Monday, November 22, 2004

How to self-destruct

I went back and looked at the Lions-Vikings game again (I'm a sucker for self torture), and more than any other game, the Lions tortured themselves in this one. Here is a drive-by-drive synopsis of the stupid torture the Leo's did to themselves...

Possession 1 - TD on kickoff return. Nice opening by ED. 7-0 Lions

Minny's first - what the heck was Bryant doing on that bomb? It looked like Campbell was standing around waiting for the pass, so why couldn't Bryant KNOCK IT DOWN??? Too easy... 7-7

P2 - First O possession - TD. Nice drive. Overthrow to Alexander looked like Joey was going to throw it away due to blitz from Henderson and then spotted Alexander a little too late. Still scored 2 plays later. 14-7

Possession 3 - Bad screen to KJ loses 8 yards. It looked like Minny knew it was coming. I don't fault a 8 yard pass on 3rd and 16 as you have to hope someone makes a play.

Minny P4 - Drive, go for it on 4th and 1, don't convert. Bad mistake by Minny. Should be 14-10

P4 - Roy's PI, dropped TD pass, then Joey gets sacked before we take the FG (Backus gets beat). Roy would love to forget that series. Lions should have 4 more points for 21-10 lead.

P5 - Trying to run out the clock, Loverne false start turns 3rd and 3 into 3rd and 8. End of drive, Minny gets ball back. Thankfully they go 3 and out.

P6 - Kneel to end half. Score should be 21-10.

P7 - 5 plays, drive ends on sack - again Backus gets beat.

Minny P8 - Redding Safety after punt to 1 inch line. Beautiful D there... Score should be 23-10

P8 - quick 21 yarder, then 8 yard play on 3rd and 11. Frustrating to only throw 8 yard pass, but again, you have to hope SOMEONE will make a play to get 3 YAC. Kircus STUPID penalty on the punt allows Minny to get out to the 22 instead of the 7.

Minny P9 - LONG Drive my Minny for TD. Converted 5 3rd downs on drive. Where did our D go? Score should be 23-18

P9 - KJ gets Unnecessary Roughness, turning 3rd and 2 into 3rd and 17. Everyone know you don't retaliate. Dumb...

Minny P10 - Another LONG drive, this ons gets stopped for 4th and 2 at the 5, but we take the penalty, and they promptly score a TD. WHY??? Score should be 23-21, Lions.

P10 - Pritchett Unnecessary Roughness moves starting field position from 39 to the 24. Roy gets false start to the 19. We lose 20 yards field position, and haven't run a play. Joey gets sacked on 3rd and 8 as Backus gets beat AGAIN to kill another drive.

P11 - After D actually holds Minny to 3 and out, Joey gets picked on an out route to end the game. We're out of TO's due to bad communication between Joey and Raiola (who's at fault? who knows...) and Mooch calling another TO., so game over. Score SHOULD be 23-21, Lions. Instead it's 22-19, Minny.

That my friends, is how you take a game that we SHOULD have won, and lose it. Even giving Minny credit for their own stupid mistake of going for it in the first half, we STILL should have won. We completed the trifecta - bad coaching decisions, stupid penalties, and bad play. More than the Vikings beating us, we beat ourselves. Sorry, but even GOOD offenses don't convert 3rd and 10's more than one out of 5 times (unless they're playing us, then it's 4 out of 5).

The blame for this loss goes to the coaching staff and the players who screwed up the worst, most notably Backus. Giving up 3 sacks to Lance Johnstone, all on 3rd down? Sheesh. Also in my doghouse are Roy, for the penalties and dropped TD, KJ, Kircus and Pritchett for the stupid 15 yarders, and Bryant for that long completion. And of course Mooch - what were you thinking? That was BAD game management.

Here's to praying that we don't screw up so bad on Thanksgiving...

Too many breakdowns

Lose to Vikings 22-19.

where to begin...

I'm not going to defend Joey today. Honestly I don't think I need to. But since everyone wants to talk about all these "savior" QB's, let's put them into perspective with Joey. Here goes...

Joey - Inconsistent, seems to brain-lock at times.

Griese - Inconsistent, seems to brain-lock at times

Brees - prior to this year, Inconsistent, seems to brain-lock at times

Hasselbeck - Inconsistent, seems to brain-lock at times

McMike - get real - not a NFL caliber starting QB for any offense.

Couch - Inconsistent, seems to brain-lock at times

Notice a trend? All these QB's that have been mentioned as the "solution" to our problems all share a very common trait - INCONSISTENCY. Will any of them be a savior here? quite simply - NO. There are too many other things wrong for any available QB to come in and magically solve.

What is needed here is pretty simple
1. Health - CRog, Roy, Az, and Tai all to be healthy at the same time would be a nice change. With all of them healthy, it could make a huge difference for any QB. And while they're at it, how about eliminating the drops?

2. Good O-Line play. Backus has had a bad year, Loverne and Raiola should be gone, Woody is just now getting into game shape, and McDougle is inconsistent. That line is just a basket case. And here I thought Pat Morris was supposed to solve their problems. Sheesh...

3. Consistent running game. We had our first 100 yard rusher since Bryson put up 100 against KC last year, and only the 4th 100 yard rusher we've had in the last 3 seasons. Once teams have to start respecting our running game, it will open up the passing lanes. We'll get respect when we consistently run for 100 every week.

4. Better play calling. Let's see... the last two games, KJ has run very well, then we abandon the run in the 4th quarter. It just doesn't make sense...

5. Good DE's and OLB's. Our DE's and OLB's have been getting abused the last 4 games. Boss seems to cover TE's pretty well, but we haven't stopped a TE from killing us since the Giants game. How can we shut down Shockey and Crumpler, and then get torched by Witten and Wiggins?

6. No more shooting ourselves in the foot. The Leo's have shot themselves in the foot far too many times over the last 4 games with stupid, inopportune penalties. The officiating hasn't been good, but it's a poor excuse. How about we quit the late hits, unnecessary roughness, and personal fouls that have absolutely sunk several of our drives. What a novel concept...

Oh well, I just hope the Lions honor their tradition and play well on Turkey day, because this one looks like it could be embarrassing...

Monday, November 15, 2004

Appearances are deceiving

After watching the Lions - Jaguars game again on my TiVo, I must say that I have a very different opinion of what happened than most people on the message boards. From what I saw, Joey actually didn't play anywhere near as badly as some would think. His stats looked bad, but here is what I counted upon further review...

Out of 33 attempts...
- 11 completions
- 9 drops - 3 by KJ, 2 by Roy, 2 by Alexander, 1 by Sledge, 1 by Swinton.
- 5 Excellent D plays on the ball - for example defenders hand in front of Kircus in the end zone, defender strips Roy in end zone, etc...
- 4 passes deflected at the line
- 7 errantly thrown balls

Yes, that adds up to more than 33, and some will question my calling 9 drops. In my humble opinion, even if a ball is not thrown perfectly but it hits a receiver in the hands, they should catch it. That's why I have both 9 drops and 7 errant throws - 3 passes counted as both. I also blame a QB for bad throws and about half the blame for a batted ball. So after my review, I saw Joey making good throws on roughly 24 of 33 passes.

Also there were 2 long completions called back on phantom penalties - Illegal shift on a 27 yarder to Swinton - looked at that play 5 times and still haven't seen an illegal shift. And a 15 yarder to Bryson that got called as an illegal formation - The ref must have lost count on that one... there were 7 on the line. Add those back in, and the stats definitely look better.

I usually refrain from piling on the Ref's because it's usually just an excuse, but today it's appropriate. The Ref's had a BAD day today as there were at least 5 penalties that were flat out wrong calls. The most infuriating ones had to be the 2 calls where a defender jumped, causing the O-Line to jump. They called one as an encroachment, one as illegal procedure, and both just happened to go against the Lions. They missed on at least 3 obvious pass interference calls where Roy and Swinton got mugged as well. With how bad the officiating was, they could have been called the 12th man for Jacksonville.

On the bright side, KJ looked like what we thought he would when he actually was given the rock 20 times. He ran with AUTHORITY and showed a lot of why he was a 1st round draft choice. He also showed exactly why the coaches were afraid to play him full time as he whiffed on a few blocks and dropped 3 passes. The drops on the pass plays were alarming in that none of them were what I would call difficult catches. Even with that, he needs more touches and plays, and he'll get better in both of those areas.

Our O-Line actually had a significantly better day than they had previously. KJ actually had some holes to run through (although he did get hit in the backfield on about 7 carries out of 19. Joey was under some pressure, but it was not nearly as bad as the last two games. Someone must have given them a wake up call after the last two games.

Our D still shows that when a RB with some speed decides to take it outside, they can burn us. Our OLB's and DE's just aren't that good at containing a fast runner to the outside. Our tackling is also still a concern. There were blown tackles on nearly every run that Taylor made any significant yardage on. He made Bryant and Bly look really bad when they tried to tackle him - Bryant got run over twice, and Dre relied on going low and rolling into his legs to stop him.

The single biggest problem today was the dropped balls. We looked like we couldn't catch a cold out there today. It's a continuation of the last two games as we've dropped a lot of passes in each of the three losses. I wish I knew an explaination for it, but these guys are pro's, and there really is no excuse. Combine that with the excellent play by the Jag's CB's (and they were awesome today - they didn't look like they miss Bryant at all), and it was a hard day for the passing game.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

It's the Line, Stupid

Just got done re-watching that train wreck again on TiVo (Lions vs Redskins). Why I had to put myself through that pain again, I really don't know. But it did illuminate a few things that were painfully obvious.

1) The O-Line STUNK. Everything bad that happened on O yesterday (except the drops) can find it's roots in the play of the O-Line. Even a lot of Joey's inaccuracy (though not all of it). For reference:

- KJ had 20 yards on 12 carries, with 5 of them being for 0 or - yards. On EVERY one of those 0 or - plays, he was hit at least 3 yards deep. If your best RB is getting hit on 42% of his plays 3 yards before he gets to the line, you're in deep trouble.

- As for pass blocking, here is a frightening thought - Joey got hit 3 times on 3 step drops. I don't care if you're facing the '86 Bears, no QB should get hit on a 3 step drop. The QB has the ball for less than 2 seconds on those plays. After the second of those, Joey definitely got 'happy feet' and was obviously paranoid to stand for a 5 count in the pocket - rightfully so. When Joey gets happy feet, his passes are all over the place. We saw that enough times last year to know what happens in that situation.

- I don't know what happened to Backus, but he sucked big time yesterday. He got taken to school by Griffin. Loverne wasn't much help, but Backus did most of the damage himself.

- Our TE's can't block to save their lives either. What was funny watching the game was seeing Washington run 2 TE sets, and Portis being able to bounce it outside with relative ease. EXACTLY the way KJ tries to bounce it outside, but gets hit by a DE or OLB. Washington's TE's and T's were holding their blocks long enough for Portis to bounce outside and turn upfield. Our TE's and T's were lucky to hold the block long enough for KJ to get to them - much less having any chance to turn it upfield.

2) With all that, Joey was simply not on target yesterday. He didn't get bailed out save 1 or 2 times (most notably the first Roy catch), but for the most part, he didn't throw passes that would allow someone to bail him out. And when he did, the bozo's were dropping the balls. By my count, Roy dropped 5 passes (hence I'm removing the R.O.Y. designation until he's healthy again), Az dropped 2, and Alexander dropped 3. But what's funny is that Joey actually looked GOOD compared to Brunell. And we still lost. Amazing...

3) Our LB's and DE's played their worst game of the year. Seriously, Portis was able to bounce a play outside at will, and once he realized that, he did it with amazing consistency. I've said it before the we should still draft a DE with our #1 pick next year, and I'm definitely sticking with that assessment. Boss, where are you? We need you back ASAP...

4) When push comes to shove, we got beat by a one man show of Portis. And here I thought coming into the season that the only one man show that would give us problems was Vick. We got beat by a blocked punt (first TD) and 2 21 yard runsfollowed by a halfback option pass (the only 3 plays of consequence in their TD drive). Outside of that, Washington really didn't move the ball much. But when Portis touched it... 15, 3, 13, 2, 4, 2, 1, 12, 9, 0, 1, 1, 1, 1, 8, 11 yard catch, 21, 21, -1, 1, 1, 15 yard TD Pass, -1, 2, 8, 5, 9, 2, 0, 0, 2, -1, 2, -12, 9.

- There is something to be learned from that line - you have to give a RB his touches. Portis had 10 of his 34 carries go for over 5 yards and accounted for 125 of his 147 yards. That also means he had 24 carries for a total of 22 yards (OK, take out that -12 yarder at the end, and it's 23 for 36 - still not good). If he only gets 12 carries, how likely is he to get even 50 yards? Mooch, are you listening???

Oh well, I can't rant any longer. That game made my head hurt. I need a beer...

Monday, November 01, 2004

D against Dallas

Here is one problem I have with our Defense yesterday - I don't think blitzing would have done anything for us. I went back and watched the game on TiVo, and what I saw was Vinny Testaverde throwing a lot of dump-off passes to RB's and TE's. The exact kind of passes that any QB is supposed to throw when there is a heavy rush - not that we really had one.

If you look at the stats, Vinny completed 15 of his 19 completions to RB's and TE's. Very few of those passes were downfield - 140 of his 235 total passing yards came on his 5 completions to his WR's, and there was a significant amount of YAC in those catches. This all means that Vinny was throwing a lot of short passes.

Our biggest problem was that our LB's had probbly their worst game. The SLB is primarily responsible for the TE in coverage. The MLB and WLB alternate coverage of the RB, depending on where he goes. With so many completed passes for fisrt downs to the RB's and TE's, it smacks of bad coverage and tackling by the LB's. And watching on TiVo, it was brutally visible. Even if we had blitzed more, the same check-downs and short passes would still have been there for Vinny.

This is just another example of the inconsistency of our young team. Dirty and Lehman were not playing well in coverage yesterday. Holmes looked like he was flying around the field, but he wasn't the greatest LB in coverage either. I think the prime reason they played badly was because they were a little too worried about Eddie George's running.

Actually, Lions fans, this is what we PRAY we will eventually get from KJ - a D that stacks 8 in the box because they fear KJ, and leave single coverage on R.O.Y and CRog (next year...). This game, more than any other game this year, shows us what a running game can do for a QB - even a running game that only averages 3.2 yards per carry, as EG did yesterday (betcha didn't realize that one - 31 carries for 99 yards).