Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Three Days Late "Live" Blog: Lions at Bears

Film note: The coaches film at Soldier Field is notoriously horrible. Unfortunately, that makes analysis a bit tougher than normal. So if I'm lighter on observations this week, that's why.

First quarter:

14:16 - Not terrible coverage by Rashean Mathis on Chicago's first third-down conversion of the day. It's a bit of a mismatch between him and Brandon Marshall, but give a lot of credit to Jay Cutler for putting that ball in a perfect spot where Mathis has no chance of batting it down.

12:45 - On the touchdown, Chicago designed a very nice fake that opened up a lot of field for Marshall.

The play looks very much like a quick wide receiver screen. Marshall fakes blocking down field, while Cutler looks immediately for the quick pass. This brings Louis Delmas way down the field.

The result is Marshall in one-on-one coverage with Darius Slay and a whole lot of empty field ahead. Marshall gets inside leverage on Slay, and makes an athletic catch. I don't blame Slay, as he was actually in very good coverage, but he couldn't knock the ball away from Marshall.

Still, a very poor way to start the game.

11:59 - In case you blinked and missed him, here's visual evidence that Montell Owens played a down for the Detroit Lions once.

9:29 - Excellent blitz pickup by Joique Bell on third down. Two Bears linebackers threaten to blitz up the A-gap before the snap. Only one comes blitzing, and Bell immediately notices and clears out a big path for Matthew Stafford to step up into. Good to see Stafford not panic immediately with an A-gap blitz, like he has in the past.

8:49 - Dominica Raiola is having a rough first drive, especially in run blocking.

6:48 - You guys think Reggie would have scored here?

6:01 - Kris Durham with a dirty move for the touchdown. He faked a quick slant, than swam over-top of his defender and ran an uncontested post-route.

Good to see the Lions answer quickly and not let the lead ever grow any bigger.

5:11 - Weird wrinkle that may only interest me, the Bears lined up with 6 offensive lineman on this play. The sixth man, who is listed as a guard on Chicago's official website, was lined up outside the left tackle and actually ran a route. The ball wasn't thrown to him, but I enjoyed watching a 300+ pound man run a seam-route up the middle of the defense.

5:07 - Bad luck for Ndamunkong Suh with the facemask. Willie Young was about to sack Cutler anyway.

4:42 - DeAndre Levy: Screen Killer. Just look how quickly Levy notices the play.

Cutler hasn't even cocked his arm back to throw the ball, and Levy is already booking it to the intended receiver. His quick recognition allows him to get to the receiver before a lineman can block him, and although he doesn't ultimately make the tackle, he blows up the play enough to let his teammates catch up.

4:00 - And Levy follows up that play by forcing an end around to go extremely wide and eventually out of bounds. The guy is playing out of his mind.

2:19 - 3 things:
1) I don't know how this ball was not intercepted after deflecting off of Calvin Johnson's hands.
2) This was a pretty awful throw by Stafford.
3) Although a pass to Calvin is never a bad idea AND he was open, a pass to Reggie would have been easier, and probably would have picked up more. The linebacker that was on him, bit on the play-action, and Calvin cleared that side of the field.

1:26 - I know the offensive line got a lot of credit for this game, but they were not good in the first quarter. The Lions only averaged 3.0 a carry on six rushes in the first stanza.

Second quarter:

11:51 - That is an absolutely huge tackle by Chris Houston. He gets around the offensive lineman and gets just enough of Matt Forte, who is not easy to bring down, to tackle him before the sticks.

...why are they bringing in Rocky freaking McIntosh?


Also, congratulation to the referee crew for the worst measurement ever. They said it couldn't be done.

10:24 - That was an awfully generous first down given to the Lions on a Bell run that looked at least a yard short of the sticks.

8:23 - Alright, let's talk about the fourth down decision. The Lions basically had three choices: Attempt a 49-yard field goal, go for it, or punt. If you think punting was the best option here, click the "x" at the top of your browser and never come back. I think a field goal here is probably a 50/50 proposition. Not to take anything away from David Akers, it's just not an easy thing for kickers to do. According to the New York Times, from 2000-2005, kickers at Soldier Field had the worst kicking percentage of any venue and a 49-yarder is no gimme.

Going for it on 4th and short has the highest probability of success. I've seen estimates as high as 62%. I think going for it here was a no-brainer. If you want to argue with the play call, that's a bit more understandable, but remember that the Lions had nothing going on the ground at this point, and Calvin was open:

6:42 - The Bears have now converted a 3rd-and-6, 3rd-and-10 (via penalty), third-and-8, and another 3rd-and-8. That's insanely frustrating as a fan, and I don't think it's too fun for Gunther Cunningham. The issue is a mixture of the pass rush getting there a moment too late, and the secondary not playing tight enough. On this conversion, it was Delmas as the culprit again:

As Alshon Jeffery made the cut in his post route, Delmas turned his back to run with him, thinking he was running a fly route. Delmas is forced to turn around, giving Jeffery a huge cushion and an easy first down.

5:13 - GRRRRRR. Add another 3rd-and-8 conversion to the list. This is just a huge mismatch of Slay on Jeffery.

2:00 - Ok. This is enough. Someone really needs to tell Jim Schwartz he can use his timeouts on defense in the first half. It's the two minute warning and the Bears have the ball 2nd and 5 at the Lions 14 yard line. The Lions have three timeouts. The Bears can only run, at the max, five more offensive plays (2nd down, 3rd down, 1st down, 2nd down, 3rd down), assuming there are no penalties. Chances are the Bears are going to try and throw it at least a few times trying to get a touchdown. So it makes sense to start using some timeouts when the Bears are running the ball to stop the clock and give yourself time to respond before the end of the half. Here's how it should have played out:

2nd and 5. Bears run for 7 yards. Lions call timeout at 1:54.
1st and goal. Bears run for 3 yards. Lions call timeout at 1:48.
2nd and goal. Bears throw interception. Lions get the ball with 1:41 left and a timeout.

Instead, the Lions failed to call a timeout in BOTH situations, letting NEARLY 80 SECONDS run off the clock unnecessarily.

Thankfully, it seems like I'm no longer screaming to myself about this overlooked issue. Grantland crucified Schwartz for this, too. Thanks to Sean Yuile at Pride of Detroit for giving me the heads up about that. 

Side note: on this drive Suh had two hurries, one tackle for loss, and a batted pass that resulted in an interception. Beast.

Third quarter:

15:00 - True story, I missed the opening kickoff to the second half due to some poor remote time management from my friend. Therefore, I didn't actually believe the Lions had a 34-yard kick return until this moment right now.

13:35 - Huge blocks from Ladrian Waddle, Rob Sims and Larry Warford on the long Bush run:

13:02 - I can't believe they took so long to review this touchdown. Wait, did I say "I can't believe...?" I meant to say, how awfully predictable.

11:25 - Offensive touchdown then a defensive three-and-out. Not a bad way to start the second half.

9:52 - It's nice to see Devin Taylor create some pressure from the outside. Young man's got talent.

9:48 - I can't know this for sure, but it looks to me that, again, Delmas tried to jump a short route, leaving his assignment. This left Marshall one-on-one deep, which is trouble for Mathis.

This was not a very good game for Delmas.

Side note: Austin Lane was tackled on this play in the backfield.

8:56 - Highly ineffective blitz: DRINK!

8:11 - I really like this third-down play by the Bears. The shovel pass completely fools Suh in the backfield, but once again, it's Levy who saves the day.

Levy has such a jump on the play, that he draws two linemen. This frees up Stephen Tulloch (who also had a monster game) to make the tackle before allowing a first down.

4:43 - What an outstanding play from Don Carey. He shows his speed and elusiveness quickly closing in on Matt Forte, while avoiding a block from the pulling guard. Impressive athleticism overall.

 Fourth quarter:

15:00 - Interesting third-down call from Scott Linehan. The Lions have Bell and Bush in the backfield. One of them is getting the ball:

Both players immediate release into the same routes on opposite sides.

The wide receivers basically run dummy routes away from the sidelines, hoping to create space for the two backs. Stafford looks to Bush and overthrows him. I think this is the wrong read. At the bottom of the screen, Calvin is clearing all sorts of room for Bell, who could have easily picked up the first down here.

14:11 - Here's where things start to get chippy. Nick Fairley may have crossed the line with bringing Cutler down late, but he was also being pushed towards him, and did not slam Cutler down nor come down with all of his weight. Then Kyle Long comes in and throws a forearm at Fairley and somehow avoids a penalty. The FOX announcer then proceeds to praise Long for the obvious personal foul.

14:07 - Good coverage by Carey, but a better pass and catch by the Bears.

11:59 - Stafford passes on an open Joseph Fauria to try and thread a needle to Calvin. It does not work.

11:08 - Stafford's interception was nothing more than a bad pass. It was a tougher throw than it looked, but Matt airmailed it to a point where a fully-extended Megatron couldn't get it. That's no good.

10:57 - Once again, it's Levy who makes a great play, forcing the Bears into a holding penalty:

Levy comes on a well-timed blitz.

He happens to be attacking the exact position of the running lane, and the Bears lineman has no choice but to hook him and hope the ref doesn't see. Luckily for the Lions, he does see.

9:30 - To me, this doesn't seem like the same rule that screwed Calvin out of a touchdown three years ago. As Jeffery went to the ground, contact with the defender and the ground caused possession to be temporarily lost. That makes sense to me as an incomplete pass.

Calvin's non-TD was different. Calvin corralled the ball, hit the turf, maintained possession, and AS HE WAS GETTING UP, he put the ball on the ground. This is where the rule makes no sense. There is nothing clear about when "the process of the catch" is completed. Is it when you hit the ground? Is it when you stand back up? There is no clear rule.

7:53 - The facemask giveth...

7:23 - ...and taketh away.

6:33 - Greedy Stafford. As the play breaks down, Bell is wide open underneath. He is almost guaranteed 5-10 yards, which wouldn't be enough for a first down, but it would be valuable yardage to shorten Akers' field goal attempt.

Instead, Stafford opts to throw a low-percentage, across-the-body, jump ball to Calvin. Not only is this a tough play to make, but it is also a big risk in throwing an interception, which would obviously take a field goal attempt completely off the board. This is where Stafford's over-reliance on Johnson can hurt the team.

6:25 - Akers haters. Come out and playyyyeyyayyyyyy.

5:28 - I love seeing the Lions come out on this drive with play-action. The Bears bit hard, leaving plenty of space for Jeremy Ross to get open.

4:05 - Excellent protection gave Stafford the time to check down to his third read on this crucial third down play.

2:28 - As hard as I've been on the coaching staff for their mangling of time management at the end of halves, I have to give them credit here. They could have ran the ball three times to end the drive, but they came out throwing. They knew the Bears could stop the clock anyway, so why not try and get into the endzone. And what a gorgeous pass that was from Stafford.

2:18 - Never have I ever feared the words "Josh McCown" as much as I did in this moment.

2:13 - Stupid Nick Fairley.

2:07 - Good Nick Fairley. This is the world we live in, I'm afraid.

1:50 - Fourth-and-1 and the Lions decide to call another ineffective blitz. Credit goes to Long for picking up Levy, but the Lions' inability to get a free pass-rusher on the blitz is absolutely frustrating.

0:52 - Good pressure by Andre Fluellen and Willie Young to force a throw-away.

0:47 - Blerg. McCown smartly steps up in the collapsing pocket and Mathis can't keep up with Marshall for that long. This is why I was afraid of McCown.

0:40 - There is no good, definitive replay of the helmet-to-helmet contact from Young here, so I have no opinion on it. I will say that there was no way Young could have stopped himself from hitting McCown, but if he did go high, that's on him.

0:40 - Stupid Nick Fairley: 1. Good Nick Fairley: 2.


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