So back to reality, eh? The Lions started by giving us one of their best offensive halves of football yesterday, but then followed it up with one of the worst second half collapses we've seen in some time. Frustratingly, the Jekyll and Hyde charade shows us that the only true consistency with the Lions is that they are predictably inconsistent. Something happens to this team mentally during the half and Schwartz better get a bead on it quick. It's his job to manage the overall productivity of this team and his smarts better come up with a way to light a fire after halftime.
That said, we again saw progress in various areas of this team. The offense looked... dare I say... stellar, in the first half. You just felt like they had the confidence to score on every possession. Because of this, teams can no longer take the Lions for granted and we should be competitive in every game this season. Isn't that what we were looking for this year? We all wanted this team to be competitive game in and game out and that's what we are getting. Stafford looked rock-solid for the second straight week. Although he is still missing a receiver now and then, I thought there was an overall accuracy improvement and he is showing with his big-time third down conversions, that he might just be a Mr. Clutch. He shows no signs of melting when the heat and pressure are turned up. Defensively, it was actually a very decent game despite the final score. The only real gaffes were the long running plays that broke containment to the outside. Those issues definitely need to be corrected and I believe that they will. Not to make excuses, but this defense was without a few players today and still held their own - including holding Jay Cutler in check (outside the Red Zone).
I won't dwell on the obvious for very long, but this game was lost by the special teams and the offensive line, hands down. Absolutely pitiful performances by both units. The calls for Stan Kwan's head are probably valid, although it's always tough to replace coaches mid-year and rarely does that change make a monumental difference. However, I believe it is a change that needs to be made for one reason... to make a statement to both the team and the fans. That statement would be, "we won't accept failure and everyone is accountable for the product on the field". This team cannot handle failure like it did under Marinelli. I'm not big on calling for people's jobs, because this is a real person's livelihood here. This is a person's family having to relocate. This is someone's income getting shut off and causing huge stresses within that family. That is serious and cannot be taken lightly. However, this is football and it is absolutely cutthroat. If he's not getting the job done, a replacement is in order. As for the offensive line... they just got beat up by a better unit. The Bears' defensive line had their way with us all day long and ol' Rod must have been smiling up a storm watching the game tape of yesterday's performance. That's still a good defense there in Chicago and it simply reiterates that while our offensive line has played much better this year, there are talent deficiencies that must be addressed in the coming years. But we already knew that... didn't we?
Thoughts About the Game:
- Where are Sims and Peterson? I don't want to start yet another personnel controversy, but these two have been far too quiet. I know Sims left the game injured again, but I honestly never heard his name called once the entire first half. I haven't watched the game a second time, but did he not play much during the first half? And where are all these sacks from Peterson? Is he even being called to rush the passer? Either it's a scheme thing or both of these guys have been severely underachieved this season. The only thing I've noticed from Peterson is that the coverage on his side of the field is pretty solid. But he is not making any game-changing plays. Isn't that what we brought him here for? All of a sudden, I don't feel so warm and fuzzy about this unit like I did in preseason. I'd love to know if anyone else is feeling the same on this.
- The flipside of that coin is Larry Foote. This guy has made a massive difference on the defense. From bringing leadership to the team to making himself available to the community, Foote has been everything we'd hoped for and then some. I really hope he signs a long-term deal with Detroit before the season ends. I don't want him to be a question mark going into the off-season. He easily has three or four solid years left in him and I hope they are all with Detroit.
- So I think the drill is to relish in the wins and quickly move past the losses, right? If that's the case... we play Pittsburgh next week. Ummm... did anyone else watch the game last night? Yeah... uh oh. Not that I think they are unbeatable by any stretch, but they certainly looked the part of defending Super Bowl champs again. I don't think Mendenhall will have the same kind of day against the Lions, but Roethlisberger is really who concerns me. He is the most dangerous quarterback in the league when it comes to buying time. If he can buy time from teams that get constant pressure on him, what happens to teams that can't get constant pressure? It's simply a really bad matchup for Detroit. And we'll just pretend for a few days that Harrison and Woodley won't be a complete nightmare for this team to block. Linehan better have a gameplan that calls for quick slants and a lot of short, three-step drops for Stafford.
- Speaking of Linehan... I think he regressed in his playcalling yesterday. He came out aggressive, but as soon as we got behind, I felt him begin to protect his quarterback too much. He scaled back, started to dink and dunk and just plain got conservative. What gives? Matthew Stafford does not need to be protected. I would rather him go down slinging it than to dial him back to keep him from throwing picks. Yeah, the defense was really getting to him, so I understand the need to run the football. But two things there... first, the running game was not working... the passing game was, so you stick with it. Second, you have to reverse the field position game. You have to try to move the ball in chunks, if for no other reason than to put the Bears back into their own territory when you punt. We couldn't get that done and it fell apart.
- Anybody else watch the Saints-Jets game yesterday? So all this hoopla about how much better Mark Sanchez is versus Matt Stafford can be put to bed, right? Sanchez looked downright terrible yesterday. His stats were 14-27 for 138 yds and 3 INTs with a lost fumble and no TDs. Much worse than what Stafford did against the Saints. Although the big difference here is that Stafford had that performance in his rookie debut, not his fourth game. How many of you think that Matt would have that same performance against the Saints if we played them next week? Me neither. Enough said.
- My final thoughts are about the overall team progress this year. Let's not get too down about this loss. We all now realize there are still some glaring talent deficiencies on this team. That was always going to be the case for this season. But we have been in every one of these games this year. That is something to be excited about. I actually had my chest puffed out a little bit going into halftime. I felt a little swagger like, "no one is going to simply push us around anymore". Although we badly blew that game in the second half, I still feel a little of that swagger this morning. I watched the highlights on NFL Network last night and they were off Stafford lighting it up in the first half. We are a real franchise again and if any team takes us lightly or tries to look past us, we WILL beat them. End of story.
Keep your chin up, Lions fans. The wins will come... and so will more losses. We can get discouraged when we no longer see any progress. As of now, that hasn't happened.