Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Gone in 60 Seconds...

OK, having calmed down from my reactionary phase following the game, I decided to take a look back and try to figure out what happened that drove home another loss for the Lions. Unfortunately, I don't think that I have any really great insight beyond what anyone else has said recently. This was actually a very simple game to analyze.

The Lions lost this game on 2 plays within a minute of each other in the 4th quarter. It really is that simple. The Lions led 17-3, and Minnesota scored a TD to make it 17-10. Eddie Drummond returned the ensuing kickoff all the way for a TD, but it was nullified by a block in the back by Donte Curry. Two plays later, the O-line forgot to block Pat Williams. Williams hit Jon Kitna from behind just after he made a playaction fake and while his hands were still low, causing him to fumble at the 10 yard line and it was returned for a TD by Ben Leber.

Two plays, 56 seconds apart, a game swings 13 points from being 24-10 to being 17-16.

I wish I had something more in depth to point to, but that really was the ballgame. Minnesota's O only scored 12 points all day, and the Lions O scored 17. Even with Roy Williams hurt and out. Even with Damien Woody hurt and out. Even with only 2 of our pre-season starters playing on the O-Line. Even with KJ getting hit almost simultaneously as he got the ball. Even with Az Hakim dropping 5 passes. It still didn't matter.

This game was in the bag.

And then those two plays completely changed the entire outcome of the game. The D looked decent enough – they only gave up 12 points. The O for all it's injuries scored 17 points. Sure, it wasn't pretty as the O really wasn't moving the ball much beyond the points scored off the turnovers. But at least they had turnovers to score off of this week. The D was giving up yards to Chester Taylor in the run game as well, but he really didn't hurt them too much. The team stats looked skewed due to the Lions inability to run, but it really wasn't an issue. They were still moving the ball enough to win.

Except for those two plays.

On the first, Curry made a slight shove on the guy's back. He should know better than to do that. I heard the announcers say his block definitely impacted the run, but in my looking at the replay, I doubt it. The defender wasn't in position to contain Drummond from getting to the outside as he did. But it was a stupid penalty, and it cost the Lions 90 yards of field position and a score.

The second play has been diagrammed by everyone to death. No one even blocked Pat Williams. It was a complete communication breakdown on where everyone had to go. Kitna never saw it coming and was hit from behind far too quickly for any QB to dream of on a playaction pass.

And that was the ballgame. Sure, you could make an argument that the Lions should have scored more points. Or that Kitna couldn't lead them down the field during the 4th quarter. Or that Az Hakim's butterfingers came back to haunt us again. But the truth of the matter is that the game went from being a win to a loss in those 56 seconds near the beginning of the 4th quarter. Had Curry not made that block, the score is 24-10, and the Lions aren't sitting at the 10 yard line for the next play to happen. The second D TD by the Vikes was inconsequential in the grand scheme of things other than it prevented the Lions from scoring a go-ahead TD or FG. But again, without those two earlier plays, the Lions wouldn't have been pressing on 4th and 10.

The Vikings proved all day long (and all season long for that matter) that their version of the Wet Toast O is just as inefficient at putting points on the board as the Lions was for the last 5 years. It should be painfully obvious to everyone now that the Wet Toast O is an O for a great mobile QB to excel in, but anyone else is dead meat in it. The Vikings weren't going to score 14+ points on O at that point in the game. They had only scored 10 in just over 3 quarters, plus the Lions D showed after that that they could hold them to a FG over 2 more series for the Kikes.

It really is simple. Eliminate those two glaring mistakes, and we're sitting here with a win on the books.

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