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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12/31/11

Lions vs Packers Pre-game WK-17

The Lions have not won in Lambeau Field since 1991. he Green Bay Packers have nothing to play for this week and will likely rest their starters. The Lions need a win to wrap up the 5th seed in the play-offs and face the Giants or Cowboys rather than the Saints. Put it all together and you have a blow-out Lions victory and an end to the losing in Green Bay streak right? Yes and No.

I completely expect the Packers starters to get in a few reps to stay in rhythm before leaving the game to their back-ups on Sunday. I don't expect the Lions starters to play a whole bunch longer. It is more important to be healthy going into our first play-off game in over a decade than it is to win in Lambeau and get the fifth seed. Everyone wants the starters to get the win and face the Giants or Cowboys rather than the Saints. Try looking at it in a different perspective. Which would you rather have? A healthy Lions team facing the Saints, or a Lions team without Stafford or Calvin facing the Giants? Yes they have stayed healthy, and the odds they get hurt is not high. This is the play-offs we are talking about. A chance to get to the Superbowl. You Don't Take Chances!!!!

Now I ask you some other questions.
1) Who do you think has the advantage. A virtual rookie in Flynn, or an experienced Shaun Hill?
2) Rest Suh and Vanden Bosch and do you think the Lions D-line depth, with Sammie Lee Hill and Fluellen would not put any pressure on Flynn?
3) Do you like the Lions back-up defensive players more or the Packers back-up defensive players?
4) Rest Pettigrew and Finley, and whose back-up TE is better? Scheffler or Crabtree?
5) Rest Woodson and Houston and whose back-up CBs are better?

I don't know about anyone else, but I like the Lions back-ups better than the Packers back-ups. Green Bay has an awesome offense, but it is dependent on their starters being healthy. The Lions offense can be nearly as awesome, but they are not quite as dependent on starters. More importantly, the Lions defense can be very good and their backup players have gotten a lot of experience and done well. The Packers starting defense is not that good and I would expect their back-ups to be worse. The Lions 2nd string players should be able to beat the Packers 2nd string players.

I fully expect the Packers to take their star players out very early. After they are gone, I would not be surprised to see the Lions star players put up enough quick points to get a one or two touchdown lead. After that, I think it will be back-ups against back-ups, and I have confidence the Lions can sustain a lead if not build on one after that.

One last question. Where would Schwartz take more grief? If he plays back-ups and they lose the fifth seed spot, or if he plays the starters and Stafford gets hurt in a nearly meaningless game?

12/29/11

Stafford Should Be in Pro-Bowl

When the 2012 NFL Pro-bowl rosters were released, there was a glaring mistake in the eyes of many. After Rodgers and Brees as the QBs for the NFC, it had Eli Manning listed and not Matthew Stafford.

Eli Manning has 69 more yards than Stafford, but that is the only statistic that is worth counting where Manning is better. Stafford has 10 more TDs, 2 fewer ITs, and completed 3.4% more of his passes. Stafford has thrown more and completed more and his passer rating is 6.3 better than Manning's. Many fans tend to believe it is just another example of Detroit not getting any respect. Let me assure you, respect has nothing to do with it.

One thing that has played a giant (no pun intended) role in keeping Stafford from being chosen was the broken finger he suffered after the bye-week. With a fractured finger on his throwing hand, Stafford donned a pair of gloves, and with them his accuracy suffered terribly. In the three games in which he wore the gloves, Matthew Stafford threw a total of 9 picks. To give you an understanding of just how bad that is, in the other 13 games in which Stafford did not wear the gloves, he only threw 5 interceptions. Think about that. In 12 games when healthy, Stafford averages only 0.41 picks a game. That is not even 1 turnover 2 two games. When injured, he averaged 3 picks per game. I guarantee you that if Stafford would have had 36 TDs and only 7 or 8 interceptions, he would be in the Pro-bowl.

Yet do we truly know just how good he is? I dare say those numbers are still a little deceiving. In many games this year, the play calling was horrendous and lethargic. The Lions offense often did not get going until after the halftime break. I cannot help but to wonder just what his numbers would be like if Stafford had not broken his finger and had an OC who was aggressive from the start of games.

There is no doubt in my mind that Stafford belongs in the pro-bowl. Other than Rodgers, Brees and Brady, no other QB in the NFL has been better when healthy this year. Even with the injury, no other QB has brought his team from larger deficits this year than Matthew Stafford has.

But there is a bright side to this oversight. Stafford will now have his focus on the Play-offs rather than the Pro-bowl, a game that few watch and means less than a preseason game. Considering the odds that the Lions very well could be facing the New York Giants in the first round, it will make the game that much more interesting as Matthew Stafford will be facing Eli Manning who was voted in ahead of him.

12/24/11

Lions 38 - Chargers 10

The Detroit Lions gave their fans the best present possible on Christmas Eve as they routed the San Diego Chargers 38-10 and cemented their place in the NFL Play-offs for the first time since 1999.

My wife and I were on our way to the Christmas Eve Family dinner and stopped to get a few last minute stocking stuffers. What we had hoped would be a ten minute foray turned into a half hour adventure before we were back in the truck again. That's when it hit me. The Lions had already started!

I turned on the radio, already upset with myself for missing the first ten minutes of the game, and I was just in time to listen to the Lions kick a field goal to go up 10 to nothing. That is when something else hit me. I forgot to set the DVR to record it so I can go over the game later. There would be no need for that.

The offense was sharp from start to finish as Stafford threw for 373 yards and 3 touchdowns. Johnson had gone into his Megatron altar-ego to snatch only 4 catches for 102 yards and a TD. Brandon Pettigrew was a beast as he pulled in 9 receptions for 80 yards and a TD of his own. It seemed as if anything Linehan dialed up was executed flawlessly and he did an outstanding job of dialing in this game.

Everyone talked about how good the Chargers defense was, but the Lions defense showed they were up to the challenge. Though Rivers threw for almost 300 yards, he only had 1 touchdown compared to two interceptions and completed only 52.8% of his attempts. Ryan Mathews ran well as he gained 5.2 yards per carry, but the Lions jumping to a 24-0 lead at half time took him out of the game.

The coaches did a great job. The offense was outstanding. The defense was ferocious. With a chance to cement a spot in the NFL Play-offs, the Lions put together four complete quarters and this time did it against a good team that had been playing at a playoff caliber level. The Detroit Lions just put the NFL on notice. They were not about to back into the play-offs. They were not to be taken lightly. If they do this in the play-offs, they can beat any team they face.

Today I saw the Lions I have been clamoring for all season. Not winning on the big play alone. Not having to come back in the fourth quarter. All year I have argued that the Lions have a good enough team to beat anyone they meet when they put it all together. Here on Christmas Eve, the Lions showed the rest of the world what I knew was there. A great team! Not an improved team. Not a team that was a year or two away from being a contender. But a team that is a contender now and has the ability to knock out its foes rather than take the fight to the last bell.

This was the best Christmas Eve I have seen in many, many years and will be the best Christmas in as long. Merry Christmas Lions fans. You deserve this one!

12/23/11

Lions vs Chargers Pregame

The Detroit Lions have not been to the NFL Playoffs since 1999. Think about that. Almost any kid who has not graduated high-school would have no memory of the Lions in the playoffs. On Christmas Eve, the Lions can cement their spot in the NFL Playoffs by beating the San Diego Chargers.

There is talk that this will be a high scoring shootout and whichever team has the ball last will win. It seems I say this a lot lately, but hogwash! Again, the last thing the Lions want is a shootout because quite frankly, they will not win that way. As potent as their offense is, their offense is not one that can be depended on for a full game. If you have followed my blog this year, or know me personally, you will also know that I have been upset with this very fact all season. Only twice have the Lions offense looked good for an entire game. Twice in 14 games! That is only a 14% chance the offense will put in four solid quarters.

The Chargers have a good duo of running backs and that is the Lions weak spot on defense. Don't get me wrong. Their run defense is nowhere near as bad as most fans (or their stats) makes you believe, but it is still not their strong suit. If the Lions want to win this game, they need to get the Chargers away from running the ball and more into the passing game. As good as Rivers can be, if you want to beat the Chargers, you have to beat them on your own terms. With the Lions, that is putting pressure on the passer, and for obvious reasons, you cannot put pressure on the passer if they are running the ball.

The way to get San Diego passing more is to score early and make them play from behind. So once again, it is extremely important for the Lions offense to get into the end-zone early. If they do not, there is too high of a chance the fans will be forced to sit through another Maalox Fourth Quarter as we watch the game from our knees, praying the Lions can pull out yet another come from behind victory.

The Chargers 7-7 record is deceiving. They have gotten better in recent weeks and are playing at a playoff caliber level. The Detroit Lions have yet to beat a team this year that was playing well. There is absolutely no doubt they have the talent to do so, but these coaches have yet to show they can out-coach the guys on opposing sidelines. Instead, they have been saved by the immense talent making big plays at opportune times. If the Lions want to beat the Chargers, they will need to either, absolutely out-perform them with better talent, or the coaches to have one of their best days. Let's hear it for great talent!

If the Chargers lose, they will be taken out of the play-off hunt. This is a must win for the team. They will definitely be a hungry team. The Lions should be even hungrier! With no playoff appearances in over a decade, they simply cannot afford to lose this game and have to beat the Packers in Green Bay to make the playoffs. They do not want to depend on other teams losing in order to back into the Playoffs. It will be Christmas Eve, and the best present the Detroit Lions can give to their fans (as well as to themselves), is a victory over the Chargers and a trip to the Playoffs!

Merry Christmas to all who read this. Go Lions!

12/19/11

Lions 28 - Raiders 27

The Detroit Lions played the role of the Comeback Cats once again as they overcame a 13 point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Oakland Raiders 28 to 27.

The world seems to be picking up the "Comeback Cats" nickname for the Lions. I cannot help but to equate them to the NFL's version of "Jeckyl & Hyde". The Lions offense seems to be the mild mannered scientist that keeps trying experiments that do nothing but fail. They will continue to run the ball up the middle even though they do not have the power to get any push. The Lions continue to throw passes that have simple routes and get no to few yards. They continue to use Calvin Johnson in a limited role and look to other receivers with less talent. In other words, they continue to enter games and play well below their abilities while depending on the defense to keep things close. Then sometime in the second half the Detroit Lions pull out the secret potion, pinch their noses and take a swallow. That is when the beast comes out. That is what happened again on Sunday in Oakland.

In three and a half quarters of play, the Lions scored two touchdowns. Both on big plays of 39 yards and 51 yards. Other than those two plays, the offense did little. In fact, in the first 3 1/2 quarters (10 drives), the longest drive lasted only 7 plays. It was a disheartening effort as they had 8 dropped passes in that time and it looked like the Lions were going to fall to the Raiders. The Giants had lost. The Bears had lost. Even the Packers lost. The NFL was trying hard to give the Lions every advantage to make the play-offs and Detroit was not taking advantage of it.

With 7:30 left in the fourth quarter, and down by 13 points, the Lions got the ball back at their own 43 yard line, and Mr.Hyde took over. They drove the 57 yards in a ten play drive that was capped off with a three yard pass to Titus Young for a touchdown. The Lions were now down 6 points with less than 5 minutes left, but they had to kick it off to the Raiders.

The Raiders started moving the ball against the Lions defense. They drove to the Lions 48 yard-line and knowing that Janikowski had tied the NFL record with a 63 yard field goal earlier in the season, the Raiders were knocking on the door of field goal range. Then finally, the defense figured out how to stop running back, Michael Bush, and forced a punt. My stomach turned when I watched the punt bounce, and roll to the Lions 2 yard line before being downed.

With only 2:11 left on the clock the Lions had to drive the ball 98 yards to score. But there was hope in the air for they had shown in the prior drive that it was Mr.Hyde on the field now and not the timid Dr.Jeckyl.

Stafford's first pass went incomplete before he connected with Pettigrew for an 8 yarder. On the next play he connected with Burleson for another 8 yards and a first down. With 1:33 left, Stafford completed a 28 yard pass to Calvin Johnson who was having a big game already. That pass gave Johnson 162 yards on 7 catches. That wasn't good enough however, and Stafford decided to make it a career day for Megatron.

Taking the snap, Stafford dropped back, then stepped forward and aired it out. 48 yards down the field, Johnson was running with a defender on each side of him. He suddenly stopped and let them run a couple steps past him as he turned and grabbed the ball while falling to the ground. Two penalties (one for each team), and an incomplete pass later, Calvin Johnson broke to the middle and Stafford rifled one to him for a 6 yard touchdown and the Detroit Lions took the lead.

With :29 seconds left and two Oakland timeouts left, it was still too early to rejoice. It was the Lions defense, turn to look timid as Kevin Boss took in two consecutive passes for 34 yards total. One of them, Alfonso Smith went for a pick and missed, allowing the Raider's tight end to break away for extra yards. However, the Lions did what they do best on defense these days. They made the big play. Avril broke loose and sacked Carson Palmer for the second time and the Lions defense stopped the Raiders at the Detroit 47 yard line and with 4 seconds left, Oakland decided to go for a 64 yard field goal. An NFL record.

And here is where I need to say, I thank God that Ndamukong Suh was back from his suspension. Suh leapt up and got a hand on the kick to send it fluttering of target. Even with the partial block, the kick sailed to the two yard line. Watching the kick, I am a believer that if Suh did not get a piece of it, that ball had enough distance and would have won the game for the Raiders.

In the end, Matthew Stafford had 4 TDs and 391 yards passing, and Megatron had 214 yards on 9 catches and 2 touchdowns. More importantly, the Mr.Hyde persona of the Detroit Lions got another victory and put the Lions 2 games above any competition in the play-off race with 2 games left in the season.

12/16/11

Lions vs Raiders Pre-game

There is something intriguing about the Detroit Lions going to the west coast to play the Oakland Raiders. Two teams that love to get after the opposing quarterbacks and both teams take a lot of penalties. The key however is the ability to get after the quarterbacks.

Last week against the Packers, Carson Palmer threw 4 interceptions. He has 6 of his passes picked off in the last three games. So it is clear that if you put pressure on Palmer, he will make his mistakes. Another thing that is clear is that the Lions are indeed a team that can and will put pressure on him.

People have complained about Ndamukong Suh this year. His 31 tackles and only 3 sacks, after all, are far below his totals as a rookie. The fact is however, stomp aside, Suh is having an outstanding year. Every team knows how good Suh is and they are not going to allow him to just beat up their quarterbacks. So to defend him, they put Suh in a double team on most plays. This double team is effective in that it slows him down enough that either the quarterback has enough time to throw the ball, or someone else on the Lions defensive line gets to the quarterback before Suh does. But if you are wondering how much Suh means to the Lions defense, go back and watch the Vikings game from last week again.

Yes I know the Lions caused fumbles, got sacks and played well, but go look at something in particular. Look at how much pressure the Lions got on the QB up the middle of the line. There really was not much. The Lions were depending on the DE's to get the pressure and Avril and Vanden Bosch came through. But the Detroit defensive Tackles did not do much.

This week Ndamukong Suh will be back from his suspension. After watching his team play without him for two weeks, you know he is hungry to get going again. Believe me, there is little a quarterback likes less than pressure up the middle that keeps him from being able to step up into the pocket.

On the other hand, the Raiders have more sacks than the Lions do, so they are no slouch in getting pressure on the quarterbacks either. The difference is that the Lions protect the ball much better than the Raiders do.

I know it is easy to look at Stafford's stats and see how he has thrown 14 picks this year so far. Not the best stats. But keep in mind that he had a fractured finger on his throwing hand bothering him for a while. In the weeks that was an issue, Stafford threw 9 of his interceptions. Take those away and he has only thrown 5 picks in the other 10 games when he was healthy. So when he is not playing with an injury to his throwing hand, Stafford does not tend to throw interceptions even when he is under a lot of pressure.

Even with Stafford's bad three games, the Lions are a +11 in the turnover ration. The Raiders are a -4. On top of that, the Lions lead the NFL in defensive touchdowns. So with the Raiders propensity for turning it over and knowing they will be facing a very strong pass rush, and Stafford's ability to protect the ball when he is healthy, this looks like a game the Lions should win.

12/12/11

Lions 34 - Vikings 28

What looked to be a route shaping up, as the Lions went into half-time with a 31-14 lead, ended a nail biter that found the Lions escaping with a 34-28 victory on a missed call by the refs.

With a 17 point lead, late in the third quarter, the Vikings quarterback, Christian Ponder was replaced with Joe Webb, then everything began to fall apart. The Lions offense that showed signs of life early in the game could not score a touchdown in the second half. In fact they only managed one field-goal. On the other side of the ball, the Lions defense which had been outstanding most of the game, suddenly could not stop one single player.

The Lions defense intercepted Ponder 3 times and forced two fumbles before Webb took a snap. Two of those turnovers were taken back for defensive touchdowns. The Ponder took over and the Lions defense suddenly looked as if it was in slow motion. Webb would take a snap, then run and leave players wondering how he had simply stepped around them. On one particular play, Webb took off to the right side and went 55 yards without a Lions player ever coming anywhere near him. At least from the televisions perspective, Webb did not look very fast. Often it looked as if he was a big man out for a jog. Yet the Lions defensive players suddenly could not touch him.

After the Lions managed their single field-goal in the second half, Webb directed another drive that went 60 yards on 12 plays for another touchdown. Suddenly the Lions found themselves with only a six point lead. After a six play drive that only accumulated 20 yards, the Lions were forced to punt and count on their defense to stop the Vikings one more time. The Vikings, by the way, answered the call by charging 64 yards on 18 plays that led to the climatic finish.

With Minnesota on the one yard line, first down and nine seconds left on the clock, Webb to the snap and found instant pressure. As he scrambled to his left, DeAndre Levy closed in on him and forced a fumble, but as Webb lost the ball, Levy's hand grabbed his facemask and pulled his head down, keeping him from gaining control of the ball. I watched in shock as players scrambled for a loose ball, waiting for the flag I was sure would come. After all, this is the Lions and the refs rarely miss a chance to flag them for anything minimal much less something so obvious. Then Cliff Avril landed on the ball, time expired and no flag was thrown.

There has been debates on whether the Vikings would have kept possession if the flag had been thrown for the facemask. Many have their own opinions but the one that I have to believe would be that of Mike Pereira the ex-head of officiating who often is called upon to clarify calls on Fox Sports. Though I disagree with his assessment of the Calvin Johnson "Completing the Process" rule in 2010, he still knows the rules better than the fans do. He says that the Vikings would have regained possession and the penalty would have been half the distance to the goal from the place of the fumble, which would have placed the Vikings on the five yard line. Since a game cannot end on a penalty, the Vikings would have been allowed one more play from scrimmage.

Whether they would have scored does not matter. The fact is, the flag was not thrown and the Lions won the game. As much as I will agree that the flag should have been thrown, I will also admit that the Lions have lost their share of games due to penalties being ignored or flags being thrown on phantom fouls at critical points in games. If you follow my blog you would have read articles where I had complained about it happening too often last year. Now it has happened again, but for once the Lions were the team that benefited from the ref's mistake. It is a flaw in the NFL game. Refs are human and will make mistakes. Until the NFL makes penalties reviewable, these things will continue to happen.

If the Lions would have lost the game, the odds of them making the play-offs would have diminished to slightly better than terrible. But the Lions on this day were given a gift. Not only by the refs, but by the Bears and Giants losing as well. The Lions 2011 destiny is now in their own hands and it will be interesting to see what they do with it.

12/9/11

Lions Seem Confused on Intimidation Factor

Coach Jim Schwartz and Defensive Coordinator Gunther Cunningham want a tough team. They want a team that will not take any crap from anyone. They are instilling the wrong attitude on this team.

The Lions should not be looking to be a team that wont back down from anyone. They need to be a smart team. If another player smarts off or shoves you or does whatever he wants to upset you, if you don't back down and get back in his face, you will be the one noticed by the refs. Too often it is the retaliation that is called for a penalty. Logan flipping the ball in the face of an opponent who was mouthing him was a case of "not backing down". Titus Young reaching across a ref to smack an opponent in the head was a case of "not backing down". Brandon Pettigrew shoving a ref who got between him and a player he was having words with was a case of "not backing down". Those were all cases where they should back down!

They need to understand that if you want to intimidate an opponent, you do it with your play, not with your attitude after the whistle. These players should have backed down and then made a great play to make their opponents eat their words. This is football. It is not a tough man contest.

I thought Ndamukong Suh had it figured out when he was being penalized and flagged for fouls he did not do or looked worse than they were. He was saying he did not care. He would continue to play how he plays. That was a good attitude. Continue to play hard and tough from snap to whistle. Be intimidating in your play! Then he crossed the line when he lost his temper and stomped on an opponent. That seems to have started a barrage of penalties that have been stupid plays after the whistle. That made me realize something. Maybe the Lions are getting something confused. I have heard the coaches speak of playing hard from whistle to whistle. Excuse me. That is why they are getting these stupid flags. Instead of playing hard from whistle to whistle, they should be playing hard from SNAP to whistle!

The Lions simply need to get away from worrying about being tough. They need to continue playing hard every play, but they need to forget about being tough. The Detroit Lions have made themselves note worthy. They are valued now by the NFL as a team worth placing on national TV. The Lions as a talent are now respected. It is time to forget about building a reputation and focus on playing good football!

12/8/11

Detroit Has Lions Share of Hope

Many fans will look at the last two losses to the Packers and Saints as evidence the Lions are not ready to be an elite team. Many will say the Lions are too young and undisciplined. I see Superbowl possibilities.

The Lions went into halftime against the Packers down 7-0 before falling apart with stupid penalties. They looked strong against the Saints before that same stupidity came into play at a much higher level. It is the old bit about the glass being half empty or half full all over again.

On one hand, you can look at the stupid penalties and say they just are not mature enough to beat the premier teams right now. You can look at losses to the Falcons and Bears and believe they haven't shown they can hang with a good team much less a great team. If this is the way you see things, then you see the glass half empty.

Then there is the other hand and in this hand we hold a glass that is half full. Without Suh, Delmas or Houston, the Lions played a fairly strong game against the New Orleans Saints. Take away the one touchdown and all of something like 15 yards in that drive from the Packers and the Lions controlled that game in the first half.

Here is how I see the Detroit Lions right now. They have the talent to match up against any team in the NFL. With the team healthy, Linehan calling plays well, and with their heads on straight, they can beat any team they are against. There in lies the problem though. Too often they are not playing with their heads on straight. Too often Linehan does not call a good game plan. So how can you have much hope?

The Lions play a bad Minnesota Vikings team this weekend. Even without Suh, the Lions should be able to beat the Vikings. Then they go to Oakland and play the Raiders, and though that one could be tough, it is winnable. Then the Lions come back home and play the Chargers. Again, that one might be tough, but the Chargers are definitely not as strong as they have been in the past. The regular season will end with the Lions on the road facing the Packers in Green Bay.

If the Lions win three of those games, they should make the play-offs. With Stafford getting healthy again and Suh over the suspension, winning three of the last four is not out of the question. Even if the Lions end at 9-7 by winning only two of the last four games, they still have a chance to make the playoffs. Right now I would place the Lions odds of making the play-offs at about 50-50. So for the fun of it, let us pretend the Lions make the play-offs.

Here is the simple fact. Whether you like the Lions players or not. Whether you like the coaches or not. Whether you think they are too immature or dirty or not! The Lions have a team that can give any team fits on the field. Once they get to the play-offs, there is nothing saying they are not good enough to win. Yes they will need to play level headed. Yes they will need to be healthy. Yes the coaches will have to do their jobs well. But if they all do that, they can beat anyone! Would the Lions be favored to win? Not a chance, and I would say not to bet the farm on them either. But they have the talent to win and if the coaches put them in position to succeed, they can win!

Right now the odds on favorite in the NFC to make the Superbowl is either the Packers or Saints. But if there is a team in the NFL that is primed to be the surprise to upset those two powerhouses, it is the Detroit Lions. Likely they will not, I will admit that much. But there is definitely reason to have hope, for the realm of possibility is not so far fetched with the Lions.

But first things first. First the Lions have to win enough of the last four games to make the play-offs. Right now I think they will. Call me a "Glass is half full" kind of guy.

12/5/11

Lions lose to Saints 17-31

The Detroit Lions went into New Orleans and lost to the Saints, 31 to 17. It was not nearly as bad as the score would make it sound.

Once again the Lions offense came out limp, as it was not until their fourth drive before they gained even 20 yards in a drive. It looked as if Linehan was attempting to do just as I was saying he should not do. He tried to use short passes to move the ball. In the first three drives, Stafford has 4 completions to the running backs and only one to a wide receiver. He also had a few incomplete passes that were screens and dumps. By the time the Lions got the ball for their 4th possession, they were already down 17 to 0.

Then I saw something from Linehan I did not expect. He changed up his play calling! He adapted! In the fourth drive, Stafford has 4 different passes to wide receivers and three of them were for more than 10 yards. The Lions drove down the field for an 80 yard touchdown drive and the game was on.

Unfortunately the idea of playing good offense against a good team must have been too much for some of the Lions players to handle as they inexplicably seemed to cut the oxygen to their brains off and allow their IQ level to bottom out now and then.

More than the great play of Brees, it was stupidity that lost this game. More so than the strange calls by the refs, it was moments where intelligence took a timeout that destroyed the Lions chances. When Titus Young actually reached across a ref to smack an opponent in the head, I sat there with my jaw dropped open trying to understand it. My brain raced a thousand miles a second but I could not come up with a decent explanation other than good ole stupidity! When Pettigrew took it a step farther and actually shoved a ref, I felt like the Aflac Duck listening to Yogi Berra.

As Drew Brees too often found time to throw the ball, or found room to step up into a pocket, I realized how much of a difference Ndamukong Suh makes. Even without the sacks and the tackles, his constant pressure of pushing the middle of the line back towards the quarterback often made things very tough for a quarterback to get comfortable. And I realized how much his stupid act of stomping on an opponent cost the Lions against the Saints.

In the end, the Lions lost in another collapse of gray matter and it would have only been fitting if Schwartz forced them to listen to the Scarecrow sing "If I Only Had a Brain" over and over on their flight home.

12/2/11

Lions vs Saints Pre-game

NOTE* The Lions vs Saints game was moved up to the Sunday Night game and will not be played at the time on their schedules.

Drew Brees is hot right now and the Detroit Lions will be without Ndamukong Suh and may be without Louis Delmas and Chris Houston as well. This is NOT a good recipe!

I have heard it said that the Lions will need to slow things down and use the short pass and run a lot to beat the Saints, by not giving them so many opportunities to score. This is foolish! Let us make that clear right now.

At what point this year have the Detroit Lions offense shown they can be a consistent ground eating offense and win that way? The Lions offense has seldom moved the ball down the field in short gains and ended with a touchdown. Most of their 6 pointers have come via the big play. It may not be the big play that actually scores the touchdown, but there is usually a big play that gets them down the field at some point in the drive.

I am not saying to ignore the run game or not throw short passes. I am just saying that if they get the opportunity to make the big play, they better darn well take it because they wont score much without it! They need to run often. They have a much better running team than given credit for and people would see this if Linehan would learn to use it. They will definitely need to use the short passes as well, but they simply cannot ignore the down field threat! The Lions must go deep sometimes to keep the defense honest and allow their big play talent to do what it does best.

The key to the Lions winning the game is not to use the short pass, run and eat time. The key to this game is for the Lions offense to come out of the gates firing on all cylinders. Score quick, or score slow, it does not matter. Just score early! Let the defense do the good job it often does and get an early lead on the Saints.

Another key to this game is to get to Brees. I don't care how hot he is right now, if you don't give him time to go through his reads, he wont do near as much damage. The Lions shut down Rodgers for the first half because they put pressure on him often. He may not have been sacked much, but he was often throwing earlier than he would have liked. If the Lions offense would have done their job in that game, the outcome would have had a completely different story.

You don't beat the great teams by playing good defense or good offense. You beat them by playing BOTH, good offense AND good defense and knocking them on their heals.

Unfortunately the Detroit Lions will have a harder time doing that this week with the injuries they have. This means that Cunningham will have to make sure he puts as much pressure on Brees as quick as he can. The stories have it the Saints defensive coordinator is one of the most aggressive in the NFL with his blitzing. The Lions will need to take a page from his book. They cannot count on the Defensive line getting all the pressure and the defensive backs covering well on the plays they don't pressure him. The Lions need to get to Brees a lot this game. They will need to bring the blitz as well as their great defensive linemen. Especially without Suh in there.

IF the Lions defense gets to Brees a lot early, and the offense comes out scoring, the Lions can win this game. Unfortunately I just do not have the confidence Linehan will have this offense scoring early. This late in the season, it is time to accept that Linehan lacks the ability to get this offense going out of the gates. I can almost see a replay of the Thanksgiving game as the defense might keep the Saints down but the offense will not take advantage of it. Then in the second half, the defense will grow tired and frustrated and the Saints will start scoring.

Lions 20
Saints 24

NOTE* The Lions vs Saints game was moved up to the Sunday Night game and will not be played at the time on their schedules.