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. 

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