Monday, October 24, 2005
Game Notes - @ Browns: What Did 'The Change' Really Do?
Coming out of the Cleveland game, I have more questions than answers for the Lions. Yes, they won the game, but again I have a different opinion on what I saw vs. what the media is reporting. IMHO, we saw about what we predicted earlier - a win against a bad Browns team that exposed some of the same flaws on Offense that we have seen all year. I saw the Defense hand the Offense everything it could in gift-wrapping the game, and the O still tried to give it away. If it wasn't for Cleveland being so inept in their own O, this game would likely have been a loss.
I'm not taking anything away from Jeff Garcia. He played a nice game. He did some things that Joey Harrington simply can't do:
- The bootleg for a TD - nice play, and Joey just can't run well enough to do that.
- The shovel pass to Bryson - Great improvisation, something Joey has not done well at all.
- He is 10,000% better than Joey at play fakes.
But the O still only scored 13 points. - against a team with a suspect D that couldn't generate any pressure to speak of on Jeff. He showed some of the same maddening tendencies as Joey does:
- He did the same dump-off passes that Joey gets ripped about
- The same unexplainable overthrows of receivers on simple routes
- What's worse is he simply cannot throw the deep ball even if he wants to.
He was lucky that the Browns didn't pick him off 3 times yesterday - a better Defense would have. He was very fortunate to get this tune-up game before facing the Bears next week.
If anyone really wants to debate the Jeff vs. Joey stuff any longer, save it until after the Bears game. Jeff is the starter for the foreseeable future. But to compare the two, the Bears game will be a better gauge because:
A - Jeff will have had another full week of practice
B - Roy should play and give him a better target - if he catches the ball
C - The Bears have a significantly better D compared to the Browns
D - We know what happened the last time we played the Bears
I fear that the Jeff vs. Joey debate is far from over. I hope this doesn't sound like I'm defending Joey and bashing Jeff - I'm not. I've said all along that the Lions problems are more the other players on the team than the QB. We still didn't have a great game running the ball. The pass protection was better, but likely only because Cleveland isn't very good at pressuring the QB. In the end, our O only scored 13 points against a team that isn't that great defensively. It's not something to be that ecstatic about.
If it sounds like I'm saying that Cleveland's D is not in the same league as the last 4 teams we played, you're right. I've heard several people trying to justify that Cleveland is a top-10 scores against D, and they even shut down Indy. Sorry, I don't buy it - they just aren't as good as the other teams we've faced. If we really want to compare team's D's, I've come to trust the Aikman Efficiency Ratings as the best source for truly comparing teams' O's and D's as it factors in scoring, red-zone, and turnovers along with yardage allowed. The Lions last five opponents D's were rated like this prior to week 7 games:
Chicago - #1
Tampa - #2
Baltimore - #11
Carolina - #7
Baltimore was rated much higher before we dropped 35 points on them with all the rushing yardage and red-zone success we had against them. Clearly Cleveland isn't as bad as some people say, but it's not the murderers row we just got done facing.
I'll put it another way that clearly demonstrates the difference. Last week, the Lions had a nearly identical situation late in the game against Carolina where they had the lead and got the ball back. Mooch ran nearly the identical plays that he always runs - 1st down run up the middle, 2nd down run up the middle. Everyone in the NFL knows Mooch will run these plays as he does it EVERY time. Last week, those plays gained 2 yards, this week 9 yards. 3rd down this week was an easy run up the middle conversion to seal the victory, last week it was a 3rd and 8 desperation rollout that got Joey sacked before he could even turn around. The difference between the two games was more the defense the Lions played against than the guy running the plays.
In the end, we won, and that is what it's all about in the NFL. 13-10.
Once again, our D was dominating. They only gave up 3 points this time, and held Cleveland to only 73 yards passing. Of course Ruben Droughns ran for 100 yards, but he was slowed down - way down - in the second half. He had 11 for 83 in the first half, but only 8 for 17 in the second half. But the win may have been extremely costly - Baby went down with what's being reported as a strained MCL, and Dre' has a severely sprained wrist which may require surgery. I haven't heard it yet, but I suspect that Dre may be able to play with his cast. I'm not sure about Baby though. Any lost time by those two will hurt.
The O also lost KJ2 - our most consistent receiver to date. Apparently it's a torn Achilles tendon, so he's gone for the season. We may get Roy back next week, but we may need a new nickname for him to go with his continued injured status. iRoy maybe? May also fit his personality which seems to have been taking a slant toward the typical prima donna #1 WR attitude of the T.O.'s and Randy Moss's of the NFL. I kinda like it - it fits. Sledge played this week, and he looks like he needed the time to get the rust out.
In any case, we need a better effort next week, or the Bears will sweep us. Their D looks every bit as dominating as ours does, and they'll get a lot more pressure on Garcia than the Browns did. If we have the same effort next week, it could get ugly inside Ford Field. Let's hope it gets better...