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.

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