I AM BACK!!!!!

In the past, I tried to do too much with this site with way too little time. Yet, I have been feeling a need to write about the Lions lately. So I have decided to change the Detroit Lions Observer to a few basic things. Writing articles when I feel a need to, keeping track of their wins and losses, and I am still deciding if I will go through and update Ndamukong Suh's Sack List.
Ndamukong Suh's Sack List
Keep track of which quarterbacks Suh has faced and which ones he has taken down.

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8/29/11

ESPN Seems to be Detroit's Greatest Hater

The Detroit Lions have not been a very good team in recent years. That is understood. But do they deserve the hate ESPN seems to show them?

A year ago I read an article from an ESPN writer, where he ranked the fans of NFL teams. Out of 32 teams, the Detroit Lions fans were ranked 31st. ... Obviously that is as far wrong as you can get. That is like saying we celebrate Christmas to remember Bin Laden's birthday! You simply just don't get further from the truth.

The Lions have been horrible for how long? And the Lions still sold out the majority of their games? When they were a mediocre team the Lions sold out every game at the Silverdome. That is 80,000 seats people! Many teams wouldn't sell out 50,000 if they were only average. The Lions sold out games during and even after their 0-16 season! And the fans are the second worst in the NFL? Crazy talk!

Recently I heard about ESPN ranking the Lions 18th in the NFL. I guess if you look at their 6-10 record last year and think they will win 2 more games only, then I guess it is understandable that you will rank them 18th in the NFL. Even though some experts say it would not surprise them to see the Lions in the Superbowl. Even though the Lions were minutely close to being 9-7 last year, they lost several close games to play-off teams and beat the Superbowl Champions once. Even though the Lions did as well as they did and were as competitive as they were without their starting QB and with their starting running back hampered most of the season. To say the Lions essentially will be only very marginally better than they were last year is not showing them any love.

Then the Lions pasted the Patriots behinds to the turf on Saturday night. Sunday morning I was driving to work and was listening to ESPN radio. The commentator was talking about the Lions - Patriots game. His opinion? The Lions had something to prove and therefore, was playing hard like it was a play-off game. The Patriots on the other hand, have won Superbowls, are a great team and had nothing to prove. He said that New England was not playing hard and was only trying to get through the game without injuries.

Really?

Think about it for a moment here. Lets do something real special here and try adding some real logic to this. The Lions D-line (who I like to refer to as the Wrecking Crew), has already shown they are coming hard and hit Tom Brady hard a couple of times. Does anyone really believe that the Patriots offensive line would let that happen to their star quarterback and continue to play soft? I really doubt that!

No! I guarantee you, the Pat's O-line was trying their hardest to keep their star quarterback safe and simply could not stop the Detroit pass rush. Not playing hard? Give me a break. I hear Brady is still at Ford Field looking for the rest of his hide with the rest of his O-line as they are wondering if maybe they should have tried harder. Yeah, that makes sense.

As for the Patriots defense? Do you really believe that the Lions D-line was going to continuously paint the turf with Brady's spit and the Patriot's defensive line wasn't going to turn the tables? I can see that now. Brady just finished scraping himself off the turf and the New England defense ran out on the field thinking.... "They have only hit our QB hard several times. No reason to want to turn this into a real match. Let us just play safe and get through this without an injury."

Yes it was only a preseason game. Yes I know you are not supposed to take too much out of that. But it still showed me that the offensive line of one of the NFL's best teams could not slow down the Lions pass rush. It showed me that Stafford can be amazingly accurate when he is on. It showed me the Detroit Lions are not only marginally better than a 6-10 team, but a lot better.

The Detroit Lions will be a very good team in 2011. I wonder how many games they will have to win to get any real respect from ESPN.

8/27/11

Lions Preseason Week-3: A Great Sign

It was the Detroit Lions dress rehearsal for the upcoming season. It was the first preseason game against a team considered to be a great team in the NFL. It was the ultimate test for the Lions as they prepared to enter the 2011 season. I would definitely say they passed this test with flying colors!

Matthew Stafford took his first hit and was plastered into the turf as he let go of a pass. He got back up, showing no ill effects. Good sign!

Matthew Stafford was 12 of 14 for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns in less than a half. His only incompletions were a dropped pass in the endzone and a superb defensive play by the Patriots cornerback. Good sign!

The defensive line was all over Tom Brady early and often, continuously knocking him to the turf. To the point where he had a couple passes that he threw short because he hurried it when he did not have to. Good sign!

The Lions went into Half-time with a 27-10 lead. The only starters to come out before the half mark were on the Lions. Good sign.

Simply put, with both teams using their starters, the Detroit Lions man-handled the New England Patriots on both sides of the ball. Definitely a good sign!

If you are like me, a believer the Lions were as good as a 9-7 team last year and come into this season with a much improved team, then this game served only to build up your excitement. If you were a pessimist, believing the Lions have to show you they can be good before you believe it, you may be a bit excited after this game. One thing I can truly be sure of. Any Detroit Lions fan could not possibly watch this game and come away believing they will be awful.

By the way... as I finish this article, the Lions are now winning 34-10 with just under 10 minutes to go. GO LIONS!!!

8/26/11

Dont Expect Too Much in Lions Preseason Game

The Lions will host the Patriots Saturday evening. It is their first sold out preseason game in years. It is also a nationally televised game. What seems most important to many fans however, is that it is against the Patriots.

New England has made a showing of blitzing the quarterbacks this preseason. Likely, Stafford will take at least one hit. Everyone will be watching to see how fast he gets up from that hit.... if at all.

The Patriots are the team that embarrassed the Lions last year on Thanksgiving. With the Lions feeling much improved and with their starting QB healthy, the fans want to see how we will compare.

Then there is Tom Brady. Will he pick the Lions secondary apart like he did last year? Will Suh bury him?

The game is filled with questions and hopes and excitement. Which is a very cool thing if you keep in mind that it is after all, only a preseason game.

Likely Brady will complete his share of passes. It means nothing because he does that against every team. It is possible Suh will use the turf like silly puddy and see if Brady's name will transfer to it if he pastes him against it hard enough. It will mean nothing except that the NFL will feel they have to protect one of its superstar QBs and fine Suh. It is highly likely that Stafford will take his first real hit since the surgery. It is also likely he will get up and his day will be cut short because Schwartz does not want to take anymore chances.

I will even go so far as to say it is about a 50-50 chance the Lions will lose this game. It means nothing! This is a dress rehearsal, not a real game. The win or loss will mean nothing for the season. The Lions might look great against the Patriots and fall apart against the Bucs in the first week. Or they may let the Pats destroy them and then win the next 8 games in a row.

What do you take from this game? Glad you asked....

How well does the Lions pick up the blitz to give Stafford a second to throw the ball?
Does the secondary keep the Patriot receivers from getting behind them?
How does Backus look in his first game action (if he plays)?
How well does Stafford read pressure. Does he have pocket presence to avoid the hit?
Does Amari Speivey continue to show strong tackling abilities this game?
Do all the key players come out of this battle injury free?

Give me positive answers to all of those questions and I will consider the game a complete success. But I guess it would be all the more enjoyable if the Detroit Lions returned the spanking they gave us last year.

8/20/11

Lions Preseason Week-2: Not to Worry

After the Lions beat the Cleveland Browns, thanks primarily to the 3rd stringers and Stanton's improved play, there are a lot of fans worried about the Lions this year. Do not worry yet....

Jahvid Best:
The greatest reason to worry might be Jahvid Best. He got his bell rung early on and was out for the game. His absence along with his bad choice to follow the hole and his fumble have many fans thinking he is not good enough. Some say he is too small. Many do not believe he is an every down back. Do not worry.....

Likely if it was regular season, he would have been back in the game. Players get their bells rung all the time in the NFL. Many players will take a hard hit, leave the game for a few plays and return. But since it is preseason, Schwartz was not taking any more chance with him than with Calvin Johnson. Even the smallest injury will keep his stars out of games in the preseason.

Defensive Line:
There are those who do not believe the defensive line is as good as we thought since they did not sack McCoy. Do not worry....

The truth is, the Lions defensive line was rushing McCoy's passes consistently. The starters have only played a total of two maybe three quarters and they are pressuring the QBs. The sacks will come.

Defense:
Some may worry that McCoy threw for three touchdowns against the Lions starters. Do not worry....

Two of the TDs came from the Browns getting the ball at the Lions 34 yard line and the Lions 21 yard line. Short fields like that will tend to give quarterbacks good chances of throwing touchdowns. This is not something that will continue to happen. Keep in mind that McCoy only completed 10 of his 18 attempts.

Run Defense:
The Browns had 135 yards rushing! What are the magic words?... Do not worry!!!!

81 of those yards came from one scamper later in the game. That means the rest of the game, the Browns were held to only 54 yards on 21 carries. It was also the back-ups who gave up the long run. Not the starting unit!

Finally:
Keep in mind two important points here. One - While it was not an exciting game, you have to remember they all wont be. But the Lions found a way to win it anyway (even though wins and losses make no difference in the preseason!). Secondly, is that it is only preseason. The coaches are not calling plays to win the games. For the most part, they are calling plays to see their team react to certain situations.



8/16/11

Detroit Lions 2011 Schedule

REGULAR SEASON
Away ..Sun ..Sep-11..Tampa Bay Buccaneers..W 27-20 . . YAHOO BOX
Home ..Sun ..Sep-18..Kansas City Chiefs....W 48-03 . . YAHOO BOX
Away ..Sun ..Sep-25..Minnesota Vikings.....W 26-23 . . YAHOO BOX
Away ..Sun ..Oct-02..Dallas Cowboys........W 34-30 . . YAHOO BOX
Home ..Sun ..Oct-10..Chicago Bears.........W 24-13 . . YAHOO BOX
Home ..Sun ..Oct-16..San Francisco 49ers...L 19-25 . . YAHOO BOX
Home ..Sun ..Oct-23..Atlanta Falcons.......L 16-23 . . YAHOO BOX
Away ..Sun ..Oct-30..Denver Broncos........W 45-10 . . YAHOO BOX
OFF ...Sun ..Nov-06..Bye Week
Away ..Sun ..Nov-13..Chicago Bears.........L 13-37 . . YAHOO BOX
Home ..Sun ..Nov-20..Carolina Panthers.....W 49-35 . . YAHOO BOX
Home ..Thu ..Nov-24..Green Bay Packers.....L 15-27 . . YAHOO BOX
Away ..Sun ..Dec-04..New Orleans Saints....L 17-31 . . YAHOO BOX
Home ..Sun ..Dec-11..Minnesota Vikings.....W 34-28 . . YAHOO BOX
Away ..Sun ..Dec-18..Oakland Raiders.......W 28-27 . . YAHOO BOX
Home ..Sat ..Dec-24..San Diego Chargers....W 38-10 . . YAHOO BOX
Away ..Sun ..Jan-01..Green Bay Packers.....L 41-45 . . YAHOO BOX
PLAYOFFS
Away ..Sat ..Jan-07..New Orleans Saints....L 28-45 . . YAHOO BOX

8/14/11

Ndamukong Suh a Dirty Player? Hardly

It is a subject of many discussions these days. On Friday night when the Detroit Lions played the Cincinnati Bengals, Ndamukong Suh drew a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct when he drove quarterback Andy Dalton to the ground. Some believe it was a dirt play by a dirty player. I completely disagree.

When Suh came into the league just one year ago, his first real sack was not a good one. In the 3rd preseason game against the Browns, he got a hold of Jake Delhomme by the face mask, then once he got a hold of the quarterback, he whipped him to the ground roughly. He was flagged and fined. It was the beginning of a reputation that might stick with him undeservedly.

First off, I do not believe the foul was quite as dirty as people make it out to be. If you look at the video, Suh reached out for the quarterback and got a hold of the face mask. Definitely worth a flag, but not a dirty play. I see QBs grabbed by the face mask all the time. I see other players face masked every game. It is not dirty, it is just a case of the hand getting a hold of the wrong part of the player. So once Suh found himself holding the face mask of the quarterback, what was he expected to do? Imagine the criticizing he would get if he was to let him go and then Delhomme threw the ball for a first down or touchdown. Everyone would say he was stupid for not finishing the play. If he is going to get a flag anyway, you finish the tackle rather than let the guy go. So in all honesty, once Suh had already grabbed Delhomme's face mask, he had no other choice but to finish the play and make sure the quarterback went down.

Now considering the fact that Suh absolutely had to finish the play, ask yourself what he should have done. In this position, Suh had four choices that I can figure.... should Suh have...

A) Gently picked up Delhomme, put him in the cradled position and gently laid him on his back on the turf? .... As entertaining as that might have been to see, he still would have gotten flagged and he would have been humiliating Delhomme in a much worse manner.
B) Let the quarterback go? .... Absolutely not! Once a player gets a hold of the ball carrier, he is to NEVER let him go until the play is dead. If he let the QB go and then Delhomme was to throw a long ball for a touchdown, Suh would have been ridiculed for that.
C) Should he have wrapped his arms around Delhomme, then drove him to the turf underneath him? .... Imagine the chance of Delhomme getting hurt if Suh drove all of his weight on top of him as he nailed him to the turf.

No! The simple fact is, once Suh had already gotten the flag for a face mask, and already had the quarterback in his grasp, he should have done exactly what he did. Thrown the quarterback to the ground. It may look bad to many, but any of the other choices would have been worse.

Suh did not try to throw Delhomme down by the head. He let go of the face mask then grabbed lower, going for the shoulder pads to throw him down, but did not get a good hold of him. He did not hit him real late. He did not go for a hit on the head or the knees. He did not punch him and he never picked him up in the air and body slammed him. Suh did not make a dirty play. He simply finished a play in which he got a hold of the wrong part of the quarterback. If he was truly being a dirty player, he would not have let go of the face mask, but would have whipped Delhomme to the ground by that face mask. He didn't do that!

Since that play, Suh has been flagged and fined but never committed a real foul.

The Cutler Incident: Against Chicago, Jay Cutler was flushed out of the pocket and scrambled down the right sideline. Ndamukong Suh, being the great player he is, did not give up on the play. Instead, he chased Cutler down from behind. Running up behind him, he reached out and knocked the quarterback to the ground from behind and was flagged again. The penalty? Throwing an elbow to the back of Cutler's helmet. After, the commentators showed a slow motion replay that clearly showed Suh, with open hands throwing his palms into the back of Cutler's shoulder pads. He never hit the quarterback in the helmet at all. It was a legal play and once again, anything else Suh could have done might have been even more dangerous and harsh on the quarterback. Would Cutler have had a better chance of getting hurt being shoved down, or if Suh would have dove on him and drove him down underneath him?

It is a play that happens every game. Whenever a quarterback, running back, or receiver runs along the sideline, he is shoved out of bounds. Not moved gently out of bounds, but shoved hard or knocked out of bounds with real force. Suh does it and he gets flagged for a penalty that never occurred. Even with the replay showing the truth that no penalty had occurred, the NFL went ahead and fined him $7,500 on a foul he never committed.

The Invisible Horse Collar: Against the Cowboys, Suh broke into the back field as Marion Barber took a hand-off and forced the running back to change directions and run outside. Suh chased after him, got a hold of him and dragged him to the ground for a great tackle. Once again the yellow flags came out. He was called for a horse collar penalty. (which is when you drag a player down from behind by grabbing the collar.)

Once again, a replay was shown and we found Ndamukong Suh was flagged for a penalty that never happened. In fact, Suh never even touched Barber's collar, or body. The replay showed very clearly that Suh grabbed Barbers dreadlocks and dragged him down by the running backs hair. Which happens to be completely legal. The rules state that if a player chooses to allow his hair to grow long enough to run down below the helmet, he does so at his own risk. It is not illegal to drag a player down by his hair if he is dumb enough to let it grow that long and give a defensive player a handhold.

Then Came Dalton: Once again, if you look at the video, you will find the play is not nearly as dirty as it seems. When Suh got around his blocker, he leaped up with his hands up to keep the quarterback from throwing the ball. As Suh came down with his arms over top of the quarterback, Dalton threw the ball. Looking at the video over and over, I cannot say for sure that Suh could see him get rid of the ball. Especially when you consider it happened in real time and not slow motion. If Suh did not see the QB throw the ball, he had every reason to believe that Dalton still had it. No whistle was called so there was no reason for him to pull up.

This time he did not whip the QB down like he did with Delhomme. He learned from that mistake. If he whips him down, he gets flagged, so instead he wrapped him up and took him down in a hard tackle. And again he is flagged with a personal foul. A late hit that looked more vicious because of the helmet flying off of Andy Dalton. But go look at the video again. In watching it over and over, I do not believe it was Suh who knocked the helmet off. Suh came down from on top, grabbed onto the player and drove him down underneath him. He never swiped at the head in any way that would send the helmet flying like it did. He never pulled it off because his hands were still around the QB when the helmet flew off. Look close, and you will see the hand of another Lions player come in and it looks like it might be what knocks the helmet off. You will even notice that the helmet flies in the opposite direction from which the hand came in.

If there was a flag to be thrown, it would be because Suh let his arms drape across the helmet as he came down on top of him. A hit to the helmet could be seen in this circumstance I guess, but it was in no way a dirty play by Ndamukong Suh.

The Truth: Ndamukong Suh is a big, powerful, hard nosed player with a high motor. Where most players have to drag a quarterback down, Suh is strong enough to grab them and man handle them. So when he throws a player down, it looks a lot more vicious than it is. The first foul, when Suh whipped Delhomme to the ground was an unfortunate situation for him. He got the face mask and had no choice but to finish the play. He did not throw him down by the face mask. That would have been dirty. He let go of the face mask and tried to throw him down by the shoulders, but didn't get a hold of them from his upper position and unfortunately got the head some more. Not dirty but unfortunate as he had no choice but to finish the play. It was an incident that looked much more dirtier to the casual eye than it truly was, but it began a small reputation in the minds of others. Including the refs! Since then Suh has been flagged for penalties that even replays have shown he never committed.

Ndamukong Suh is not a dirty player. He is a rough player, a hard player and a stronger player. It is more of a case like a 13 year old playing football with a bunch of ten year-olds and not taking it easy on them. He looks vicious and rough and even dirty because he does not take it easy on the weaker kids. Only Suh is in the NFL. He is not allowed to play at anything other than full speed!


Lions Preseason Week-1: Like a Breath of Fresh Air

Going into Friday nights game, the Lions fans were not sure what they were going to get. Most believed the Lions were an improved team, but after all, it was their first game of the preseason with a short training camp. Their were injuries on both sides of the ball. And to some fans, they are still the Lions, so how can you expect too much?

After winning 34 - 3, many fans were handed a taste of what it is like to watch a good team for once, and it was like taking a breath of fresh air after stumbling out of a burning house. Make no mistakes, this is only preseason and the win means nothing. To get a better idea of the Lions potential, you need to look into the game rather than the final score.

On offense the Detroit Lions starting unit was impressive to say the least. They moved down the field with their first drive and scored on a 26 yard Touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson. Their second drive started soon after that (due to a turnover) and with a shortened field the Lions scored again. This time with a 7 yard touchdown pass to Nate Burleson. Jahvid Best only carried the ball four times for a total of 12 yards, his longest scamper was for 7 yards.

In a sense, the Lions starting offensive unit had their way with the Bengals. The running game was not so bad with Best in the back field, and the passing game looked like the Bengals forgot to send out their back seven.

The Lions new and improved defense was good, but maybe not as good as the first glance might tell you. One could look at the score and say they were great. Giving up only three points in an entire game? That is awesome! Now look a little deeper. The Bengals have Chris Dalton as their starting QB. A nobody with no experience in his first preseason game. Dalton completed 11 of his 15 pass attempts. That is 73% if you don't have a calculator handy. Cedric Benson, the Bengal's starting running back ran 6 times for 37 yards. That is over 6 yards a carry. Neither of those stats are great.

Yet the fact remains, the Lions defense did only give up 3 points. They did not let Dalton complete a pass of more than 11 yards and the defense made plays when they needed to.

The Defensive Line was the same as last year. Constantly pressuring the QB on pass plays and sometimes making plays on the running game. The new Linebackers were not great but they were not horrible. It will take more time for that unit to learn to play together. The player who stood out to me was Amari Spievey.

Spievey was drafted as a cornerback then turned into a safety early on in the season last year. He looked completely out of his realm in most of the games last season and I was hard on him for everything, including his tackling. He very well may be the most improved player of the year and possibly has made one of the greatest jumps of improvement I have ever seen in a player from one year to the next.

Spievey was all over the field making plays and his ability to make open field tackles was impressive to say the least. At least a couple times he took the outside route on a ball carrier to force the player to cut back inside. When it looked like he had done his job to direct the runner back to the middle where others can get to him, he was still able to lunge sideways and wrap his arms around the players feet to take him down himself. Spievey took down players that were much larger than him with arm tackles. If he continues to play as he did in the first preseason game, the Lions might end up with the best safety tandem in the NFL.

Yes the Lions looked great. Yes they give us a reason to be excited. As hard as it may be to do so, I have to at least say, step back and look at one major point. After all, it was only against the Bengals. Let us see the Detroit Lions play strong against the Browns for two good games in a row before getting too excited. Let us see them handle the Patriots in the 3rd preseason game to show they can do the same to a good team first. Even then, keep in mind that this is only the preseason. Remember the last time the Lions went 4-0 in the preseason? Those four wins were their only wins the entire season. That shows how much a win means in the preseason.

Still, it is nice to feel hope when they play is it not? After so many losing seasons, this team gives us that fresh air to breathe and I plan on enjoying it.

8/9/11

Some Thoughts on the Lions

Some fans believe the Detroit Lions will be great this year. They believe Stafford is a superstar quarterback even though he has not played a full season yet. Other fans continue to believe the Lions will be horrible again, for no other reason than they have been bad for so long. As if that can never change. I decided to toss a few more realistic thoughts on the grill and see how they cook.

Matthew Stafford - Look at how he played in his few chances last year. There is no denying that he has come a long way from his rookie season. He has a powerful cannon that can fire the ball down field and into tight places. He is learning to put some touch on passes rather than always fire them on ropes. Make no bones about it, Stafford absolutely has the potential to become a superstar in the NFL. But let's make things clear. He is not that superstar yet. He has yet to play a full seasons worth of games in his career, so in one way of looking at it, he has less experience than Sam Bradford does now. Essentially, Stafford is still somewhat of a rookie. He will have some growing pains yet. He will make some mistakes (and hopefully learn from those mistakes). Matthew Stafford absolutely must show he can make it through a full season without getting injured.

Jahvid Best - While many fans are ready to hit the panic button after Mikel LeShoure was lost for the season so soon, I am not too worried. I think fans may be in for a pleasant surprise. Remember last year, before Best injured his toes. He had five touchdowns in the first two games. Those were not long sprints on break-aways. They were not all runs to the outside. In fact, at least two of those TDs came in goal line situations when he had to fight and push his way for inches to cross the goal-line. When healthy, Best is not only speed. He has the strength to run between the tackles as well. If Best stays healthy, and Stafford can keep the defense honest with a down field threat, Best can absolutely be the every down RB that we have been dreaming of since Barry retired.

Speaking of injuries.... I am seeing a lot of fans worry about how the Lions are being hit so hard with them. With LeShoure out for the season, and Fairley and Titus Young both sidelined, the Lions first three rounds in the NFL draft are hurt. Gosder Cherilus is dealing with Micro-fracture knee surgery rehab and Backus has a tear in his pectoral muscles. Fans are seeing these injuries and beginning to sweat. Again, it is not time to hit the panic button.

Both Fairley and Young are expected to be healthy early on in the season if not by the first game. Yet even if they are not, does it make the Lions worse than they were last year? Not at all. None of them are replacing players who made any difference last year, so losing them only limits our improvements. It does not set us backwards. The Lions are still much better at Linebacker and may still be much better at defensive back as well. As a whole, the Lions defense is vastly improved. With a healthy Stafford and Best, their offense is automatically a lot better than last year. The only real worry is the offensive line.

Cherilus was hurting last year. Peterman was playing on an injured foot. This year Peterman is healthy and going to be much better than last year. But now Backus is hurting. So in a sense, from last year to this year, the only real difference is that rather than Peterman being hurt, now Backus is. Practically an even trade-off. So with the addition of a healthy Stafford and Best, the Lions offense should be much, much more improved over last year.

So yes, the Lions have already taken a lot of injuries, but rather than panic, just step back and look at the whole picture. Even with these injuries, the Detroit Lions will be better on both sides of the ball. That is reason to be excited. Not worried!