48 - What a play by Durant. Shoots the gap with incredible speed and awareness. Forces a third-and-medium, and ultimately a punt. Huge play.

4:48 - There were 12 tweets on my timeline hating on Logan after the muffed punt. I counted. 

4:44 - When I first saw this terrible pass by Stafford, I had thought there must be an inside defender forcing a back shoulder throw:

There was not.

2:44 - Backus out of the game, and the first play is a run right at Riley Reiff. Nice to see the Lions have confidence in him. 

2:15 - On Stafford's first interception. Reiff is struggling with pass protection (gets called for a hold, too) and Stafford feels it. He drifts right and directly into more pressure. So he side-arms it right to an awaiting defender. If Stafford had more time, Young would've broken wide open in another second.

1:51 - Great play by Lacey on the interception. Drops back into his zone, reads Rodgers perfectly, and makes a good snap. Don't know what Rodgers saw, though.

1:09 - This is the most frustrating end to a half ever. Stafford amazingly evades the unblocked blitzer and has tons of room to run. Unfortunately, the linebacker makes a great play. He desperately dives, and probably would not have taken Stafford to the ground. But he slaps the ball out of his hand and forces the turnover. Two straight drives by the offense that should have ended in points, but didn't.

0:34 - Fairley absolutely embarrasses the guard and takes down Rodgers for a crucial sack that forces a long field goal...which Crosby thoughtfully misses.

Third Quarter:

12:45 - Great team sack by the Lions. As the defensive ends close in, Rodgers tries to escape up the middle, but there's nowhere to go. Avril cleans up the mess.

9:34 - Calvin is still smoking defensive backs with his route-running. Unfortunately, Stafford is missing him.

8:53 - Crucial third and 5 and Titus Young false starts. 

8:46 - Crucial third and 10, Lions pick up a free play on an offsides and Titus Young pushes off and drops the pass. 

8:31 - Crucial third and 10, Lions pick up the blitz, and Stafford throws a pass behind Scheffler, who kindly tips the pass right to the Packers defender. I hate everyone and everything. The Lions offense has finally started moving the ball, and in three straight drives, they were in position to score points. In all three drives, they turned the ball over. The nausea is coming back.

7:34 - A Ryan Broyles sighting! Something tells me this won't be as rare going forward.

4:00 - Stafford looking decisive and smart in the pocket. I like this.

3:39 - Leshoure makes the exact same mistake he made last week:

Leshoure opts to kick it outside again, giving Reiff no choice but to hold his man and hope that the refs don't catch it. Leshoure really needs to read the offensive tackle and see that he has inside-contain on him and cut it up field. The Lions cannot afford holding penalties, given how much they are struggling anyway, but especially in the red-zone.

3:07 - Okay. This touchdown is embarrassing. Terrible decision by Stafford to throw the ball, as it should have been Detroit's fourth straight turnover. But give all the credit in the world to Johnson for being able to bring in the ball after it was deflected by the defender.

0:48 - James Jones breaks open over the middle of the field as Jacob Lacey doesn't see him entering his zone. Don Carey makes an ankle tackle that saved a touchdown as Ricardo Silva was waaaayyy out of position.

Fourth Quarter:

13:39 - You have no idea how annoyed I was (and still am) at the Lions taking a timeout before the Packers' field goal attempt. You need to have your personnel ready for anything. Yes, the Packers may have gone for it, or may have faked the field goal, but you cannot afford to keep using timeouts when you could very well need them at the end of games. This is my biggest pet peeve of the Lions coaching staff. They clearly don't realize the value of timeouts late in games.

12:05 - Pass protection breaking down everywhere. Reiff, Peterman, Sims, Raiola. Everyone. That's what happens when your best pass blocker goes down.

10:15 - Hold on called Florence, but Willie Young was getting absolutely abused by a Packer lineman. Not sure how the refs could miss that.

9:10 - Packers facing a first and 5, and the Lions defense steps up big. Fairley makes two tackles. On the first, he bursts into the backfield and breaks up the play. On the second, he is being shoved backwards by a smothering lineman, but is somehow able to bring down Starks with one arm well before the first down. Incredible strength. 

7:08 - Broyles with an HUGE play. Great double move by Ryan. I'm psyched to see more of that.

5:15 - Lions first and goal from the 10. Play calls: run, run, pass, field goal. This series was panned for it's poor play-calling in the red zone. Many believed Scott Linehan got conservative and was okay with a field goal. I couldn't disagree more. The Lions have struggled much more passing the ball in the red zone than running it. Remember the series I told you to keep in mind earlier, three passes, no touchdown. The Lions have 11 rushing touchdowns in the red zone, while they only have 14 TOTAL passing touchdowns, many of which were long plays. And if Titus doesn't get held on third down, they likely score anyway.

4:14 - Lions not expecting a run, as the linebackers play waaaaaaay back. Starks easily picks up 11 to start the drive.

3:35 - Terrible. Jacob Lacey gets held on the play, but makes no real effort to break it. Meanwhile, Chris Houston, Ricardo Silva and Stephen Tulloch seem to believe Finley will just go out of bounds and let him gain an extra 30 yards down the sideline. You can literally see the moment when Silva thinks to himself, "Oh crap, I actually have to do something on this play!"

2:02 - I want to be mad at someone for the touchdown, but I just can't figure out who. Lacey is in good position but is put in a very tough spot with a speedy Cobb and an underthrow that's almost impossible to adjust to. He doesn't turn his head around, but that's much easier said than done against someone as speedy and elusive as Cobb. I want to be mad at Silva, but it's unrealistic to expect him to be able to get over in time, as he was coming from the opposite side of the field. Just a great play by Cobb. 

1:43 - The infamous play that put Young in the doghouse for good. Stafford is ready to go when he looks to his left and sees Titus where he doesn't belong. Stafford literally does a quadruple take and tries to get Titus to move. His yell causes Gosder Cherilus to false start. Sweet.

1:31 - Third and 15. Need to pick up SOME yardage. Instead of picking up and easy 7-8 yards with Pettigrew over the middle, Stafford forces a pass to Titus that should have been picked off. Terrible decision.

1:19 - Lions could really use that third timeout right now. Instead, ballgame. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

No ONE is to Blame, but Everyone is to Blame

One of the few nice things about being a Lions fan is that nearly every week they play at the 1 PM EST time slot. That sort of routine and predictability is nice to have in one's life. It's also nice, because when the Lions blow a lead late against a quality opponent, you can bury your head in more football to prevent insanity from setting in.

If you've ever perused a Lions message board, Mlive comment section or twitter after a Lions loss like the one against the Green Bay Packers yesterday, you know exactly what I'm talking about. The chaotic witch hunt/SKY IS FALLING/FIRE EVERYONE ribble-rabble is too much for me to take anymore. Instead, I find it very therapeutic to turn off the computer, sit back and distract myself with my favorite sport. And while "what ifs..." and "we shouldas..." creep in from time to time in between Tom Brady touchdowns, I mostly let the game fully digest in the periphery of my consciousness.

But I get the desire to place blame on someone. I get the tendency to throw vitriol at anyone and everyone. I used to do it myself. It's comforting. If you find the culprit of the Lions' struggles, you figure out the simple solution. Find the whitehead and thoroughly squeeze the shit out of him. BOOM, pimple gone.

But it's a lie: both about the team and to yourself. The Lions' problems are not simple. They cannot be solved by firing one guy, or drafting another. In fact, no problem is ever that simple in the NFL. And while the Lions are not a team far, far away from success, their issues won't go away with one new coach or player.

People forget the simple fact that if you get rid of someone, you subsequently have to replace him. So if the Lions decide to fire Scott Linehan (which I doubt will happen), they have to hire a new offensive coordinator. Who will it be? Will the Lions' roster fit with the new guys' game plan? How long will it take for the players to adjust to new schemes? The firing of a coach almost always precedes a few years of rebuilding and adjusting. And while the team may be better off in the long run (though often, it's not), it is not the quick fix that many dream it is.

Changes don't come any quicker through the draft, either. You need not look further than Riley Reiff for proof. After looking so promising in a situational role for nine week, he struggled when he was forced to replace Jeff Backus yesterday. Likewise, if the Lions decide to draft any shutdown corner, he's going to go through some serious growing pains before he can make a huge impact.

The real answer is slow, gradual change. And while that answer is both frustrating and hard to accept, it's the truth. And, behind the scenes, that's exactly what the Lions' blueprint is. It may seem that the Lions grew complacent with last years' team and failed to upgrade positions of need, but that is not the truth of the matter. The Lions drafted a left tackle for the future, who would have time to groom behind Backus before throwing him to the wolves. The Lions drafted several defensive backs, who were meant to be just depth guys until they were ready. And similarly, the Lions had a veteran wide receiver, who was supposed to lead by example, while the youngster learned their craft.

But injuries have taken their toll, in perhaps the most vulnerable positions on the team. The Lions are forced to put young, mistake-prone players out on the field. The depth of the team is desperately thin, almost all around. And while it's easy to blame the coaches and managers that came before, they are exactly the men who are responsible.

The Lions were not a better team last year, they were a more fortunate one. Nate Burleson was healthy, Jeff Backus was healthy, Louis Delmas was (mostly) healthy. They were the beneficiaries of a Carson Palmer overthrow and two Tony Romo picks. And a Joe Webb fumble. And a Jay Cutler broken thumb. Did they deserve to make the playoffs? Absolutely. Luck is part of the game. And this year, they find themselves at the stem-end of the four-leaf clover.

The Lions have made some mistakes along the way. The Brandon Pettigrew experiment didn't turn out quite as good as we'd hoped. Same goes for Gosder Cherilus (though he was drafted know who). Jahvid Best was a big risk that didn't pay off, and I'm not sure Titus Young will ever turn things around. The lack of depth on the current roster is partially the result of those mistakes. But for every missed pick, there have been three or four great moves; your Stephen Tullochs, your Matthew Staffords, your Justin Durants. They have brought this team to respectability again, and in the mean time, the front office is building this team for even better things in the future.

So who is to blame? Everybody. Our predecessors, the angry Lion-hating football god that took away our emotional leaders on offense and defense this year, the inconsistent play of the offense, the great play of the defense...until we really need it, the special teams blunders, the play-calling. They've all played a little part in the perfect storm that has been a 4-6 season.

And the answer? Time. I understand the worst thing you can tell a Lions fan is "you need to be patient", but guys, we need to be patient. Creating a Super Bowl winner can't happen in four years in the modern NFL. It's just not possible without an insane amount of luck. The Lions are not in need of a complete overthrow. They are still extremely competitive, they still have superstars locked up for years to come. And when the Lions have a chance to finally fill out the rest of their roster, they'll be ready. A big change will only set the plans back further. So until then, I'm going to bury my head in more football and wait until next year.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Three Days Late "Live" Blog: Lions at Vikings

Let it be known that I really don't want to watch this game again. Which means it's very unlikely that anyone would want to read this. But if you are a person, and you do want to read this, congratulations: you are as broken as I am...or you are Vikings fan. If you are a Vikings fan, go away. I currently don't like you.

First Quarter:

14:56 - Logan is running scared out there. He doesn't look like he has any confidence in himself.

14:50 - Dominic Raiola pushed three feet into the backfield on the first play. Oh boy.

13:30 - Two first downs in a row on solid catches from Calvin and Pettigrew. Proooogress.

13:05 - Aaaaaaand there it is: the "young player mistake." A crackback block by Broyles pretty much ends the drive where it started.

9:33 - Nick. Fairley. Throws the guard to the side and makes a solid tackle of Peterson well into the backfield. Dude is a beast.

9:00 - The Lions are in a simple zone coverage, two-deep. Safeties just got split, with most of the fault on Coleman. Inexcusable to let anyone get by him.

8:32 - As noted on twitter, the next play the Lions have 14 men on the field. When it rains, it rains urine. (that's how the saying goes, right?)

7:52 - More this year than any I remember, I see the Lions defense talking to each other before the snap in clear confusion. On this touchdown pass, Houston is trying to get everyone's attention. First, he yells something at Jonte Green, then tries to get Silva's attention. Silva doesn't really respond, then blitzes at the snap. Houston is not completely ready at the snap and is basically picked by both corners on the play. There's no route to his receiver, who is wide open. Easy touchdown. This is a great example of how the ever-changing secondary isn't able to develop any sort of chemistry, and it's killing the team.

7:44 - Stafford inaccurate early. On target on one of first four targets.

7:38 - ...which leads to his interception. Stafford fails to step into his throw and it comes out wobbly. Pettigrew is open and a good, strong throw gives the Lions a first down. But there's pressure coming from Stafford's left, and instead of stepping into his throw to his right, he throws flat-footed. He doesn't get the strength needed on the pass, and doesn't throw a spiral, which slows down the pass just enough for Greenway to get a shot at it.

7:31 - No idea why Ponder decided to catch his own pass, but I'm glad he did. Great play by Avril, though.

4:19 - Nothing interesting to say on the Lions three-and-out, other than all the plays looked doomed from the start.

3:30 - Great coverage on Nick Fairley's sack. The ball was supposed to come out quickly, but Jonte Green and Justin Durant did a great job covering the inside slant. Great pursuit and effort from Fairley to prevent Ponder from getting outside of the pocket.

2:54 - There is nothing in the world more frustrating than a special teams penalty on a punt that is likely to be fair caught. I'm sure this play didn't really have any bearing on Alphonso Smith being released this week, but it probably didn't help much.

1:00 - Stafford with a couple of great throws to Titus Young for first downs. Stepped into both throws...

Second Quarter:

14:45 - I complain about the announcers quite a bit (and I'm going to again later), but I can't let this comment go. It's one of the most ignorant, misinformed things I've ever heard.
"On that last play, you see Matthew Stafford break contain. I think a very underrated part of his game -- we all look at his arm talent, his arm strength -- he can move around very well, in addition." 
No. Just no. Stafford's (lack of) mobility is his greatest flaw.

13:00 - Stafford with time and a pocket; dangerous.

11:43 - Happy feet Stafford strikes again. His first option is gone, and he panics. But, as you can see, the pocket is still intact.

Jared Allen is double teamed and not a worry at this point. Both defensive tackles are being held up nicely. In fact, the only defender not accounted for is the left defensive end. So what does Stafford do? Roll right into him.

If Stafford has a little more patience, and just stays where he is, Titus could run his route back to the outside, or maybe Broyles breaks free. But when he rolls to the right, he just ends up shortening the play. If Stafford really felt like the pocket was closing down, he should have shot the gap between Jared Allen and the tackles. There was plenty of room there.

5:25 - Good job by the defense to hold them to a field goal, but overall, a pretty horrific drive. Vikings moved 80 yards down field, with rushes of 15, 20 (scramble) and 14 yards. Considering the Vikings were backed up a their own 15 yard line to start the drive, Lions could have really used a three-and-out to get good field position for once.

2:35 - Lions offense stalls after another bad penalty. Rinse. Repeat.

2:23 - Suh just abused his the guard and forced an incompletion. Man, I'd like to see more of that from him.

1:55 - Well, there ya go. Suh again in the backfield quickly on a screen pass. The guard is supposed to let Suh through, but not that quickly. He almost picks up the sack, which would have been ridiculous on a screen play.

1:30 - Announcer complaint #2: After the obvious non-interception-that-was-called-an-interception-because-the-refs-just-looked-at-each-other-until-someone-had-the-balls-to-finally-make-a-call, the announcer had the audacity to say that was a "good job" by the refs. Now, I understand his point that because they called it an interception, they were allowed to review it and get it right. Whereas, if it were called incomplete, they would not be able to review it and call it a touchdown. But there are a few things wrong with that line of thinking. One: the refs job is not to swallow the whistle, knowing that review can fix their mistakes. Their job is to get it right on the field, and it was embarrassing to call that play a touchdown. Secondly, if that was called incomplete, but was actually an interception, they WOULD be able to review it (and would've, considering it was inside of two minutes left in the half). Granted, Minnesota would not have earned a touchdown on the play, but they still would have given possession to Minnesota. If that was a "good job" by the refs, the bar is set incredibly low.

0:57 - Wow. Stephen Tulloch shot the gap with incredible speed to take Peterson down in the backfield and force a punt. With the Vikings on the doorstep of field goal range, this was a huge play.

Third Quarter:

13:40 - Jerome Simpson celebrates every single catch he makes. I dare you to find a counterexample.

12:42 - Lions send a blitz and Fairley almost gets Ponder to the ground again. Durant, waiting to see if Peterson runs a route, eventually heads to Ponder and lays a licking on him, forcing an inaccurate throw.

11:19 - Leshoure misses the hole on a crucial first down, backed up on their own seven yard line:

The hole is pretty clear and right in front of Leshoure. But Mikel decides to break it outside, giving Allen enough time to bring him down from the back side. Leshoure wasn't likely to pick up a huge amount if he hit the hole, as a free linebacker was waiting for him. However, he would've almost certainly picked up three or four yards, and that's huge when you're backed up. Instead, no gain.

10:43 - "I don't always drop passes, but when I do, I prefer it TO BE TOTALLY DEVASTATING" - Brandon Pettigrew, the most frustrating man in the world.

8:45 - Man, what a devastating third down conversion for the Lions defense. The blitz works, sending an unblocked linebacker right into Ponder's lap, but he gets rid of it in time. Levy is in perfect coverage on Kyle Rudolph and even gets a hand on the pass, but Rudolph manages to somehow hold on.

7:20 - Chris Houston gets turned the wrong way, Ricardo Silva slips, first and goal Vikings. Uggghh.

6:15 - Suh in the backfield again. I can see why Jim Schwartz was all over him on Monday's press conference.

4:10 - Stafford with time and a pocket: deadly.

2:55 - Great throw by Stafford on the Pettigrew touchdown, and I cannot help but be a little angry. Stafford, again, needlessly threw off his back foot. Talent overcomes poor mechanics. Next time, Gadget. Next tiiiiiiiiiiime.

2:54 - It's sad how little confidence the Lions have both in kick returns and kick coverage.

0:00 - Kyle Rudolph just killing the Lions. Seems to pick up every single third down the Vikings desperately need.

Fourth Quarter:

14:15 - If that's not holding, I don't know what football is.

DeAndre Levy just missed knocking this pass down. Still, if the holding is correctly called, the Vikings are facing a crucial third and five-ish instead of dancing in the endzone.

12:20 - I said this on twitter, but that was literally the best play I've ever seen Stafford make out of the pocket. He finds the correct hole to step up into, escapes pressure, keeps his eyes down field, and hits Johnson for a big gain.

11:32 - Great job by the offense. Nice, quick drive. Mixed the run and the pass, and got seven. Back in this game.

10:11 - And the Lions force a quick three-and-out! AND GET A GOOD RETURN OUT OF LOGAN! 52 yards away from a tie game.

9:53 - This was probably the biggest play of the game that was mostly overlooked. On the pitch to Leshoure, Backus is blocking Greenway from the inside to the outside. Leshoure tries to wrap around him. Because Backus cannot contain Greenway from the outside, he decides to grab a hold of them. Flag. Lions already going in the wrong direction.

The problem on that play was two fold: One, Leshoure needs to recognize that Backus hasn't sealed the edge, and there's no way he's going to get around Greenway on his own. He should have made a cut to the inside. However, Backus absolutely cannot get called for a holding at this point in the game. Take the two yard loss, if you have to. But, mostly, this one is on Leshoure.

8:06 - Peterson's long touchdown was just a case of nobody getting off their block, and Suh being too aggressive in his pass rush. I don't like Adrian Peterson.

7:54 - CALVIN JOHNSON, YOU....ugh...I can't yell at you. I love you too much. Just please don't do that again.

7:44 - So the last three non-special teams plays were: Peterson 61-yard touchdown, Megatron fumble, Peterson 21-yard run. Fantastic.

1:55 - Lions dink and dunk their way into the endzone, but, more importantly, burn three minutes off the clock. At least Megatron got in the end zone to shut up Madden Curse believers for a week.

1:52 - I hated this onside kick when they tried it in San Francisco, and I hate it now. Please just try a normal onside kick. It worked once already this year.

1:40 - The only way the game could have ended on a worse play would be if Suh was the one with the personal foul penalty. It would've caused a huge fight, an annoying rant from the announcers, and thousands of wasted words from vindictive football writers. Sammie Lee Hill barely touched Ponder, but had no business touching him at all, so...whatever. Lets go home.