Monday, November 13, 2006

knee-jerk reactions

I'm back again after not writing last week. Last week, I decided not to write because I didn't want to sound too negative amidst all the good feelings after beating Atlanta. This week, I'm going to sound fairly upbeat compared to all the negative feelings about the 49ers game. The reason for this is that I'm not about to have another knee-jerk reaction to the outcome of a Lions game. Not when I see the same things happening again and again.

Here is the truth about what I've seen the last two weeks - the Lions played about the same against both the 49ers and the Falcons. Now I know everyone will think I'm crazy for saying this, but I do have my reasons for believing this. In quick bullet point form, here's why:
  • The Lions are still committing a lot of penalties
  • The O still has periods where they don't seem to be on the same page
  • The D still can't seem to stop anyone from running between the tackles or making 3rd down conversions
  • Both games were won by the team that won the turnover battle
That last point is the most critical one. Against Atlanta, the Lions benefited HUGE from the Falcons first half turnovers that led to KJ's TD's. Against the 49ers, the Lions turnovers kept them from getting any kind of momentum going on O until after halftime. Once again, in a game between two teams in the middle of the great 'parity bubble' of the NFL, turnovers will decide nearly every game. And that has held true the last two weeks.

I won't dig into dissecting the O or D this week - it's the same story every game, and it's well enough explained by my bullet points. What I will get into is a few other issues I have a beef with. First, the officiating seems to be at a worse level than I have seen in a long time. I am as confused as ever about what criteria officials use when reviewing instant replay. Both Lions challenges should have overturned calls on the field - Kitna fumbled only after hitting the ground, and Hicks fumbled going to the ground which should have spotted the ball behind the first down marker. Instead, both calls on the field were upheld. I'm curious if the officials are relying on some obscure section of the rulebook that states "A call should not be overturned if it makes a member of your crew look bad". Instead, the lack of overturns made the entire crew look bad. And what does Roy Williams have to do to get a pass interference call? I re-watched the game on TiVo, and it confirmed my suspicions at the game - Roy should have drawn about 5 PI calls, but he only got one whistle on the 49ers. And to hear the announcers, they agree with my assessment. However, the most egregious of the no-calls on Roy's defenders, they seemed blind to the obvious no-call - I'm talking about the no-call on the pass in the endzone. While the announcers were praising the CB for his anticipation, they overlooked a simple fact easily seen on replay - he missed the ball and made contact with Roy's arms before the ball got there. This was easy to see and call, yet even the announcers missed it.

Which leads me to a second beef - can the announcers do a LITTLE homework before they spout off incoherent nonsense? Heard yesterday were these gems. "The Lions have not scored on their opening possession all season" - The previous week against Atlanta, they scored a Field Goal on the opening drive.

And in this situation - Lions down 19-13, 4th and 13 from the 49er 19, they state "The Lions should kick the field goal here and rely on their D for a hold with their timeouts and the two minute warning" EXCUSE ME, but how does that differ from going for it, not making it, and THEN relying on the D for a hold? the only difference is you have a chance for a FG to tie if the D holds. If the D doesn't (and it didn't), it's a moot point. At least this way, they took a chance to win the game.

There were numerous other screw-ups I don't even care to listen to again. But it's typical of the minor-league announcing crews they send to Lions games. I mean if they are going to call the game, they could at least do a little homework before the game. Sheesh.

Finally, I'm going to repeat my concerns with Rod. I'm not going to jump all over his case, but these same points are what has me concerned about this squad.
  • They have not gotten any better in reducing the number of penalties per game from last year - if anything they are worse.
  • They still are not making any effort to develop the some of the talent that they inherited, instead trying to plug in free agents.
  • They are still turning the ball over at a far worse rate than in years past, only this year it's far more fumbles and fewer interceptions.
  • And finally, the final score is what matters and last year through 9 games, the Lions were 4-5, this year 2-7.
This isn't a death blow to Rod, just that I'm not seeing the improvement I would have expected to have seen by now. What was the main selling point is that Rod would create a new culture, demand accountability, and improve the basic skill level of the players. I still haven't seen that happen.

Again, with all of that, this team is perilously close to being both 8-1 and 1-8. Only the Atlanta and Chicago games have not been in question in the 4th quarter. That still puts the Lions in with the vast majority of teams in the NFL's parity of the middle grounds. The biggest difference between the Lions and a team like the Saints this year is the Lions haven't figured out how to close out games. Until that happens, they'll continue to have a below average record. And we fans will continue to lament the lack of wins.

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