Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Three Days Late "Live" Blog: Lions at Steelers

First quarter:
 
13:53 - Great third-down play to Reggie Bush, but that's an awfully ominous sign seeing him fumble it away. The Lions were probably lucky to have him called down by contact here.

13:05 - Here's another brilliantly designed screen pass that failed to pick up the yardage it should have.


It's an end around fake to Bush that gets more than half of the defense going in the wrong direction. Joique Bell has all sorts of room to take it down field.


But Bell is weary of Larry Warford's block and tries to cut it back inside. That cut allows the defender catch him from behind. With his back turned to the play initially, it's hard to fully blame Bell here, but it's pretty clear he could have beaten everyone to the outside and taken the play for at least 20+ yards.

11:10 - Man, they've been saying that Joseph Fauria has been a liability in terms of blocking. They're right:


Fauria should be taking care of the safety in the second level. Instead, he....well, I don't know what the hell he's doing.

10:25 - That third down overthrow to Reggie wasn't going to be a touchdown, but it certainly should have been an easy pickup.

10:22 - Then a drop by Calvin Johnson to end the drive. Wonderful.

Thing I learned from this drive: the Lions had plenty of chances to make big plays on this drive, but failed to execute.

8:46 - Poor awareness by Stephen Tulloch, dropping three yards beyond the first down line on a 3rd and 8.

7:05 - Two big mistakes on this 3rd and 11 converstion by the Steelers. First, Don Carey evades a block on the wrong side of the blocker, taking himself completely out of the play. Meanwhile, Tulloch does a good job evading his block, but then misses the speedy Antonio Brown completely.

6:28 - Glover Quin quickly identifies this pass to Brown, but completely whiffs on the tackle. Chris Houston, enamored by the play of Quin, quickly follows suit and it's 7-0 Pittsburgh.

By my rudimentary counting skills, all but one of the passes on that drive were thrown within two seconds of the snap. Good luck, defensive line.

5:28 - And the Lions respond with a quick three-and-out, after Matthew Stafford overthrows an open Kevin Ogletree for a likely touchdown. This....is frustrating.

4:08 - Oh, Delmas. My sweet, sweet Delmas. He lines up trying to disguise coverage by lining up directly over the inside receiver. In reality, he is covering Brown, the outside receiver. At the snap, he strangely tries to jam them both. But ends up whiffing on the two.


Already in desperation mode, Delmas (bottom of the screen) tries to hold onto Brown and give himself a chance to recover, but he's lost all of his leverage and Brown blows by him.


The defensive line did what they could and forced Ben Roethlisberger out of the pocket, but he had an easy read from there.

1:59 - Bell showing some speed there, outrunning Troy Polamalu to the outside.

Second quarter:

14:10 - YES YES YES, HE'S SO OPEN


YES YES YES, HE'S THROWING IT TO HIM



oh, hamburgers.

That's all on Stafford. The defense didn't force a high throw. In fact, Stafford could have thrown this ball anywhere and it likely would have been caught. But a fully-extended Brandon Pettigrew could only get his fingertips on it.

14:05 - It's absolutely unreal how fast DeAndre Levy sniffed out this end-around, blowing it up for an 8 yard loss. This dude's instincts are off the charts.

12:41 - I'll just go ahead and quote myself after this Bush fumble on first down (with good field position):
"For someone as valuable to the team as Reggie Bush, he sure does a lot of things that annoy me."
12:31 - Pressure finally gets to Roethlisberger, and of course he pulls a play out of nowhere and shovels the ball for a first down.

10:34 - Good pressure by Israel Idonije to force the incompletion on third down. Nice to finally say that guy's name, too.

10:27 - Another excellent play design from Scott Linehan:


After the play-action to the left, Stafford bootlegs to the top of the screen. This gets the defense, whose original momentum was taking them in the direction of the run, to scramble back to the top of the screen, where all of the routes are being run....except one. Johnson appears to be running a fly, but then cuts his route against the grain of the defense. The safety does not see this and tries to undercut a crossing route. And Calvin does the rest.

9:07 - Levy just got Reggie Bush'd by Le'Veon Bell.



Again, pressure was ALMOST there from Willie Young, but Ben got rid of the ball quickly.

8:11 - NICK FAIRLY HEEL-CLICK. NICK FAIRLY HEEL-CLICK. NICK FAIRLY HEEL-CLICK.



5:27 - Bush showing his value on a play he isn't targeted on. His crossing route swallows up a few defenders leaving Pettigrew wide open for a big 31 yard gain.

3:58 - And Stafford finishes the drive with ease, hitting two wide open receivers for 25 and 19 yard gains.  Football is easy again!

3:22 - OoooOOOooo. A defended pass. That's new.

2:31 - Stafford's near interception is forgiven because Calvin was getting held pretty bad on the play. Uncalled.

2:00 - A strangely-conventional screen pass from the Lions, and Joique takes it for 37 yards. That's just great downfield blocking. Finally, some good execution!

1:29 - THE DETROIT LIONS USED A DEFENSIVE TIMEOUT. THE DETROIT LIONS USED A DEFENSIVE TIMEOUT. THANK GOD ALMIGHTY, THE DETROIT LIONS USED A DEFENSIVE TIMEOUT.

1:11 - I don't even have to say it anymore:
0:52 - That is a rough timeout to take. I sure hope it doesn't come back to bite them.............

0:21 - OH LOOK, it came back to bite them. First and goal from the Steelers' 4 yard line with no timeouts. That pretty much means you can't afford to run it once. A run means you likely don't get three plays off, and puts even a field goal at risk. The Steelers know this and it severely limits the Lions' options here. Three plays later, the Lions are forced into a field goal.

Third quarter:

13:41 - Consider this my obligation to point out that Delmas made a good play here.

12:23 - That's a bunk roughing the passer call on C.J Mosely. Also, the word bunk isn't used enough.

12:18 - THAT'S WHY LEVY PLAYS DEFENSE, HARHARHARHARDAMNIT. Seriously, bud, you have to catch that.

10:31 - Dropped pass, Bush slip, sack. Looks like the offense's third quarter slumber is in effect.

9:13 - Houston has his hands full with Brown. Houston got turned around several times on this play, allowing Brown to pick up 21 easy yards.

6:07 - Strange play on this should-have-been-touchdown from the Steelers.


Ashlee Palmer and Delmas are in coverage. First, Palmer jabs his man, but then releases him and chases down Heath Miller, who Delmas also rushes to cover. This leaves the other tight end wide open. I don't know whose responsibility that man was, but Delmas and Palmer were chirping at each other after the play.

4:39 - That is just an unreal throw from Stafford on the run.


The ball actually gets tipped slightly, but still hits Jeremy Ross in stride.

Fourth quarter:
(leave while you still can)

15:00 - This was not a designed quarterback draw. The receivers are clearly running routes, though there may have been a draw option. Rob Sims makes a huge block down field and Stafford picks up the first.

13:44 - It's really tough not to have Bell in this situation. He had been rushing the ball extremely well on this drive before going down with an injury. Bush does an okay job replacing him, but this slip on 2nd and 4 was killer.

12:56 - I'm not going to say anything more about the decision to fake the field goal, but here's where the play broke down. It was Don Muhlbach and Riley Reiff who messed up the play.



Their job was to seal their guys from the inside to prevent any defenders from the backside of the play to get involved. At this moment, they are in good position...


Unfortunately both failed to keep this containment. Credit to both Steelers defenders, who sniffed out the fake pretty quickly, but if Reiff and Muhlbach hold those blocks, it's an easy first down.

11:25 - The Lions with a big opportunity to get off the field with the Steelers deep in their own zone on 3rd and 9. But Houston whiffs on another jab, then DeJon Gomes is way late in recognizing the play and Brown picks up an easy 16.

9:44 - Mosely with a great swim move to pressure Roethlisberger, but he got no help from Don Carey, who was extremely soft and hesitant in coverage.

7:30 - Hesistation by Rocky McIntosh on the play-action allowed the Steelers to pick up the fourth-down conversion with relative ease.

6:16 - Carey does a good job of avoiding the natural pick play from the Steelers...but then he overruns his man and misses the tackle, resulting in a near touchdown.

4:50 - I think the Lions can expect a lot of goal line passes on defense from now on. To their credit, Detroit is stellar in run defending on goal-to-go situations. But that leaves them woefully unprepared to defend the pass. It burned them twice here. Once, resulting in a holding penalty. The other, resulting in a touchdown...and we aren't done yet.

4:36 - Killer drops by Theo Riddick and Ross to start the drive. Ross' drop was inexcusable.

4:28 - I'm not sure I like the design on this play that resulted in an interception. It looks similar to the roll-out that resulted in a touchdown earlier, but there are some key differences.


First, there is no play-action on the play (it was 3rd and 10, so that makes sense). As you can see, the defense is not scrambling to recover from anything. Everyone on defense is right where they want to be.


The second issue is Kris Durham's route. Rather than crossing over the middle of the field, he runs a post-route designed to draw the safety over to his side. Here's the problem: with Stafford rolling way to his right, that makes the post route on the opposite side an impossible ball to throw. Therefore, the safety doesn't go with Durham, but rather reads Stafford and stays back.

Even though Calvin burns the safety on his side, the backside safety easily makes the play. If the play was designed to have Calvin's route a little more vertical, Stafford may have been able to slip the ball in before the backside safety could have recovered, but the route basically went exactly to where the safety was waiting.

2:35 - And Don Carey drives the stake through the heart by trying to jump the bubble screen that never was. Hurry back, Bill Bentley.

Quick thoughts:

- Even though that fourth quarter was brutal, this game wasn't as bad as I thought. There were some early, silly mistakes, but the Lions really controlled a lot of the game from the second to third quarter.

- Mistakes from backups really killed the Lions at the end of the game. See: Riddick, Ross, Carey, McIntosh and Gomes.

- Aside from the strange 3rd down call that resulted in an interception, I had no qualms with the coaching. The plays were there; the players didn't make them.

- I stand firm on my belief that the Lions defensive line played a good game. They can't control how quickly Ben is getting the ball out. And they actually pressured him a good amount given how little time he held onto the ball.

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