Monday, November 11, 2013

Cool Guys Don't Look at Explosions

I woke up this morning and the Detroit Lions were still in first place. It wasn't a dream. The Lions weren't disqualified in the middle of the night by some technicality. Yesterday actually happened.

Yet my damn subconscious cannot seem to come to terms with this fantastic reality. Literally my first thought when I opened my eyes this morning was that Matthew Stafford had somehow broken his collarbone, too. I don't know why this thought popped into my head, but I just knew that if I opened up twitter, my timeline would be filled with villagers screaming and gouging their own eyes out as the town burnt to the ground. This team has done a number on me.

But screw that. I'm done with that. The last time the Lions were in first place this late in the season, I was enjoying awkwardly experiencing my first year as a teenager. The horrors and monstrosities that followed for the next decade happened to a different team. They were witnessed by a different me. This is different. This is now.

I know the Murphy's Law part of my brain will always be there, spreading panic and lies at every opportunity it gets. But, today, I am performing a symbolic lobotomy. No more worrying. No more doubt. No more irrational fear. This is a team that should, and will, win the NFC North this year.

I'm not just baptizing myself in the Honolulu Blue River this week, I'm doing a cannonball in that mother-effer. I'm swallowing gulps by the mouthful in a way that would make Augustus Gloop look at me shamefully. I'm all in on this team. I'm buying playoff stock. I'm doing whatever metaphor it takes to let you know: I believe in this team, and I'm not looking back.

A fun thing for fans to do when their team wins, especially against a rival like Chicago, is to go to their fans' website and partake in a little schadenfreude. But, today, I get no pleasure watching the Bears fans devour themselves. That is beneath me, beneath us. They are the explosion we are walking away from without turning to watch. Everyone else in the league will be shocked and horrified by the carnage we left in our path. They will speak of broken collarbones and groins torn to pieces. They will criticize our savagery, and try to take our earnings. But we will continue to walk forward. Because we're walking towards something greater, and we've got another building to blow up.


Game notes:

- This wasn't a particularly satisfying game in any way. There were no big plays on either side of the ball for either team. The Lions did not win in a convincing fashion by any means, and it was disappointing to see their inability to put away the Bears when they had several chances.

- None of that really matters though. It was a division win on the road against an above-average team. That's big.

- I was pretty disappointed to see Stafford fall into some bad habits in this game. Specifically, his over-reliance on Calvin Johnson. Calvin saw almost exactly half of Stafford's targets in this game (17 of 35). Matthew went 6-17 for 83 yards, 2 TDs and an INT when throwing to Megatron. That's a passer rating of 66.5. I know Calvin pretty much won the game, and I know he's the best receiver in football, but the Lions offense is unstoppable when Stafford is spreading the ball.

- Expanding on that point, in the Lions' three scoring drives, Calvin had just five catches for 64 yards.

- After a disappointing start, the Lions really got things going on the ground in the second half. Their final scoring drive was perfectly balanced: 4 rushes for 29 yards, 5 passes for 45 yards.

- The Lions were clearly the benefactor of an ailing Jay Cutler in the second half. Cutler completely stopped throwing anything further than 10 yards down the field late in the game. But a lot of credit goes to the Lions defense for rendering the Bears' running game completely moot and turning the Bears' offense into a zero-dimension threat.

- DeAndre Levy continues to have a Pro Bowl-worthy year. Not only was his interception huge, but he also drew a holding in the fourth quarter, negating at touchdown. This guy has made huge strides this year, and is on his way to becoming a household name.

- Coaching notes: I'm going to get more into this in my "Live" blog, but coaching decisions this week were again a mixed bag. I was for the Lions going for it early in the game, but for the second straight week, the Lions failed to use timeouts on defense at the end of the first half. Again, it was clear they were geting the ball back, and they could have saved at least 40-60 seconds with timeouts. Instead, they got the ball back with less than 30 seconds and sat on it.

- However, I was absolutely delighted with the offensive play-calling for the Lions' final drive. At the end of the drive, the Lions could have ran the ball three times, forcing the Bears to use all of their timeouts, but the Lions made their priority six points rather than bleeding the clock. As it turned out, those points were much more valuable than bleeding clock, as the would have had plenty of time to score even without those timeouts.

- Nick Fairley's stop on the two-point conversion attempt was both the biggest play and the entire story of the game.

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