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.

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