Thursday, October 31, 2013

Four Days Late "Live" Blog: Lions vs. Cowboys

First quarter:

15:00 - These were my exact words when Ryan Broyles caught the Lions' first pass of the game: "Looks like they're going to Broyles early and often this week. I'm excited." This would be his only catch in the game. He also suffered a season-ending injury later. I am the worst.

14:28 - Matthew Stafford airmailed this pass to Brandon Pettigrew on what should have been an extremely easy first down pick up. Instead, the Lions went three-and-out to start the game, much to the dismay of the "Defer the coin toss" crowd.

14:15 - Of course Sam Martin begins the day with a punt that travels 64 yards in the air.

11:30 - I've been wondering where Nick Fairley has been in the past few weeks. Apparently, he was making a reservation to meet with Mr. Tony Romo in the backfield. He absolutely crushed Romo on this play. I can't help but think if it had been Ndamukong Suh, we would've had at least four more replays, searching for something illegal about the hit.

8:20 - This was a valiant effort by Scott Linehan on a good third-and-long call. However, the play is just a little too slow developing, and it was a great play by the Cowboys defense.

First the Lions faked a bubble screen to Reggie Bush. This does a great job at making the left side of the defense overcommit to that side. However, look at the back side of the defense.

No one is committing to the Bush fake and all the defenders are staying disciplined. Regardless, when Theo Riddick gets the ball, things still look very promising.

However, the defensive tackle gets a little lucky and finds himself in the exact right spot to make the play despite getting pushed around on the play. Riddick probably should have ran his route a little more vertical, but overall, I wouldn't be surprised to see that exact play work better in the future.

7:41 - The Detroit linebackers are getting pushed around in the running game. Both DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch have trouble shedding blocks.

6:20 - Experiment: Drop Ziggy Ansah into coverage on third down. Results: Utter and compete failure.

4:46 - The Lions seemed to have picked up a tendency from the Cowboys on tape. At this point, the Cowboys have run the ball three of four times on second down. The Lions sent defensive backs on blitzes on all three of those plays and stopped Dallas for -6 yards.

2:44 - A lot of people are giving Calvin Johnson most of his credit for breaking tackles on this quick slant, but the play is actually won much earlier than that.

Calvin manhandles his defender off the snap and gets great separation with his physical play. You can see from the defender's posture that he has been pushed off-balance by Johnson. That cushion is all he needs to make everyone around him miss. 

1:05 - Stop using Reggie Bush as a goal line rusher. Now. On the first run, he makes an unnecesary cut in the backfield, which rarely works in any red zone situation. The run stuff on second down isn't his fault (that would be on Jeremy Ross, who couldn't find his player to block, even though he was right in front of him). But Bush didn't do much to break any tackles on the goal line. You know who can do that? Joique Bell. Give the man the rock.

0:56 - Lesson #1 of defense: Don't take your eyes off Calvin Johnson.

#32 of Dallas: you fail.

0:42 - Oh my. Fairley is back. And he is out there straight up murdering people.

 Willie young takes out two linemen, while Fairley loops around them all. And he makes Romo pay:

Second quarter:

14:26 - On his first interception of the day, Stafford does a great job escaping pressure (caused by Joseph Fauria's man). He puts the ball in a pretty good spot considering the circumstances, but Calvin drops it. Extremely unfortunate for a 2nd-and-3.

13:29 - The unsung hero on this play is Bill Bentley, who almost literally flies over Romo on a delayed blitz. He comes up limping, which gives Detroit enough time to consider throwing the challenge flag, which they eventually do,

13:22 - More pressure from the defensive line on third down forces an inaccurate throw. Finally.

12:50 - You want to know why Dominic Raiola is one of the highest graded centers in the league, according to Pro Football Focus? Check this out:

He needs to get leverage on the defensive tackle's right side for this play to work, which is a challenging task with little help from his guard.

At this point, Rob Sims is done helping him, and Raiola is still far away from where he needs to be. But his strength, leverage and determination get him to the point where he needs to be, and Reggie picks up 18 on the play.

1:56 - Holy crap. Fauria got embarrassed on this play by the defensive end he was lined up again. He got too high on his block and immediately got pushed backwards and off balance.

10:33 - This seemed like a wasted opportunity on third down. The Cowboys sent an all out blitz, leaving each receiver single-covered with one-high safety. Bell does an excellent job giving Stafford that extra second to find a receiver, and he tosses one up to Calvin. This isn't a terrible decision, since the safety was too far away to get there in time, but Brandon Pettigrew had beaten his man over the middle.

7:34 - Superb recognition by Tulloch on the end-around. He also did a great job persuing him and not allowing him to get up the sideline. As a bonus, the Lions were actually also great in coverage, in case the Cowboys were thinking about adding a pass as an extra wrinkle in that play.

7:04 - Jason Witten just caught his second pass of the day: a 2 yard check down. This would be the last time he touches the ball all game.

4:56 - Calvin with another great physical play against the corner. If there has been anything to knock on Calvin's game it's been his ability to play physical (see: pick six in Washington). He seems to be improving in that aspect. That's right, Calvin Johnson is improving. How scary is that?

2:08 -This is great example of the kind of polarizing play that Scott Linehan dials up consistenty. In this instance it lost 7 yards, but looking at the replay, it's easy to see this play succeed in the future.

The play is a play-action, fake end around. Bush's initial rush towards the quarterback gets all of the linebackers shifting that way. At that point, Bush cuts it back upfield, to a hopefully empty side of the field.

 As Stafford releases the ball, almost every Dallas defender is below the right hash mark. This play has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, the one man Detroit has to account for gets by Pettigrew before he's able to take him down. This blows up the play completely and makes it look embarrassing. But I'd like to see them try it again at some point.

1:58 - Linehan followed up that disaster with a brilliant play. Bush runs an inside route, that looks very much like the middle screen that the Lions commonly run. A quick pump fake by Stafford gets the linebacker matched up against Pettigrew to jump the Bush route, and leaves Pettigrew open for a big 17 yard gain.

1:51 - And then Stafford completely overlooks the Cowboys' best linebacker. Yeesh. That was a very hot-and-cold drive for the Lions.

Time Management Gripe of the Week


This is not debatable. The Lions coaching staff made a huge blunder in time management at the end of the half. Here's the situation:

The Cowboys are first-and-goal with 1:38 left in the half. The Lions have three timeouts. Assuming the Lions do not commit a penalty giving the Cowboys another first down, they can guarantee themselves the ball back with at least 1:20 left (assuming each play takes about 6 seconds long).

The Cowboys run it on first down. The Lions do not call a timeout. The Cowboys run their next play with 0:55 seconds left. That's already 25 seconds less than the Lions should have left on the clock after the Cowboys' entire drive. The Cowboys throw the ball on the next two downs, leaving 46 seconds on the clock for the Lions and three timeouts.

However, if they had used their timeout on first down, they would have had 1:24 seconds left AND two timeouts. That's almost a full 40 second difference. And if you don't think 40 seconds is signficant, you probably missed the end of the game.

0:38 - Credit goes to the coaching staff for at least trying to get points at the end of the half, but the offense wouldn't have been so desperate had the coaches made the right decisions when the defense was on the field.

Third quarter:
12:49 - The Cowboys opened up the second half with five straight passes, but with little success thanks to great coverage from Rashean Mathis and Chris Houston.

9:58 - For someone as valuable to the team as Reggie Bush, he sure does a lot of things that annoy me. My contempt for his poor hole-reading abilities is well documented, but you can go ahead and put the way he carries the ball at the top of my list. This is unacceptable. I have no idea how that was his first fumble lost all season.

8:05 - This time it's Levy with the great read on the end around. It's hard not to love these linebackers.

7:05 - Again, Bush is the decoy on this play, and it pays big dividends.

Look as almost all of Dallas' defenders are squared up to Bush, leaving a huge chunk of field empty. Bell takes the screen for 22 yards.

5:42 - "Stafford with a little bit of elusiveness," I said for the very first time.

4:16 - Fumbles are stupid. I say we start a smear campaign against fumbles saying they cause concussions and get them banned from football.

3:18 - Fairley with his third big hit of the day on Romo. Welcome back, big fella.

3:02 - Just so we're clear, the score right now is 13-7. Dallas' three scoring drive totaled just 49 yards. Detroit, at this point, has drives of 26, 53, 35 and 56 yards, all resulting in 0 points. Life's not fair (don't click that).

0:07 - I have never seen Stafford so patient in the pocket. I don't know whether he's oblivious to the pressure or unafraid of it. Either way, it looks good on the stat sheet.

Fourth quarter:

14:54 - Calvin being Calvin.

14:41- STOP USING BUSH IN GOAL-TO-GO SITUATIONS. I'm going to bring a rolled up newspaper to the next Lions game I go to. And if Linehan does this again, I'm going to run onto the field and smack him with it. BAD DOG.

13:17 - Unlike what the announcers were saying, I think it was Stafford who made the mistake on third-and-goal.

Calvin was running a route that looked like he was just clearing out room for Ross' out-route. Stafford, for some reason, threw a fade. If he throws an "out", it's probably a touchdown.

11:43 - Darius slay. :( :(

10:13 - That was a terrible pass interference call on Dallas. In Detroit's defense, it was a 2nd-and-1, so the Lions were likely to keep the drive going anyway. But, still. Terrible call.

8:15 - A lot of people complained about Fauria not getting the ball at all this game. If I'm going to complain about anything, it's the fact that Bell didn't get enough touches. He had five touches all game and turned those into 54 yards and a touchdown. Give the man some love, Linehan.

7:28 - Here is the verbatim call of Dwayne Harris' 56 yard kickoff return by Dick Stockton:

"And running it out...Harris.....HARRIS.....HARRIS..." This is just a reminder that he gets paid to do that, and I am doing all of this for free. #HardOutHereForABlogger

6:45 - If we're playing the blame game on Dez's second touchdown of the game, Louis Delmas is your winner (loser?). Both he and Mathis make extremely aggressive plays on the ball, but at least Mathis comes close to disrupting the play.

Delmas, on the other hand, appears to want to make a play on the ball, but when he realizes he won't make it there in time, he tries to lay a hit on Bryant, but doesn't hit him squarely.

6:36 - Okay, let me get this out of the way. I'm glad that Calvin caught this ridiculous bomb in double coverage, and it was a great throw from Stafford. But this was a terrible decision. On the very first play of a drive in which you absolutely need points, throwing a jump ball into double coverage is not good game-planning. Against mortal wide receivers, that ball could have easily been picked off. Granted, you have Calvin for reasons just like this, but Stafford has thrown interceptions like this all the time.

Side note: Stafford did an excellent job escaping the pocket and finding room to step up into. This has been the biggest thing he has improved on since last year.

4:00 - Speaking of Stafford's pocket presence, this was another perfect example of him stepping into space, then realizing he had room to pick up the first down. Dude needs to work on his slide though.

3:33 - Reggie Bush goal line rushes are only allowed in no-huddle situations. You are exempt for this one, Linehan.

3:20 - Holy crap, Levy. DeAndre recognizes this play extremely quickly. If he hesitates at all, the window into the backfield will close before he can get there, but Levy sees the play coming and destroys Randle in the backfield.

2:38 - Hey, a good use of your timeouts! Nice job, Jim!

2:24 - Outstanding defensive drive from the Lions. They lost no field position, the Cowboys only ran a minute off the clock, and the Lions only had to use one timeout. I was pretty damn confident at this point that the Lions would win.

2:20 - ...then that sack happened. It was a delayed stunt from the defensive tackle that neither Raiola nor Rob Sims identified in time. Stafford held on to the ball a little too long, as well.

1:30 - People want to hate on Pettigrew for dropping this pass, but that's unfair. I get it: he's an easy target with a knack for dropping big passes in the past. But this ball is clearly tipped right before getting to him. You'd like for him to catch it anyway, but it's an insanely difficult one to make.

1:24 - This was a rough time for Stafford's poor pocket presence to show up again. He escapes the pocket to his right, despite there being some time left to look at his reads. When he scrambles to his right, he cuts down his receiver options to one, and he isn't open.

1:24 - 1:14 - Total times announcers either credited this as a Lions loss or a Cowboys win: 7.
Total times they hinted at the game not being over yet: 2.

Here's why this is ridiculous and highly unprofessional to declare the game over at this point. Even without the holding penalty, the Lions had enough time to get the ball back. Perhaps instead of talking about updated standings, they could have been talking about the potential dilemma facing the Cowboys on fourth down. Had the Lions stuffed them on all three downs, there would have been about 25-30 seconds left. The Cowboys would have to either attempt a 50+ yard field goal, potentially pushing the lead to six (but a miss would mean the Lions would have the ball at the 40+ yard line down only three) or the Cowboys could (and probably would) have punted the ball, trying to pin the Lions deep. The issue with the latter is the Lions would still only be down three with 20+ seconds. If you've watched enough football, you'd know that going 40 or 50 yards in 20 seconds without any timeouts is difficult, but not unheard of.

Instead, the announcers saw that the Lions failed to convert a fourth down within two minutes left in regulation and figured the game was over. It wasn't hard math to figure out the Lions were likely getting the ball back, and it wasn't a leap in logic to consider that the Lions still had a chance. But perhaps more importantly, you're working for the network playing the football game. You're supposed to be keeping the game exciting. If you declare the game over, people are going to change the channel and start watching the late games. Hype the game we're watching. That's your job. [/rant]

0:40 - Let me use math to describe how awesome Stafford's sideline pass to Durham was. Stafford released the ball from the Lions' 28 yard line and hit Durham perfectly in stride at the Dallas' 30 yard line. That's a perfect 42 yard pass. But, in reality, it was even longer than that. GEOMETRY POWERS, ACTIVATE!

For the hardcore mathematicians out here, please forgive the simplicity of this. I am not figuring arc into this at all. Pretend we're living in a 2 dimension world for now. Alright, so we need to find the length of "C", the direct path of Stafford's pass. Length "A" is easy to figure out, in fact, I already figured it out above. It's 42 yards. "B" is a little trickier. Stafford throws the ball from the right hashmark. According to, the length from the right hash mark to the left sideline is 89 feet and 3 inches or 29.75 yards. The ball lands about 2 yards from the sideline, so lets call "B" approximately 27.75 yards. Thanks to Mr. Pythagorean, we know that A-squared + B-squared = C-squared.

So, plugging in the numbers,"C" equals.................50.34 yards! Stafford threw the ball over 50 yards in the air, hitting his target directly in stride. Oh, and the play took just seven seconds off the clock. Impressive.

0:12 - People want to talk about Stafford's fake-snap "leap of faith" as his defining moment or his next step into elitism. I disagree. Stafford has already had a handful of defining moments: his 98-yard drive in Oakland, his 24 point comeback in Dallas, his heroics against Cleveland as a rookie in a meaningless game. If you think his ballsy decision on Sunday was his first step into elitism, you're late to the party.

That being said, sit back and enjoy that final drive over and over again. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Never a Doubt

Posted because I'll never get sick of it. We've been there, man.

Looking over at the win probability for the Detroit Lions against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, it looks like the Lions didn't have much of a chance for most of second half. After Dallas' two long, fourth quarter touchdowns, the Cowboys' win probability grew to 90% and higher. After the Lions failed to convert their fourth down attempt with less than two minutes to go, that percentage peaked at 99%.

But I never had a doubt that the Lions would lose on Sunday. Seriously.

The Lions were absolutely dominant against the Cowboys. They tallied over 600 yards, while the Cowboys couldn't manage 300. The Lions gained 3.3 yards MORE PER PLAY than the Cowboys did. To put that in perspective, the 49ers defeated the Jaguars 42-10 on Sunday. The 49ers only had 80 more yards than Jacksonville, and only gained 2.8 yards more per play. Dallas punted eight times, the Lions twice. By any statistical measure, the Lions were destroying the competition.

...except for turnover margin, of course. The Lions turned the ball over four times. All four turnovers occurred in Cowboy's territory. One happened on first down. Two occurred as the Lions were likely picking up a first down. The Lions would have almost certainly scored on each of these drives. At the very least, that's 12 points taken off the board.

While everyone was panicking and calling for coaches' heads, I remained fairly calm and collective. A team that has committed a turnover in a game is no more likely to commit another one. Research is well-documented that turnovers are basically random. Sure, only one of the past 56 teams had won games with a -4 turnover margin, but how many of those losers outgained their opponent by over 350 yards? I'm willing to bet exactly zero. Turnovers are important because they affect the game so much, but they don't tell much about the future. But if a team has been moving the ball all day with almost no impotence, it stands to reason they'll continue to do so all game.

So when the Lions were faced with a 10 point deficit in a game they had already committed four turnovers in, I had no reason to be worried. The offense had moved the ball all game, and the defense had held Tony Romo to less than 100 passing yards through three quarters.

This was why I wasn't afraid when the Lions had only scored seven point through three quarters. When the Lions' turnover rate regressed to the mean, they would start scoring points. I knew they would.

Maybe you guys don't believe me. Well, thanks to the internet, I have proof.

At halftime:
After the Lions' fourth turnover of the game:

After the Lions turned it over on downs, and the announcers were already giving the Cowboys their fifth win (Mind you, this was before the holding penalty was even called):

But the point of this isn't to show how smart I am (but, seriously guys, I'm pretty smart). The point is that the Lions are a good team. Like, a really good team. They're a team that can make four terrible (but fluky) mistakes on offense and have two horrible breakdowns on defense, and still come out with a win over a division leader. They've got so much talent that they can overcome 99% loss probabilities. They can spit in the face of the past 55 teams who couldn't win after losing the turnover margin by four, and scream, "We are not you! We are not a normal team! WE'RE SPECIAL! WE'RE GOOD!"

Did they need a little luck? Absolutely. But that's the game of football for you.

The pessimists will look to the mistakes and forebode terrible things. Don't listen to them. They're the people that left the stadium with eight minutes left. They are the people who had to be told that the Lions won today, because they shut their televisions off when Dick Stockton told them to. Those people are wrong.

The Lions are good. The offense is lighting the league on fire right now. The defense has problems, but they just shut down a top-five passing offense without even forcing a turnover. The Lions are going to win more games this year. Maybe a lot more. And I'm damn excited.




Which resulted in EDJFIEYJAFLDNAZDJLAS (via @WorldOfIsaac)

Then, of course, Jim DAKJVAPOIREPWAIJF DFJAF KASDF;J (via @WorldOfIsaac, again)

I've never needed a bye week so bad in my life. Go Lions.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

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

First quarter:

12:17 - Not a very good play design nor pass from Matthew Stafford on Detroit's first failed third down of the day. The play is 100% designed for Brandon Pettigrew, who runs a quick out while the two receivers on that side of the field block to create space. Unfortunately, Pettigrew isn't athletic enough to beat his man, Vontaze Burfict, to the outside. Stafford's pass also turned Brandon around, making the play insanely easy for Burfict, but I'm not sure this play ever had a chance.

12:04 - What a huge kick from Sam Martin to pin the Bengals deep in their own territory. He must be feeling it today!!!

11:12 - I, for one, have been giving the Lions a pass on all of the defensive offside penalties this year. But it is absolutely unacceptable on third-and-short.

10:59 - I'm having a tough time figuring out what exactly went wrong on the long touchdown play. The obvious answer is Chris Houston bit on a double-move. But, certainly, he should have been given some sort of help. Glover Quin almost immediately jumps into the box, so it looks to me like the Lions are playing with one high safety.

However, Delmas jumps the crossing route over the middle of the field, and would have had a tough time coming from the opposite side of the field to help Houston with A.J. Green.

It's possible that the Lions were in cover two, but if that were the case, Quin left his responsibilites WAAAAYYY too early, which is uncharacteristic of him.

8:45 - Reggie Bush with an impressive one-handed catch in stride. He's also was able to keep his momentum going forwards without losing any speed, which is key to picking up this first down.

8:01 - And Joiuqe Bell one-ups him with an even more impressive one-handed snag.

6:29 - I love how Bell runs on third-and-short. He's now converted his last five third-and-short opportunities. That's his money down.

3:47 - Strange miscommunication here. Pettigrew is open, but Stafford doesn't throw it immediately. So Pettigrew turns it upfield, and just as his eyes leave Stafford's, Matthew throws the ball to where Pettigrew was headed, almost resulting in a pick-six. Bummer since Calvin was wide open.

3:36 - Another website did a great breakdown just how amazing this play was from Stafford. He was absolutely draped by the defensive end who beat Riley Reiff easily, yet somehow managed to get a clean release on the throw. Amazing first down pickup from Stafford.

3:06 - Fade to Calvin, in which Megatron mistimed his jump. Fade to Fauria, who cut inside for some reason. These plays are going to work this season, but gotta get the kinks out first. Doesn't matter anyway, because Pettigrew(?) saved the day.

2:28 - MAAAAAAAAN. That is sooooooooo close to just a good jump on the play.

I fear that refs just throw the flag for anything that looks like offside, but this is too close to call upon replay. It's really a bummer, because I think Ziggy and Fairley just got a great jump on the play and were definitely not drawn offside.

2:22 - Lions brought pressure on both 3rd-and-10 and 3rd-and-5. That forced Andy Dalton to get rid of the ball quickly and the receivers hadn't broken open yet. This is good strategy. Now do it more, please.

2:07 - Kris Durham doing a good job making his first defender miss and picking up the first down.

0:45 - Another "Wow" moment from Stafford. Two defenders are directly in the path of his target with their hands up, Stafford somehow throws it past them. THEN, his pass is quick enough to get by the breaking linebacker, and reach its target. I don't think there's more than five people in the world who could have made that throw

0:00 - Time for another edition of "Hole-hitting with Jeremy!" This time, I'm going to let the viewers play at home! Ready? Here we go:

Which hole should Bush run into on this play, 1 or 2?

I'll let you think about it for a second.

Ok, time's up! Let's see what you wrote down.

If you picked hole 2, you're a winner! You see, Larry Warford will be heading to the second level to take care of the unblocked linebacker roaming about. If you head to hole 1, that linebacker remains unblocked and will make you eat turf. I hope you made the right decision. Let's check in with Reggie and see what he chose:

OOOOOO. Looks like he went off the board and chose "Run into Raiola's back." Sorry, Reggie, that was also incorrect. But don't worry, you won't be going home empty-handed. Here's a copy of the home-version of "Hole-hitting with Jeremy!" Thanks for playing.

Second quarter:

14:19 - At first, I was not very happy with this hit on Calvin Johnson. I needed to protect my baby. But after watching it again, it was not against the rules. From the rulebook:

(b) Prohibited contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture is:
  • (1) Forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him; and 
  • (2) Lowering the head and making forcible contact with the top/crown or forehead/”hairline” parts of the helmet against any part of the defenseless player’s body.
Calvin is definitely in a defenseless posture, and the defender definitely lowers his head, but the majority of the contact comes from his shoulder, and none of his body comes into contact with Calvin's head. Take a look:

This is a brutal hit, and it's definitely as unsafe as an illegal hit, but it does not appear to be against the rules.

12:38 - Durham with a good route to get inside position on the corner. Unfortunately, Stafford throws it to his back shoulder. With an accurate throw, it's 14-7 Lions.

11:53 - Stafford's throw to Fauria was a bit dangerous, but it was really his only chance at a completion. Everyone else seemed to be running routes directly towards a defender.

11:01 - The Lions were trying to get a little cute on defense by faking Ashlee Palmer on a blitz. Instead, he dropped into coverage....on A.J. Green. I think this is an instance of being a little too cute.

9:00 - The Lions got cute again on third down. They lined the defensive ends on the interior of the line, then had them loop aroudn the edges to get pressure. It works in freeing up both rushers, but it takes way too long for both to get to Dalton. Meanwhile, the linebackers dropped into coverage BEYOND the first down marker and gave up an easy conversion.

7:29 - Ndamukong Suh with a great bullrush from the defensive end position to force Dalton out of the pocket on third down and force the field goal attempt. A rare moment of pressure from the defensive line.

7:17 - What an insanely frustrating overthrow by Stafford on a perfect play.

Stafford looks down Durham's route on the right and draws the safety over to that side of the field, leaving Johnson in one-on-one coverage. He beats his guy and the safety struggles to get back in the play. A pass anywhere where Calvin can get his hands on it either results in a catch or pass interference. Johnson had beat his guys so clearly that an underthrow would have been just as good, as neither defender was in any position to look back on the ball. If Calvin stops to get the ball, the defenders run through him and draw the easy pass interference call. Instead, Stafford airmails it and misses a big opportunity.

6:16 - More magic from Stafford on third down as this middle screen is read the entire way. But Matthew slips the ball into a tight window (and Dominic Raiola gets away with a crucial block-in-the-back) and the Lions convert again.

5:00 - Stafford, why must you make it so hard for me to love you? This time, the safety is cheating to Calvin's side, leaving him basically doubled. Durham just plain beats his guy and Stafford overthrows him again, causing us both to do this:

4:48 - Just a perfectly timed screen pass dialed up by Scott Linehan. If Joique was a little more patient on the play, he may have scored, but I think his mindset was on just getting the first down.

2:45 - Stafford with another overthrow, although this was a pretty challenging throw to make. He had to clear the linebacker while laying it in there in the receiver's breadbasket. This has never been Stafford's strength. Still, insanely frustrating.

2:18 - Blocked field goals shorter than 40 yards are 100% unacceptable. That is all.

This drive alone is enough to drive any Lions fan mad (well, madder). Stafford made some brilliant plays, Linehan dialed up some well-timed calls. But all that sticks out are the missed opportunities, the sniffed out screen, and the blown field goal. The Lions should have had a lead (maybe even a two-score lead) going into the half, but instead blew a huge opportunity.

0:46 - Not sure what to say on this defensive drive. Occasionally, the Lions were a little soft on their coverage (Houston), but overall, Dalton just made some great throws, especially on that touchdown pass to Marvin Jones.

0:00 - Two things about the Lions running the clock out. 1) I don't think they should have. 2) If they were just going to run out the clock, there was no reason to run the second play. A draw was not going to pick up enough yards to change their mind, especially when everyone knows it is coming. The only significant thing that could have happened on that second running play was a fumble or an injury.

Third quarter:

14:00 - Willie Young sooooo close to getting a hand on that play.

11:51 - Bill Bentley finds himself in no-man's land when the ball directly comes to where he should have been on this third and long. Costly mistake.

10:49 - The Bengals line up with a tight end on both sides of the formation. The Lions decide to send a blitz on the right side of the offense. The tight end and the fullback easily pick this up. Meanwhile, on the other side of the play, Ziggy Ansah actually drops into coverage. The only player on his side of the field was Tyler Eifert, who runs way downfield, leaving Ziggy to cover nobody. It was a very unfortunate play call that didn't work at all. Rashean Mathis does a valiant job trying to cover Eifert, but it's a big mismatch and a perfectly thrown ball. If the defensive playcall was flipped, it would have worked perfectly, but the Lions just got a little unlucky there.

10:37 - I didn't like the chop block call here. I don't think Warford was engaged with the linebacker when Bush took out his knees. What is really frustrating is the lineman that threw the flag was much further away from the play than the back judge who did not throw a flag on the play.

10:00 - This is why I can't get mad at Stafford for his earlier misses. He throws a bullet to Kevin Ogletree that hits him in stride. He can thank Calvin Johnson for drawing the safety over and leaving him wide open.

8:23 - Amazing back-shoulder throw by Stafford and brilliant concentration from Johnson, who was absolutely blanketed, to haul in the TD pass. But my favorite part of the play was Fauria escorting Johnson to the goal posts for a dunk.

6:32 - Darius Slay wasn't bad out there, but I have to admit, it was hard watching him out there giving up third down conversions when a perfectly healthy Chris Houston was on the sideline.

5:00 - Dalton with another perfectly laid pass, but Tully made it easy for him.

4:23 - This may have been the best defensive play all day for the Lions. Delmas shoots up and makes a HUGE open-field tackle. Without this aggressive play by Delmas, the Benglas not only pick up a first down, but it's first-and-goal, at least, for Cincinnati.

2:17 - Though that was probably interference by Burfict on third down, I have to give him credit for coverage anyway. He didn't bite on Bush's fake to the outside, and was in position to make a play, with or without pass interference.

2:12 - Martin with another punt downed inside the 20-yard line. Man, he's having a great game! What a draft pick!

1:24 - Eifert just blew up Devin Taylor on a chip block, then picked up a 2-yard reception to boot. He also had quite the shit-eating grin afterwards.

0:43 - Great challenge by Schwartz here, but I'm guessing Delmas will be getting fined for this play. He got a piece of a quarterback's helmet, which is punishable by death in today's NFL.

Fourth quarter:

12:14 - Protection is starting to break down as the Bengals send a well-disguised blitz on 2nd and 8. The blitz gets by Larry Warford (and Waddle get's beat on the left side as well). Kudos to Stafford, who was clearly acting to avoid a grounding penalty when he was trying to tell Johnson that he was supposed to break outside on his route. Not convincing enough, unfortunately.

11:59 - What else can I say? This was awesome on every level. It had the scrambling desperation of Stafford's Hail Mary against Cleveland plus the unbelievability of Calvin's triple coverage catch in Dallas. This was the best play ever. Also, check out this video someone made of the play.

11:04 - Green in single coverage on a deep pass, AYEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. But Houston makes a good play on the ball, and gets an invisible offensive pass interference penalty, to boot.

10:24 - OH GOD ANOTHER DEEP PASS TO GREEN. But Glover Quin makes a beautiful play on the ball and almost gets an insignificant interception (insignificant, because it would have given the Lions near-identical field position).

8:15 - Lions got semi-jobbed here. Calvin gets flagged for running his route, which just so happened to go through a defender, who he clearly tries to go around. The Bengals get called for something else, too, but the Lions would have declined it, since Bell got all the way down to Cincy's 35 yard line. The penalties may have offset, but it ended up costing the Lions nearly 20 yards. This was huge in retrospect.

7:08 - Protection is really starting to break down at this point, but Stafford is doing a good job escaping it. Unfortunately, he almost threw this right into a Bengal's hands.

6:19 - Miserable execution on this third down play. The play is a screen to Bell, and it's actually set up fairly well.

But the entire play is thrown off by one pesky Bengals lineman, who disrupts Bell's route (legally, because it's within 5 yards).

Bell is thrown completely off balance and doesn't hit his mark when he needs to. Because timing is key on this play, the wide receivers are all illegally blocking down field as Stafford is forced to hold onto the ball longer. Bell abandons his route, but it's too late, the play has failed. Key third down blunder.

4:58 - I know it's no fun giving the Bengals credit, but their offense is quite underrated. They have a bunch of threats, one being Jermaine Gresham, who is a mismatch against any linebackers. Even though Levy and Tulloch had been good in pass coverage this season, they were burned by Gresham for big plays on Sunday. These 22 yards ended up being huge in terms of field position.

3:10 - Think the Lions were expecting run on this play?

That's 10 guys within 2 yards of the line of scrimmage. It ended up working, as the Bengals lost 4 yards on the play.

2:00 - Obviously that was a huge stop by the defense and a great play from Suh. But the damage was done. The Bengals gained 40 yards of field position on the drive, and the tight ends tallied at total of 46 receiving yards. Tough day for Lions linebackers.

0:34 - My thoughts on how the Lions managed their last drive of the game can be read at the bottom of my recap from Monday. But to quickly summarize, I thought Schwartz did mostly the right thing. An argument could be made that he should have run out the clock once they got a first down, but I had no problem with them going for the win at that point. I don't blame him for failing to account for the possibility of a 28 yard punt.

0:34 - Speaking of which, Martin, we are not on speaking terms.*

Overall thoughts:

- I think we need to credit the Bengals offense a bit. They are an increasingly talented team with a lot of weapons. Dalton may not be amazing, but he made some big throws on Sunday. The Lions need to do a better job of getting pressure on the quarterback, but this problem wasn't as bad as I thought it was on gameday. The Lions tried a wide variety of things, and occasionally were just milliseconds late. However, I remain fairly unimpressed with Ansah's pure pass-rushing abilities right now.

- Outside of the drive that ended in the field goal block, I thought Stafford played a phenomenal game.

- Of course the week I go on a rant about how special teams doesn't really matter anymore it just so happens that two crucial special teams plays sunk the Lions on Sunday.

*We have never been on speaking terms, as he is a punter. I will never like punters. They represent forfeit and failure.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Achievement Unlocked: Losing Like a Good Team

Yesterday was frustrating. The Lions lost a close game against a good opponent at home. It was a game they certainly could have won, but didn't. This isn't exactly new for this team, but the frustration felt different. I wasn't frustrated that the Lions made several mistakes that cost them the game, even though they most certainly did. I wasn't frustrated that the coaching staff made some questionable choices, even though I think they may have. I wasn't even frustrated with Sam Martin's poorly-timed shank. (Okay, I'm lying on that last one.) But, still, my overall frustration wasn't with the Lions at all. They played well enough to overcome all of those small mistakes. My frustration was with the game of football and the NFL. A game in which there is almost always a winner and a loser, and the difference between the two often has nothing to do with talent.

The Bengals and the Lions went toe-to-toe with each other all game. Each team made huge plays in huge situations. Both teams' offenses were on fire, putting up almost identical numbers (Lions: 434 yards, Bengals: 421) while neither team turned the ball over all game. It was a clean game, with very little interruption/mistakes from the refs (with one outrageous, but not exactly game-changing exception). But the Bengals came out on top, and the Lions only got an "L" for their efforts, and fell out of first place.

This represents a new achievement as a Lions: losing a fairly well-played game because football is a game that's played on a razor-thin edge of wins and losses and they just so happened to fall on the losing side this week. The Lions are no strangers to losing close games, but in the past it has felt like there was a laundry-list of mistakes and comical errors that cost them the game. They were losing games because of mistakes that are typical of bad teams: drops, turnovers, penalties, etc.

While there were some missed opportunities on Sunday, they weren't of the normal variety. They only committed four penalties all game. No terrible drops or fumbles come to mind. They didn't turn the ball over once (and have no only turned the ball over once in three weeks now). Sure, there was an overthrow by Stafford here and there, and the defense gave up another few big plays. Those are things that happen to every team, good and bad.

What really cost the Lions the game was the cruelty of NFL luck. Perhaps the biggest play of the game was the blocked field goal; a play in which injury forced a change-up in the formation. Though Schwartz denies that the change in personnel had any effect on the block, I remain unconvinced. And then there was the shanked punt. Nothing could have been more random, yet devastating. The rookie had been kicking the hell out of the ball for the past few weeks, and chose the most devastating time to make his biggest blunder of the season. An average kick from him in that situation almost certainly results in overtime.

But that's the way it goes in the NFL. Good teams lose all the time. Look at how the Patriots lost yesterday. A new rule -- that I'm sure no fan had even heard of -- gave the Jets a second chance at an overtime field goal for the win. Without the penalty, New England would have had great field position and almost certainly would have won that game.

So many tiny errors can have seismic affects on the outcome of a football game, that every team is bound to fall victim to one during a season. That's why it's so unbelievable that a team can go undefeated (or winless) in today's NFL. But it's why the Lions lost on Sunday.


Since most people find it unsatisfying to put the blame of the loss on seemingly random misfortune, I'd like to address the most common scapegoats from Sunday's game:

- Matthew Stafford and his overthrows. Did Stafford miss a few potentially big plays? Absolutely. Could they have swayed this loss into a win? Possibly. But it's hard to fault a guy who threw for 350+ yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions against a defense that Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers couldn't crack. It was the first time in 20 games that a quarterback had thrown for 300 yards against the Bengals defense, and Stafford did so with impressive efficiency (8/14 on third down conversions).

- Jim Schwartz's ineptitude at the end of the game. The Lions were in a awfully tough spot at the end of the game. They were 1st-and-10 at their own 6 yard line with 1:43 left in the game. Each team had two timeouts. According to Advanced NFL Stats, the Lions expected points starting from their own 6 yard line is roughly -0.5 points. In other words, the Bengals were more likely to score next, despite not even having the ball. So, ideally, the best situation would be to run out the clock, and see a better scenario in overtime. Unfortunately, the Bengals had two timeouts, so running the ball three times would have resulted in Cincinnati getting the ball back with about a minute left with a short field ahead of them.

Instead, Schwartz showed a little aggressiveness by throwing on second down. And it worked. The Lions got a first down. If there is an argument to be had, it would be that he should have been more conservative at that point and just ran the clock out from there. Instead, the Lions threw it three straight times. Still, I think even this was the right move. The Lions were looking for short, safe passes up the middle. This way, they could still bleed some clock, while giving their players opportunities to get some yards after the catch and potentially get them in field goal position. As it turns out, Calvin got his feet tangled with a defender on second down, Stafford failed to account for a blitzer on third down, and the Lions threw two incomplete passes.

Still, with a decent punt, the Bengals would have likely had to go at least 30 yards in 20 seconds with only one timeout. Instead, Martin choked. It's not on Schwartz for failing to account for that anomaly.

I do, however, have a problem with Schwartz's forfeit of a possession at the end of the first half (again). 41 seconds from your own 20 yard line with two timeouts is plenty of time to go out and try to get into field goal range. Stafford has been extremely safe with the ball lately, so there's no reason to play scared of a deep turnover. I know the Lions offense has been more of the long, elaborate drive variety lately, but this roster is good enough to execute a two (or one) minute offense at the end of halves.

- Scott Linehan's play calling. 434 yards of offense, 24 points, no turnovers, no sacks. All against a top 10 defense who hadn't given up over 400+ yards of offense all season. The offensive gameplan worked.

- The defense. This is the best argument for a scapegoat you can have. Andy Dalton had no trouble all game moving the Bengals up and down the field. However, the defense forced the Bengals to punt on three of their last four possessions, and the last possession is hard to fault the defense on. They ceded 15 yards total. Still, if you really have the need to find a scapegoat, the defense is probably a good place to start.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Joseph Fauria Dance Wishlist

It has recently come to my attention that Joseph Fauria is asking his fans and twitter followers for touchdown dance celebrations. If you didn't know already, Fauria has quickly become a national treasure for each of his five touchdown celebrations this season.

Like most non-terrible people, I am a big fan of all of this. In fact, last year I begged for Tony Scheffler to Gangnam Style dance all over the endzone. Unfortunately, Scheffler only scored one touchdown all of last season, and my campaign for a little Detroit Lions K-Pop went unfulfilled. This year, I will not let my wishes go ungranted. So Mr. Joseph Fauria, king of the touchdown two-tap, here is my list of dances I'd love to see:

1) Elaine's dance from "Seinfeld":


Degree of difficulty: 1/10
Entertainment level : 9/10

The Elaine dance offers the highest awesomeness-to-difficulty ratio of any dance ever. While the movements look awkward -- and lesser humans may not recognize it -- the "Seinfeld" die-hards will love you forever for its execution. All it takes is two thumbs, an awkward kick, and a head-whip. Easy, rewarding, and I know you'll get the attention of NFL Network's Rich Eisen, who is a huge Seinfeld fan.

2) Any "Arrested Development" chicken dance:

This would be especially perfect if you could pull one of these off against the Eagles or Ravens later in the season, but any time is a good time to reference "Arrested Development." Let's break it down further (thanks to the Dallas Observer Blog for the GIFs):

Gob, The Original:
Degree of difficulty: 4/10
Entertainment level: 7/10 (+2 bonus points if you grab your ankle)

The Gob chicken dance is a classic, and frankly I'm shocked it hasn't been used as a celebration to date. I've personally pulled this dance off before, and it's not quite as easy as it seems. It requires a certain stiffness, yet fluidity. I suggest you study the film by watching seasons 1-3 immediately.

Degree of difficulty: 2/10
Entertainment level: 4/10

Like Linday's character herself, I was never much of a fan of her rendition of the chicken dance. I wouldn't suggest picking this one. I feel like the hand over the helmet would look like some sort of weird, racist hand-signal. Still, it's a solid reference, and a bit of a deep pull.

Degree of difficulty: 1/10
Entertainment level: 5/10

This requires little leg movement, which would be a positive if you've got a bum ankle. But this won't look like much unless you're mic'd up. One issue with all of the "Arrested Development" dances is that they require some audio to pull off perfectly. Without vocals, the Lucille dance just looks like something DeSean Jackson may do.

George Sr.:
Degree of difficulty: 4/10
Entertainment level: 7/10

George Sr.'s dance gets a higher degree of difficulty because there is no real set form to it. I think that's what makes it awesome. The arm movements are seemingly random, yet make so much sense together. Plus, there's a leg kick in there somewhere. Where? I'm not sure. Why? Why the hell not. Erratic, yet beautiful.

3) Peanuts dances:

Degree of difficulty: 5/10
Entertainment level: 6/10 (10/10 if you do it on Thanksgiving)

This is another one that may be a little hard to recognize while wearing pads and a helmet. But look at that nasty footwork. But if you practice this one and get it down perfectly, the results could be amazing. A side-by-side GIF of you two would likely blow my mind. And look how popular a Real-Life Peanuts gag was earlier this week. However, if this is too difficult to pull off in a recognizable fashion, I'd recommend the girl instead:

Silly, recognizable, quick, and fun for the whole family.

4) Stephen Colbert's GREATEST DANCE EVER

Difficulty: 10/10
Entertainment: 10/10

Mr. Fauria. I don't mean to talk down to you, but you may want to just stay away from this one. Many have tried to emulate this dance. There have been no survivors. I'm sure you are up for pretty much any challenge, but no one would fault you for passing on this impossible feat. If you are feeling frisky, please study this film for a few months before pulling this out in the season finale.

But I must say, if you ever do pull this off, your fame will know no limits. Colbert would undoubtedly catch wind of it, and you'd probably find yourself in his studio a few days later. A Fauria/Colbert dance-off would break every awesome-meter in existence.

So those are your options, Mr. Fauria. Choose wisely, and never stop dancing.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Three Days Late "Live" Blog: Lions at Browns

Fair warning, this is going to be very bipolar:

First quarter:

14:00 - If there's one thing that's always worried me about the Lions offense, it's their 3rd-and-short gameplan. But Joique Bell has proved invaluable in these situations. He's perfect. Strong runner with great vision. Browns loaded the box on this play, but Joique just lowered he head and got the job done.  

12:46 - Matthew Stafford with a good progression of reads, with minimal panic in the pocket (but he still threw off his back foot).

12:04 - The Lions (and I) love using Reggie Bush as a decoy and deploying Bell instead. This screen to Joique would have gone for a lot more if Warford hadn't missed the block downfield that is getting jumped over in the picture below.

10:02 - Third-and-two with Bush in the backfield. That's pretty much telegraphing the defense that you intend on passing. Would love to see Bell back there. At the very least that would open up some play-action possibilities.

...and for the record, I was slightly hoping the Lions would go for it here. Fourth and 2 from the opponent's 38 is a high-reward, relatively low-risk situation. Putting on my offensive coordinator hat on for a second, I would have run it on third down. If I came up short, I'd call for the offense to hurry to the line and do it again (with Bell).

As it turned out, Sam Martin (in his best game of the season, in my opinion) pinned them deep and the Lions' next offensive possession had good field position because of it.

9:30 - I obviously don't know each players' defensive assignment on this play, but it sure looked like Stephen Tulloch abandoned his responsibilities trying to get a jump on the play.

9:20 - Suh spinning out of a double team to meet the running back in the backfield. Ho-hum.

7:14 - Stafford zings a perfect ball just over the linebacker in time before the safety gets to Durham. Beautiful play.....except Durham dropped it.

4:18 - Bush gains two yards, loses four, then gains two all on one play. It was cute, but extremely dangerous. Reggie could have easily had a third-and-inches or even a first down. But he got cute and almost put the Lions in a third-and-long.

3:43 - Joe Haden had a handful of jersey on that pass interference call, but it was still pretty weak. It didn't seem to affect Kevin Ogletree much.

3:37 - THAT pass interference was legit.

3:33 - Calvin gets an incredible amount of separation with almost no effort, but drops it. Stafford could have laid it in better, but Calvin makes that catch nine out of 10 times.

3:31 - The Lions now have Joseph Fauria and Calvin Johnson to cover in the red zone. Good luck, defenses. Try and double them both? It's Joique Bell time.

2:47 - Ndamukong Suh is getting reviewed for a possible fine on this play. To be fair, it is very close to head-to-head contact. But it doesn't appear he got Brandon Weeden in the face.

2:42 - Cleveland punts from their own 26-yard line. Lions start on their own 12 because of a penalty. That's the equivalent to a 62-yard punt with no return. Special teams penalties are the silent killer.

2:29 - Mikel Leshoure with a nice 5-yard carry. No snark here, that was good to see.

1:29 - Order of people to blame for the 45-yard end around play:

1) Tulloch - fooled by play, then took a bad angle.
2) Bill Bentley - gave up on the play when he saw two offensive linemen around him.
3) Andre Fluellen - shot into the backfield then quickly turned his back to the actual ball carrier.

12:57 - I'll be honest, I still have no idea who blew their assignment on the Browns' first touchdown. If they were in a zone, it was Rashean Mathis's fault for following the wide receiver's route too far inside. If they were playing a mixture of zone and man, it was on Louis Delmas, who gave up on the running back after realizing it was a passing play. This seems a little more likely given how unnecessarily overcrowded the middle of the field was.

Second quarter:

12:13 - Stafford overthrows Ogletree. Must have thought it was Calvin.

11:58 - Browns almost caught Delmas cheating towards the inside seam route like the Packers did last week. An accurate pass may have resulted in six.

11:40 - Levy sniffs out the screen (again), but misses the tackle, turning a 2-yard loss into a 9-yard gain. It would take some sort of miracle 2 interception game for me to forgive him of this.

11:10 - Tough luck for the Lions on third down. They send a good, delayed blitz. Chris Houston does a great job taking away the easy pass to Jordan Cameron, but Weeden lays a perfect pass to Josh Gordon JUST before Delmas gets there.

8:50 -


6:53 - Cleveland has balls.

Stafford immediately goes to Calvin (at the bottom of the screen), who drops another good pass.

1:20 - Not a lot to say on Cleveland's second touchdown drive of the game. The Lions were close to stopping Cleveland on a few situations, but overall, it was just a well formulated drive from the Browns. Sometimes you just got to tip your hat to them, even if "them" is the Browns offense.

One thing I will say is that it was idiotic for the Lions NOT to use their timeouts after the two-minute warning. They could have easily gotten the ball back with 1:50, but instead they only had 1:16 left. Of course, the Lions went three-and-out anyways (after two drops) and the Browns ended up tacking on a field goal, but my point still stands.

0:43 - Houston has great coverage here, but just misses knocking the ball down and in the process misses the tackle. Gordon has a bunch of field in front of him and the Lions are lucky he didn't score.

Third quarter:

12:52 - When Bush dropped this pass to start the second half, I threw my hands in the air so hard, I wouldn't have been surprised if they had detached from my body. That moment was definitely the peak of my frustration.

11:56 - Stafford scrambles for a first down, then slams the ball into the turf, probably out of amazement of his own mobility. It cost him five yards to blow his own mind.

11:48 - If Bush always hit the holes with that much decisiveness, he'd be leading the league in rushing yards. This has been this week's edition of "Hole-Hitting with Jeremy."

9:13 - Perfect play call against the blitz. I love the middle screen just about any time in the game, but Linehan dialed this one up at the perfect time. Credit goes to Rob Sims for laying down a huge block that sprung the touchdown.

8:50 - Levy with a great read on the end around, but if Nick Fairley had seen the play coming, he probably would have forced a fumble and planted Gordon a foot deep into the turf.

8:00 - Lions force a three-and-out despite ANOTHER offside penalty.

6:04 - Calvin with an underrated catch. The ball was tipped just before reaching him, and he made it look pedestrian. Huge play on third down.

3:50 - Bell with two consecutive runs in which he got at least six total yards after first contact. He is of huge value to this team. I feel like I need to keep reminding everyone of this.

2:20 - What an amazing pass by Stafford. He has to throw uncomfortably high over Rob Sims, who was driven backwards into Stafford. Matthew lays it in nicely and Megatron pushes for the first down.

1:49 - And of course after three consecutive, gritty third down conversions, the very next play is a fluky interception. You'd like to see Patrick Edwards fight for that ball more, but that was a very good defensive play by Cleveland.

0:50 - Here's something the Lions haven't done very well in the past, but managed to do well on Sunday: disguising blitzes.

Levy is showing blitz, jumping from gap to gap, while Tulloch remains completely stationary. But at the snap...

...Tulloch comes blazing in and gets to Weeden untouched. Weeden gets of a slow, wobbly throw that allows the defender to catch up in time to force a loss of two yards.

0:00 - Three Cleveland possessions in the third quarter, 6 yards.

Fourth quarter:

14:00 - There needs to be a "Reggie Bush Destroying Linebackers in Coverage" tumblr page. Nate Washuta, get on it

11:47 - Not to jinx anything, but we've now seen Good Brandon Pettigrew for two weeks straight. Granted, he's been used sparingly, but maybe that's the best way to utilize him. Huge play by him here to make the first guy miss and pick up a big first down.

10:41 - Fauria's Tony Scheffler transformation is complete. This seam-route touchdown was classic 2011 Scheffler. I can't wait to see more of this kid. I know he has knocks on his blocking ability, and we don't really know how much separation he's capable of, but he's making some great catches in traffic. And with a quarterback like Stafford, who is unafraid of fitting balls into tight windows, that's all the Lions really need.

9:49 - It's really a shame that FOX couldn't get their shit together for this replay. We got 1.5 replays before the challenge ruling was in and the announcer didn't even get their analysis in before we knew the play was remaining incomplete. We got no sideline view, which could have really helped. It looked like this left heal may have come down out of bounds before his right foot came down, but we had no idea. Either way, Darius Slay cannot let that happen on a 2nd and 25.

8:17 - Stafford doing a great job looking off receivers and helping them get open. Exhibit A:

6:11 - Calvin with another drop. I'm blindly chalking up this game to his knee injury, accurate or not.

6:04 - David Akers with a clutch 51-yard field goal. Anyone ready to apologize about the ridiculous Kickalicious saga yet? I'll wait.

Here was my actual live reaction to the kick.
 Only 2 retweets? You guys really need to let go of the guy. He's not playing football for a reason (that reason being: he's not a football player).

5:37 - Oh, Bill Bentley. You wish you had Levy's hands. Cue the announcer's go-to line of how "this is why he plays cornerback not wide receiver." Oh so clever.

4:36 - Sure that was a terrible play by Weeden, but great job by Levy closing in on that route and making the easy catch. Yeah, never mind, that was mostly just a terrible decision by Weeden.

3:09 - Great downfield blocking by the wide receivers on this bubble screen.

Oh, you need a receiver for a bubble screen? Darn.

2:58 - The roughing the passer was borderline. Straight from the rulebook (emphasis added):
"When tackling a passer who is in a defenseless posture (e.g., during or just after
throwing a pass), a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw him down and land on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight."

I'd say that falls under the definition of most of the defender's weight. He does let up a bit and doesn't have him wrapped all the way down to the ground, but he still lands with most of he weight on top of Stafford. I don't like the rule, but by the book, it wasn't a terrible call. And there was an uncalled pass interference on the play, so Cleveland fans don't have much of a case here.

2:05 - REALLY happy to see the Lions pass on 3rd down here. A running play, while safe, would have run almost no time off the clock with the two-minute warning looming. You could essentially run the same amount of time off the clock with a passing play, and the upside of a passing play (first down, or in this case, touchdown) is much more likely than a running conversion. Oh, and any extra opportunity to see Fauria celebrate is positive in my book.

Overall Bullets:

- This was a lot less frustrating the second time around. While the second quarter was disastrous on all sorts of statistical levels, it didn't really seem that way watching with emotion removed. I give a lot of credit to the Cleveland offense on how well they played in that quarter (especially at offensive line). And if the Lions offense hadn't had some untimely drops, that entire quarter would have been much different.

- My favorite part of Fauria's success was that the Lions called his number on big plays. His last touchdown was a huge play, and it was designed to go to him from the get go. Both Linehan and Stafford are clearly gaining more trust in him, and Fauria is giving them no reason not to.

- While both linebackers (I'm not including Ashlee Palmer here, because he barely sees the field with as much nickel as the Lions play) deserve a TON of credit in the passing game, neither have been particularly good in the running game. They both seem to struggle to get off blocks, and they're both susceptible to leaving cutback lanes open.