Saturday, September 23, 2006

Appearances can be deceiving

Well, last weekend, I was still out testing cars in Arizona, so I missed out on seeing the carnage. For once, I'm glad I didn't see the game until Tuesday afternoon when I got home from my trip and cranked up the TiVo. I got a rundown of the game Sunday night from my brother who was at the game in Chicago. It went like this:

- HUGE number of penalties - and they were very one sided.

- Several calls of either fumbles or completions / incompletions were very suspect.

- Bears fans in the stands are clueless jerks.

After hearing that this was the same officiating crew that did the Cowboys and Ravens games for us last year, I'm not surprised. That crew was disciplined for both of those games last year, and it sounds like there may be more coming after this game.

Then I went back and watched the game. A few things struck me about what I saw.

The Lions did commit a lot of penalties. But there were several glaring omissions by the officiating crew on the Bears. Here were the lowlights of the calls.

- On 3 separate plays (including one of the TD bombs) a Lions D-Lineman was tackled after beating the Bears O-Line. James Hall was the victim on two of the no-calls, Kalimba on the third. Each should have been an easy holding call, but there were inexcusably missed.

- Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I though tackling someone's head was illegal. On 5 separate plays, I saw Bears defenders tackling a Lions players Head. Granted, facemasks weren't grabbed, but heads were still turned around or snapped in unnatural directions. For some reason, I thought that type of tackling was outlawed as Being too significant of an injury risk. Apparently either I am wrong, or the officials don't know about the rule.

- The Berrian TD and the Kitna fumble should have been reviewed and overturned. I am very convinced after seeing the replays that Kitna's arm was moving forward, and definitely convinced that the ball Berrian caught bounced off the ground before he had control.
Those aren't on the officials per se, but on Rod for not throwing the red hanky.

Beyond that I was left with one more surprising revelation. If the Lions hadn't kept shooting themselves in the foot by fumbling and committing their own stupid penalties, the game was a lot closer than it appeared.

OK, now stop laughing and wipe up the beverage you just shot out of your nose off your monitor.

Unlike in previous games, the Lions were moving the ball with relative ease against the Bears D.
Their primary problem was stopping themselves with penalties, or turnovers. The Lions first two drives lasted all of 5 plays combined and ended up with turnovers that gave the Bears awesome field position. The third drive, they came out with three quick first downs, then had consecutive plays of a sack, false start and holding to turn a 1st and 10 at the 46 into a 2nd and 31 at the 25. The next drive, a KJ 12 yard swing pass was negated by a holding call on Mike Furrey. By the time they stopped committing penalties, they were already down 24-0. After that point, they simply allowed sacks to stop their drives.

The D wasn't as bad as it looked either, and Grossman wasn't as good as he appeared. As I previously mentioned, Berrian trapped his TD catch. His first TD pass capped of an impressive, time consuming 2 play, 3 yard drive that took 38 seconds off the clock. The third TD to Desmond Clark was one of the plays that featured James Hall getting tackled. And the 4th TD came on the same drive as the Boss Bailey interception TD that was called back. As a side note, yes, the penalty was a good call, but it was pretty ticky-tack - that call could be made on nearly every play.

So my conclusion is that it was a deceiving game as to how evenly matched the two teams are because of the officiating. I hate sounding like sour grapes and placing so much blame on the officiating, but it is what it is. Many of the Lions penalties were correct calls. But there were a LOT of missed calls out there. And when you miss so many calls, it definitely skews the outcome of the game.

A side note - I won't be watching the game this weekend, and I won't get a chance to see the TiVo until next weekend. More business travel back to Arizona, and I fly out on Sunday morning. Needless to say, I'm not thrilled about the time my flight was booked. It's just great to have season tickets and not get a chance to actually go to the games...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Better late than never

Well, I've been out of town ever since the game ended, traveling for business, so tonight is the first time I've had a chance to write down my thoughts on the game. Sorry for the delay. Hopefully I can deliver something that makes you go "hmmmm..." I'm not going to break down the game because it's too late for that. Too far in the past for me to bring anything meaningful to the party. But I can give my insight into the feel at the stadium.

My first regular season game as a season ticket holder was an interesting affair. We sit in the east end zone, and when the teams are in our end of the field, the game is pretty impressive. Of course when they are at the other end, it's a LONG way away. But watching from that angle got all my football senses going.

I play a little game where I try to predict what the play is and which way it's going, kinda like QB1, but a live version without automatic scoring. When I can see the field from sideline to sideline (kinda like a video game), I found I could predict with a high degree of accuracy just before the snap where Seattle's O was going with a play. Maybe it's 5 years of seeing the Lions version of the wet toast offense that taught me what to look for, but somehow, I was calling out the play before the snap a lot. Seattle's O is pretty predictable, just like most west coast O's are, in that they try to run players to spots where the D isn't, and take advantage of the position of the defender. But to predict it, the view from where I sit is very helpful. I doubt I could predict as well from the sideline - too hard to see the spacing I was seeing. But it sure was weird to call their plays as much as I was doing.

On the other hand, the Martz O was nearly impossible to read. He shifts players and puts guys in motion so much that it really doesn't give an observer (or a Defense) a good chance to see the spacing and alignments. Nice and tricky in that it allows the O to get in a formation that the D can't adjust to quickly enough pre-snap, and frequently allowed receivers to be running free. My guessing the Lions O plays was only successful based on down and distance - 3rd and 8 was easy to guess. Other than that, it was like flipping a coin. Definitely not the predictable BS we've been accustomed to.

One thing that was also readily apparent was that Martz O allowed our receivers to run free a LOT more than we've seen in years. Basically, if Kitna had wanted to, he could have zeroed in on Roy and thrown over half the balls to him and Roy would have still been wide open. Part of that was that Seattle was also still significantly more committed to stopping KJ than to stopping the pass. There were a lot of 8 or 9 men in the box situations - and I still want to see Kitna allowed to audible out of those.

The one thing that I had been curious about in preseason related to the D was answered emphatically - Shaun Rogers is a HUGE difference maker. Not in just his ability to create havoc, but that he changes the O blocking schemes. Seattle had to have two guys account for Baby on nearly every play. That freed up the other D-linemen for one-on-one matchups and kept the LB's free to make plays. That single difference is amazing in how it changes the effectiveness of our D. Our fast LB's were able to run sideline to sideline and make plays - which they couldn't do in preseason. Shaun is that big of a difference maker - and the improvement of the D can easily be placed solely on his presence.

It will be interesting to see how the game this week plays out with Da Bearz. I'm still not ready to bet on the Lions in any way because there is still too much we don't know about the team. But if I had to make one bet this week, it's take the under. Even if the number is 20. The only way either team is scoring a TD is if the D's score it. At least that's my prediction, and I'm sticking to it.

Also, I likely won't see the game in real time again this week. I'll still be out in Arizona traveling, so I'll have to catch my TiVo recording of it when I get home Monday afternoon. So don't expect next weeks' entry early either. You've been warned...

Saturday, September 02, 2006


This deserves a post of it's own...

FunkTron made this comment about my recent postings:

Quote: I think you are going overboard with the "LIE" commentary.

He's probably right that I am going a little overboard. For me, it's a lot of pent up frustration - I wanted to see what those two (BMW and CRog) could really do on the field, in a game. I think we've all wanted to see that.

We all saw them play in college and have drooled over the possibilities of what they could do in a Lions uniform. Then, we haven't gotten to see them do much of anything. We've had to rely on the opinion of coaches in practice. Yes, the coaches are experts, and I'm not. But that doesn't make me want to see the coaches at least try to use them in a manner similar to how they had so much success in college.

I've been waiting...

And waiting...

And waiting...

And after all the waiting for all their varied offenses - CRog and BMW have been far from angels that have earned their shot - we finally heard that they were going to be given a chance in a preseason game. That got me excited. I wanted to see if they would actually use them in a manner consistent with their abilities and how that would play out in a game. I probably was expecting too much there, but I at least wanted to see them involved in the action.

And then we saw them barely used, and completely ignored in the game.

I didn't want to see if Glenn Martinez can catch the ball. I didn't want to see Sean McHugh and his T-Rex arms not be able to catch another pass. I didn't want to see Shaun Bodiford run around and run the wrong route. I wanted a chance to see the two thoroughbreds actually get some meaningful chances to catch the ball - something we haven't seen in even a single preseason game.

What adds to the frustration is that this was the last preseason game - the one with practically no entertainment value at all as the stars won't play at all, and the first teams will only play one series. The rest of the game is basically watching guys you hope to never have to see play during the regular season because if you do, your season is already lost.

So all that excitement was thrown on top of that stinker of a game, and gave me reason to actually get excited to see a game that normally I would have had about as much interest in as picking my belly button lint. And look what happened.

If the coaching staff had given us ANY indication that we would only see CRog for one series, and BMW would not have a single pass thrown his way, then maybe I'd be less hostile. But they didn't. I spent $124 on two tickets I really had no interest in (the biggest problem with season tickets - you have to pay for pre-season tickets whether you want them or not) and felt like they had purposely told the fans the 'significant playing time' line simply to get us to come to this game and spend more money at Ford Field instead of simply staying home and watching it on TV.

Now, I'll never get the chance to see if Charles Rogers can become a successful NFL WR as a Detroit Lion. It was obvious that he was going to get cut after the game, everyone knew it. In a best case scenario, he goes to Miami where he can be coached by Nick Saban again, or to Philadelphia, so he can become the #1 target for Donovan McNabb. I have a hunch that he'll find success elsewhere, and it will be this season. Of course I'm not always even close with my hunches, so he could continue to flame out and be out of the league for good.

In any case, there are 8 more days til the start of the season. And I'm not sure it's going to be a great start...