So let's try and put the Steelers game in perspective, shall we? Yes, they are the reigning Super Bowl champs. Yes, we were expected to lose and we did. But that is not the end of the story. This was supposed to be a complete drubbing, but it wasn't. We actually gave this team a scare at the end. Of course, it was more like your 5 year old son walking up to you in broad daylight and going "Boo!", but it was a scare nonetheless. If you really want to be frank, we played the Steelers much better than the Chargers did, with or without their 4th quarter run. We did this while missing many of our best players. Our number one quarterback, wide receiver, right tackle and defensive end - all of which are pretty darn good - sat helplessly watching from the sidelines Sunday. And we still kept the game close. For the fifth week in a row, I see positive signs from this team.
Sure, there is still a lot to be upset about. After all, take away some of the stupid mistakes and we could have stolen one from the champs. That win would've put the new-look Lions back on the map. Now, those around the league that don't watch the games will simply chalk it up to another loss by the lovable loser Lions. But we know better. This is a far cry from the nonsense we all saw on the field last season. These are most definitely not the same Lions from last year. These Lions have some fight. These Lions have some self-confidence. And yes, these Lions still have a long way to go, but not as far as they once did.
I think we are going to play a lot of the "would've, could've, should've" game this season. That's just the kind of year it's gonna be. They are a better team, just not quite good enough for the tougher teams. But the determination and overall better product should keep the fans interested even when the win-loss record is heavily weighted to the right. I think we all have to admit that they've been pretty fun to watch this year. Frustrating, but fun. Isn't that all that we were really asking for? To have a competitive team that keeps things close so we don't have to turn our televisions off at halftime? If you wanted more than that, I think you were asking too much of one off-season. To take an 0-16 team and really go toe-to-toe with four teams that have a combined record of 15-3... that's pretty darn good. Yeah, I know... they are not wins. And these were winnable games. But that in and of itself should speak volumes to us all. This is a substantially better football team even if the record itself doesn't directly reflect that. And in turn we as fans, in the span of five short weeks, have raised our expectations of this team to that of competing with Super Bowl caliber teams.... and they have delivered. Win... no. Compete... absolutely.
Thoughts About the Game:
- Okay, I'll start with Daunte, because it is the biggest storyline of the game and there seems to be a real difference of opinion on this site as to how well he played. For my take, you have to understand how I went into the game viewing Culpepper's first start of the season. I knew that this would be a tough game for any quarterback, especially one who hasn't played a full regular season game yet - so I gave him that. But I also wasn't giving him the same leash-length that I gave Stafford in his first start because the guy is an 11 year veteran. So with that as the backdrop, I thought he played okay. He still hasn't gotten rid of his career long case of fumblitis and the one interception was one of the worst decisions that I've seen a quarterback make in a long time. It wasn't based on a bad read, it was just plain stupidity. And I didn't see him get hit on the throw enough to alter where the pass was headed. Okay, so the mistakes aside, I thought he did move the chains well at times. He took a few chances downfield - and without a lot of success - but mostly stayed with the underneath stuff that the defense was gladly giving him. This adds to his already infamous perception as a dink-and-dunker, which doesn't help his bid for a starting gig in 2010. He did show good mobility and a command in the huddle. I think the bigger problem wasn't necessarily Culpepper, but the constant pressure in his face. I think what I've learned about Daunte is that he has a very small window of time where he actually looks at his downfield receivers. As soon as he feels any amount of pressure, he immediately brings his eyes either to his checkdowns or the ground. This is where he either dumps it off or takes off running. He simply doesn't feel comfortable in a cluttered pocket. Daunte thrives in the deep game only when he has substantial time in the pocket or in working play-action scenarios (i.e. the running game is effective so the defense bites on the play-action). The Steelers played it perfectly. They kept him contained in the pocket for the most part and also had constant pressure in his face. Oh... and just for the record... I think Stafford would have struggled yesterday, too.
- The defense was a bit of a hodge-podge bunch yesterday. Overall, I thought they played well enough to win against what can be a pretty dynamic offense. For the most part, Roethlisberger wasn't allowed to buy a ton of time and we even got to him a few times. But there were also sequences where the past rush was noticeably absent, therefore Ben picked us apart. Those drives typically resulted in scores. There were some definite game-killers though. Some were the fault of the Lions, some were not. The phantom roughing the passer call on Academy Award nominated actor, Ben Roethlisberger, was simply horrible and resulted in a score. Then there was the huge secondary gaffe that allowed Mike Wallace to somehow come open down the middle of the field for a touchdown on a ball that seemed to float in the air forever. Maybe that was our penance for him dropping the sure TD catch earlier. Either way, I thought it was a decent outing defensively considering the injury situation and the opponent.
- I wish that this coming weekend was our bye week. With all of the injuries on this team, we sure could use an extra week to heal and regroup. I know that it will be nice to have a week off and then play the winless Rams at home, but if we don't get some key players back, the Green Bay game will be brutal.
- Very nice to see Derrick Williams have a solid game yesterday. One game doesn't make a season, but I was beginning to think that this might be the one glaring faux pas with the Lions' '09 draft class. As it looks right now... and I know that five weeks is far too short a time to make any bold predictions... this might be one of the best draft classes of all time for Detroit. With the exception of Lydon Murtha, who, by the way, sounds like he's getting better and better in practice, all of the '09 draft picks are contributing in games. What a phenomenal departure from the collective Millen drafts. This is how you build a talent base. This is how you create depth. This is the beginning stages of championship football.
- I know this isn't related to the Lions game and I posted a comment on it yesterday, but thought I would mention this again because I think it's mind-blowing. Derek Anderson completed just 2 of 17 passes for 23 yards in the Browns win over the Bills yesterday. 2 of 17!!! That's a completion percentage of 11%! How exactly does he get to the 17th pass? Given his situation, meaning he is not viewed as "the answer" in Cleveland, how do you not bench the guy? I understand the Browns actually won the game, but how can you let the guy continue to humiliate himself? The Browns should hire Jim Colletto simply so that he can tell them that they really DO have a quarterback that can embarrass himself! And people wanted to trade for this guy last year? It's the classic Scott Mitchell effect. You never try to sign or trade for a guy after one good season. You need a body of work over several seasons to digest whether or not the player is worth a long term deal or trade. Case in point, Matt Cassel. I bet Pioli is sweating bullets in Kansas City. And to think, if we would have hired Pioli, we no doubt would have chased Cassel and had him instead of Delmas. We would not have Stafford, but probably have Aaron Curry. I like Curry, but Cassel and no Delmas? Oy! This also really speaks volumes about Brady Quinn and Mangini's obvious hatred of the kid. Mangini... pfft. The most overrated coach in football. Maybe if he took the wad of Big League Chew out of his mouth, the players and coaches could understand the plays he is calling and maybe his quarterback could complete a pass. Okay, my rant is finished... thanks for listening.
Sorry for the shorter post today guys, but it was a bit of a time crunch just to type up this much. Here's to quick healing and a hopefully historic trip to Lambeau Field next week.