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Lions 16 - Falcons 23

I waited a day to write this article in hopes of letting my blood cool and think a little clearer. I have to say, I am still disgusted with the Detroit Lions loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

I am not going to write about the game. I am simply going to analyze what is happening. If you watched the game, you definitely don't want to recap it and if you did not see it, trust me, you don't want to know the details.

Some facts:
In the first two games, the Lions offense had 9 touchdowns. In the last five games the offense has a total of 10 touchdowns.

On the year, the Lions have scored 66 points in the first half, and 128 points in the second half. In the last 5 games? They have scored 26 points in the first half and 93 in the second half. That is just about 3 1/2 times more in the 2nd half than the 1st half.

Well over half of their running plays are draw plays out of the shotgun formation.

After 9 touchdowns in the first 5 games for Calvin Johnson, the Lions have not thrown to his while in the red-zone in the last two games. Both games ended in losses.

Matthew Stafford:
In the preseason Stafford looked like he was as good as Manning and Brady. In the first five games he has looked average in the first half and great in the second half. In the last two games he has looked scared. I know he will not admit it, but he is playing scared. When a QB leaves the pocket (when there is no pressure) and puts himself under pressure, it is a sign of being scared in the pocket. When a QB is throwing off of his back foot, even when he is not pressured, it is a sign of playing scared. When a quarterback rushes his throws without pressure, he is playing scared. When your quarterback goes down in a heap when a passing Defensive End only swipes an arm across him as he is pushed by, he is scared. That is how Matthew Stafford has played the last two games.

Stafford now has to come to some point in his growing up as an NFL quarterback where he either needs to toughen up, or get out. A quarterback simply cannot continue to play scared and succeed. Yes he has taken some hits this season, but in all honesty, I saw as much or more pressure on Harrington and Mitchell before they were ran out of town. What he is going through is nothing unusual for an NFL quarterback. He needs to accept that he will take some licks and put it aside or he needs to find a new career.

Scott Linehan:
I am officially back on the Fire Linehan bandwagon. The man has had two and a half years to get this offense going. Yet with the likes of Stafford, Megatron, Pettigrew, and Best all on one offense, he continues to show nothing as a coordinator. It is simply inexcusable for an offensive coordinator to not get more out of an offense with so much high quality talent. Any grandmother out of the stands can throw darts at the play book and with this kind of talent will still get the big play in here and there. His job is not to win on an occasional big play. His job is to get this offense clicking consistently and put teams away early. Yet he continues to play from behind and to make things worse, the offense has regressed as the season has gone on.

Last year I complained about how unimaginative his play calling was and many agreed with me, but he was given a free pass. With his starting quarterback out and running back playing hurt, it was expected he would dial it back some. This year he has not had that excuse. He has had everyone healthy for the first 7 games and he has not shown he can call a good game. He insists on running up the middle a lot every game, even though the middle of our offensive line is undersized and over powered. To make it worse, most of those run plays come out of the shotgun draw. Five times this year he has faced 2nd and very long or 3rd and very long, and got less than a third of the yards they needed. Once on a 2nd & 28, he called the Shotgun draw with Morris! When he finds a play that works, he rarely uses it again in the game and yet he will use a play that rarely ever works for him over and over. The man simply does not make any sense in his decisions.

The Detroit Lions have as much talent on offense as any team in the NFL outside of the Packers and they are not far from them. It is simply a crime that Linehan cannot get more than he has out of this crew filled to bursting with talent.

Quite frankly, I think the Lions defense is far better than it gets credit for. Yes it has given up some points and lately even some big runs. The fact is, they are a "get after the quarterback" type of defense and though they do not get a lot of sacks, they are rarely giving a quarterback more than 2 seconds to get rid of the ball. If the offense could become more consistent and eat up some time now and then, the defense would get more rest and maybe not give up the long runs as much.

The Refs and the Phantom calls:
Against the 49ers, Gore broke loose for a 55 yard run that sealed the game for them. On that run, the refs completely missed a block in the back that knocked Wright out of Gore's way as he came through the line, and then called Pettigrew on a chop block that the annalists looked at on replay and showed the penalty never really happened.

In this last game against the Falcons, the refs flagged the Lions for three different penalties that never happened. First there was a pass interference when our guy was going for the ball and the receiver was holding him up while the ball flew well out of the end-zone. Uncatchable! Then there was a helmet to helmet call on KVB where on the replay they showed it was questionable if he ever hit Ryans helmet. Then they called a holding play against the Lions and when the TV annalists showed the replay, it was found to be non-existent. Three times in one game the commentators could not find the foul on the replay.

Final Thoughts:
I understand that the L:ions are 5-2 and many did not expect them to do so well. I am not one of the many. I expected 10 wins from the beginning. I saw the talent and believed the Lions were a top 5 team from the start. I see this team and stile believe the Detroit Lions have more talent than any team in the NFL, including the Green Bay Packers. The Packers have a little more talent on offense, but I believe the Lions make up for that with a better defense. So to see a team I believe has so much talent, play so much under their abilities, I find it rather disgusting. Even when the Lions were 5-0 I was bothered by the fact the offense was not showing up in the first half of games. I wrote that if they dont address that, there would come games when they dont get it together in the 2nd half either. Now we have two straight losses for just that reason.

The Lions should be 7-0, and are lucky they are not 3-4 at this time. What makes it even worse is that they will not be firing Linehan any time soon and he will not be letting go of the shotgun as long as Stafford is under center. So dont expect the Lions offense to figure it out any time soon, and until they do, they will lose to the good teams and be lucky to win against teams they should beat.

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