Monday, September 24, 2012

The Darkest Timeline

 I can come up with a lot of scenarios of how the Lions win this game, but I'm finding it hard to come up with ways the Lions drop this one.
- Me, previewing the Lions/Titans game

What a moron. How did I not see this coming? How did I not see the Titans pulling out the Music City Miracle play? How did I not see the Lions giving up a return touchdown? How did I not see the Lions giving up the most 60+ yard touchdowns in one game in NFL history? How did I not see this Lions defense let Jake Locker look like Aaron Rodgers (or, I guess, Matt Flynn)? How did I not see six(!!) touchdowns in the final 6:53 of regulation? How did I not see the Lions "miscommunicating" on the final play of the game?

Oh, because I'm not crazy person. Or, at least, I wasn't. If that game was a food, the FDA would have banned it for causing ailments previously unknown to man. Side effects include: prehistoric grunting, wall-punching, spontaneous stripping, and overactive twitter.

But beyond all the improbable, inconceivable plays, the Lions didn't really deserve to win this game. The offense, continuing their stretch of the most frustrating unit in the NFL, came out slow, once again. Game plan be damned, the Lions made mental errors on third down that resulted in field goals rather than touchdowns.

The defense is in shambles. Opposing quarterbacks are slowly, but steadily shredding the Lions defense to pieces. There's no pass rush, the safety play is horrible, the cornerbacks are below-average, and the linebackers are a non-factor in the pass game. Here's what teams are doing to this Lions team:

Sam Bradford: 17-25, 198 yards, 105.1 passer rating
Alex Smith: 20-31, 226 yards, 107.7 passer rating
Jake Locker: 29-42, 378 yards, 113.0 passer rating

Three quarterback that most people would not consider top ten quarterbacks absolutely lighting up the Lions defense. They now rank 29th in passer rating allowed.

And this is not just the Lions suffering from bad secondary injuries. Granted, Chris Houston looked pretty good yesterday, and Louis Delmas is to John Wendling as Ed Reed is to Pat Carter (some freshman Idaho State DB I randomly googled). But the Lions front four isn't getting any consistent pressure, blitzing schemes are not working, and many of the Lions are reacting too slow to their zone reads. Getting Delmas back will be huge, but it won't solve everything.

But despite all this mud-slinging and finger-pointing, the Lions were in a position come away with a road win...twice. First, the Lions took their first lead late in the fourth quarter, 27-20. But then they proceeded to committ several devastating errors, starting with the ensuing kickoff return TD. Then they committed a killer holding penalty on the ensuing offensive drive. Then Wendling took a horrible angle and Nate Washington made a miracle catch. Then Brandon Pettigrew handed the ball off to the Titans for a touchdown, injuring Matthew Stafford in the process.

And despite ALL of that, one miracle later, the Lions again had a chance to win the game. Watching it all unfold pulled the memory of my afternoon in Ann Arbor on the day of The Horror from the depths of my subconscious. Obviously, Tennessee wasn't the underdog that Appalachian State was, but the fan experience was the same. The Lions were supposed to win this game, they had played horribly, but there they were, on the doorstep of putting the ugly experience behind them. In Ann Arbor, it was a blocked field goal. In Tennessee, it was an ugly miscommunication that resulted in the worst QB sneak in history. The portal to escape catastrophe was a step away, but we tripped just before the stargate slammed shut. We're now left to wander this horrid universe, not completely sure of where or who we are.

Michigan turned out to be a terrible team that year and got absolutely embarrassed the following week against Oregon. Next week, the Lions host a 2-1 Minnesota Vikings team that just dismantled a 49ers team that many believed was the best team in the league. Nervous?

If Raiola doesn't snap that ball, and the Lions go on to win, we escape this darkest timeline and we're likely spending this morning forgiving and excusing the Lions' poor play. But we have to accept our reality and the mistakes are impossible to ignore.

And the problems the Lions are suffering from are not even new. They're the same ones that plagued the Lions' 2011 season: iffy secondary, disappointing pass rush, slow starts by the offense. People excused them because the Lions ended up pulling nearly every close game out of their ass. We all swallowed the "Win" Pill, conveniently allowing us to avoid and ignore the true problems that exist. Now we're running out of Win Pills and while we still may not understand the universe we currently exist in, it's beginning to look like the darkest timeline.

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