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.

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