Well, well, well...it sure feels good to know that our very own Detroit Lions WON another game!! WOOOO HOOOO!!! It is even more satisfying, in my opinion, that we stuffed the proverbial apple in the mouths of the HOGS of the NFC East and stuck them up over a spit to roast for dinner!! Oh MAN! Can you FEEL IT!! BURN BABY BURN!! The Lions are now 2-5, and they have matched their win total from last season...and we are only half way through the season! There is a lot of football left to play, and I for one still BELIEVE that the Lions can beat any team they have left on their schedule. One thing that I took away from the game this week was the fact that I felt like the Lions players are truly starting to believe that they are a good football team. That is so HUGE that there are no words that can possibly describe how important it is to the rest of this season! I tell you what guys...if the Lions beat the Jets next weekend, they are going to turn some heads. And the beauty of it is that I WILL BE THERE TO WITNESS IT!!! YEAHHHHH!!! I am so excited about the game yesterday that nothing has been able to bring me down from the natural high that I am on. There are so many good things to talk about from the game, but I am here to recap my weekly post and talk about the things that I predicted before the game. So, without further adieu, I present you with the follow-up to my WS W8E edition, which begins after the jump...In the first paragraph of my regular post earlier this week, in regard to Washington's defense I said "we should see a lot of zone blitzing, up-field pressure from the OLBs, shifting by the linebackers, and a lot of different and confusing packages from Washington. Unfortunately for Washington it is the effectiveness of those actions that are in serious question, not to mention their performances already this season". I believe that most of this was a given, but it was absolutely true. We did see Washington TRY a ton of zone blitzes, TRY to get upfield pressure with Orakpo and Alexander, and try to confuse us with a lot of different looks and schemes. However, nearly NONE of it was effective, as Orakpo was pretty much shut down by Jeff Backus (who played out of his GD mind to keep Stafford's blind side safe), Alexander did next to nothing, and the blitzing of the Redskins only resulted in some errant throws (1 INT) and 1 sack. I also witnessed Washington's linebackers move around a lot yesterday, sometimes lining up on the line of scimmage, other times lining up in more traditional 3-4 locations, and yet other times showing blitz and backing out into coverage or trying to fire one or two linebackers. Their linebackers were all over the place, but the difference between their defense and the Steelers D (which they try to emulate) is that the Steelers are effective at what they do, and Washington is not. Rocky McIntosh, Laron Landry, and Kareem Moore (the 2 safeties and the RILB) proved to be the best players on Washington's defense yesterday, combining for 21 solo tackles (7 each) and 4 assists. DeAngelo Hall, minus the interception, looked LOST out there against Calvin Johnson, and the vaunted London Fletcher came up with just 3 solo and 1 assisted tackle. The rest of their defensive players had 2 tackles or less each.
Before I go any further, I also want to mention that I said the Redskins are likely the second worst team we have faced this season (2nd only to the Rams). I would like to recant that statement at this time, and say that the Redskins were the WORST defensive team we have faced this season. I know the score of the game was much closer vs Washington than it was against St. Louis, but statistically speaking the Rams have a far superior defense to the Redskins. However, the Redskins do have a better offense than St. Louis by the numbers, which might explain why they were able to keep it much closer than the Rams did against us. That said, maybe it would be best to say that the Rams and Redskins equally suck and that they are the 2 worst teams we have faced this season, period.
In the next paragraph of my regular weekly post, I said "I think it is pretty clear that the Lions should have no problems throwing the ball this week, as long as Matt Stafford is on his game". Well, it looks like I was right again...:o) Matthew Stafford was not at his very best out there yesterday, but he was in fact on his game enough to torch the crap out of the terrible Redskins passing defense, to the tune of 26/45 (57.8%) for 212 yards, 4 TDs, and 1 INT. The only problem we had passing the ball yesterday was that Stafford was rusty (so he threw some passes that were off target) and Bryant Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew both had drops (several in Johnson's case). Otherwise, it was just as I said it would be...we passed the ball at will. I named Matt Stafford as the key player on the Lions offense, to a Lion victory, and I believe that was a good call as well. There are no doubts that Calvin Johnson was crucial in the win as well, catching 9 passes for 101 yards and 3 TDs, but Matt Stafford made throws to CJ yesterday that no other QB on our team could dream of making...and without Stafford, it would not have been as great of a day as it was for Megatron.
Next, I said "If Stafford can put the Redskins on their heels with the passing game, spreading the ball over the middle to the TEs as well as outside to the WRs, then I think Best may have a legitimate shot at 100 yards rushing in this game vs the 3 man front of Washington". Well, I think Stafford did do a good job of keeping the Redskin linebackers honest, but he did not really spread the ball to all of his receivers that much, and he especially seemed to ignore his TEs. In fact, a majority of Stafford's attempts yesterday were targeting Calvin Johnson (which I have absolutely NO problem with), followed by Nate Burelson, then Jahvid Best, and then Kevin Smith. Brandon Pettigrew had just 2 catches, and one of them was a short pass for a TD inside of the 5 yard line. Tony Scheffler was not targeted at all, and did not catch a pass. I chalk it up to the play calling and the blocking schemes however, as the Lions were in max protect quite a bit yesterday, and they were calling plays that were conservative for Stafford's shoulder. Those things said, I do believe that the lack of explosion by our running backs (our longest run was 20 yards by Best...Smith had a nice 13 yarder as well) can be credited to the fact that at least 2 of the linebackers for Washington were always able to key on the run. Had we seen more attempts to pass to BOTH TEs, as well as to a slot receiver, then maybe we could have run some diversional routes that would have helped our running backs get past the linebackers and into the defensive backfield more often. The O-line looked to do a decent job of opening some holes for Best and Smith, and Stafford was not the problem, so the blame there must lie on the coaching staff in my opinion.
My next paragraph had a couple of notable quotes. First I said "some facts in favor of Washington include the facts that Donovan McNabb traditionally lights the Lions up (he has a higher passer rating against the Lions than any other opponent, with a 137.9 career passer rating against Detroit), and the fact that LILB London Fletcher leads the Redskins in tackles with 68. With London Fletcher leading the Redskins in tackles with 68, I think it says a lot about who our guys should try to avoid running at the most, and I also think it says that he is a pretty decent LBer in coverage over the middle". The first part of that statement of statistical fact was simply leading to what I stated the Lions needed to focus on defensively, in the following paragraph. McNabb was held to a passer rating of 75.7 against Detroit, which is outstanding on our part, The second part of the above statement was a quick statement of fact as well, meant to show that the Lions would do well to stay away from London Fletcher. They did, and while Fletcher DID manage to keep Pettigrew in check (2 catches), he also only came up with 3 tackles and 1 assist...meaning the Lions effectively took him out of the game yesterday. Later, in the same paragraph, I said "Once again, I want to see Stafford to Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson a ton in this game, and when that is not the case I want to see screens to Best in the flats or dumps to Best in space along with dumps to the TEs behind the linebackers. I hope Matt Stafford is on his game, that he makes good reads and sound decisions, and that he hits his receivers all day long, because if he does then the Lions will win this game by double digits". Stafford tossed 16 combined completions to CJ and Burleson, and 7 combined completions on screens or dumps to Best and Smith, not to mention that fact that he targeted those 4 players more than anyone else. 23 of his 26 completions were to CJ, Burleson, Best, and Smith, just as I had hoped, and even though he did not throw a ton of passes to Pettigrew and Scheffler over the middle (which maybe he should have instead of targeting stone hands Bryant Johnson as much as he did), he did make solid reads and he did hit his receivers all day long...to the tune of a double digit VICTORY!
Next, I said "Defensively, the Lions really need to focus on 2 things. 1) They need to get in McNabb's face and stop him from being able to sit back and pick our defense apart, and 2) They need to stop Torain from looking like Walter Payton circa 1985". The Lions were ON McNabb all day long, as I do not remember very many passing plays at all where McNabb did not get hit, hurried, or sacked in yesterday's game. He had NO time to set up, and it showed with his stats of 17/30 (56.7%) for 210 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT (which should have been 2 and a pick 6...both by the Phonz). Most of McNabb's passing yards came in 3 big plays to Anthony Armstrong (3 catches for 92 yards). Take away those desperation throws with a decent nickle back (Anthony Armstrong lined up in the slot against none other than Jonathon Wade), and McNabb goes 14/30 (<50%) for 118 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT...not exactly the trendy historical performance the Skins expected from their QB against Detroit in either case...lol. On top of that, the Lions absolutely shut down Ryan Torain, who had a whopping 10 yards rushing on 9 attempts. I finished out the paragraph with this "In my opinion, Ryan Torain fits into the Brandon Jackson sort of mold however. Even though he put up 6 yards per carry and 125 yards on 21 carries against the Bears last week, I think he will have a much more difficult time running against our front 7, especially if Levy plays and plays well. Should the Lions contain Torain, then the game will ride on whether or not our defense can keep Donovan McNabb from doing better than Matt Stafford, and I most definitely like our chances of doing just that, in a very big way". How is +3 TDs in favor of Stafford for BIG?
After that I said, "I name DeAndre Levy as the key player on our defense this week (again). If Levy plays, and plays well, I believe the Lions will stop Ryan Torain cold, forcing the Redskins into a one dimensional passing attack where Donovan McNabb will be forced to beat us with his arm. If Levy does not play, or plays and performs poorly, then I think we will have a much more difficult time stopping Ryan Torain, and then the game could turn into an offensive shootout where the game rides on the shoulders of our young QB and the offense". Levy did play and he did play VERY well. He only recorded 4 tackles, but those numbers do not reflect the difference that he made for our linebacking corps. "It's more that I think Levy is just one of those guys that makes your defense better just by being on the field (regardless if he is at MLB or OLB). He makes people respect his presence and adjust to it, and that is huge. If you can make NFL teams change their gameplans because of your presence, then you are doing something right". And THAT is exactly what DeAndre Levy brought to the table with him yesterday. His presence was key to our ability to stop Ryan Torain and the Washington run game, and Suh's presence was the key to our ability to get to McNabb. I would say that they were equally key in the victory, but without Levy in the middle it may have been a different story for Ryan Torain and the Redskin offense as a whole. Since they could not get anything going on the ground, we were able to pin our ears back and go after McNabb all day long. Since the Redskins were one dimensional, we were able to beat them with overwhelming pressure on McNabb (and Grossman...I loved that shit) by our defensive line. One could argue that Ndamukong Suh was the key to our victory, or that KVB was, defensively, but I still say Levy WAS the key to victory defensively as his presence seemed to make all of the difference in the world to our run defense.
And that is all I have to say guys...the Lions damn near did exactly everything I asked for this week, and they WON by double digits. My score prediction on another thread was Lions 34 - Redskins 17. While I was not wholly accurate on that prediction, i was only 3 points short on Detroit's side, and take away the kick return TD by Washington and I would only have been 1 point off on their side. Instead I was off by 3 and 8 respectively, for a difference of +5 on the spread (I said Lions by 17, and they won by 12 instead). Overall, I think it was a great week for Detroit Lions football, and a great week for my personal insights and predictions. I am very happy that the Lions came away with the BIG W against Washington, for the second year in a row, and I am ULTRA PUMPED up to see the Lions in person next week against the Jets!! Until next week Lion's fans, this has been KDawg with the SNS W8E followup. GOOOOOO LIOOOOOOOOONS!