Good Evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to another edition of the Weekend Spotlight. I am your host, KDawg. The eleventh installment of my weekly series has the Detroit Lions colliding with the New England Patriots, at home in Detroit, MI, at Ford Field. Coming off of yet another setback in week 11 against the Cowboys, the Lions will play the traditional Thanksgiving Day game against a team that is considered unbeatable by them. Not only do the Lions have to face the Patriots tomorrow, but also they must do so on a short week of practice and against all odds. Yet, as usual I still have great expectations for the Lions in this game. Practically no one is even giving the Lions a chance in this game, and I for one believe that COULD be a big mistake. Let's take a look at the injury reports for both teams:
|Detroit Lions Week 12 Injury Report|
|K||Jason Hanson||Right Knee||DNP||DNP||DNP||Out|
|DE||Lawrence Jackson||Concussion||Not Listed||DNP||DNP||Out|
|QB||Matthew Stafford||Right Shoulder||DNP||DNP||DNP||Out|
|DE||Kyle Vanden Bosch||Knee||Not Listed||DNP||FP||Probable|
As Sean was quick to point out, it appears as though we will have the services of Cliff Avril, Corey Williams, and Isaiah Ekejiuba in this game, even though they are all listed as questionable. Corey Williams is the most surprising of that bunch in my opinion, and I would not be at all surprised to see Avril and Williams play limited roles in this game, giving way to Sammie Lee Hill and Turk McBride. I am concerned to see Shaun Hill on the list this week, and I hope that the quad injury is minor enough that it will not effect him, but otherwise I feel far less concerned about the Lion's injury report this week than I did last week, for some reason (maybe just because neither of our corners are listed there this week).
|New England Patriots Week 12 Injury Report|
|QB||Tom Brady||Right Shoulder/Foot||LP||DNP||DNP||Questionable|
Perhaps the thing that stands out the most about the Patriots injury report is that QB Tom Brady is listed on it this week. He has nagging foot AND shoulder injuries (his throwing shoulder), and he did not practice Tuesday or Wednesday, due to soreness. Questionable is supposed to mean that the player has a 50-50 chance to play, but this IS Bill Bellichek we are talking about here, and it is likely that Brady will play. However, it could bode well for the Lions that Brady is a bit banged up, and we need all the help we can get this week. If I were making predictions, I would bet that everyone on their list will play, except maybe Jonathon Wilhite and Mike Wright.
The Lions are now 2-8 on the season, and I am finding it more and more difficult to point out the fact that their record does not reflect the talent and ability that the team has, or their potential to win games against good opponents. The POTENTIAL IS THERE. The Lions just have to figure out how to turn potential into tangible WINS. With 10 weeks of the regular season already behind us, once again I will reveal who I believe will be the key players, on the Lion's offense and defense, for a Lion VICTORY! As usual, I will provide you with the logic behind the reasoning for my picks, including stats.
Statistically, the Patriots are not the best team we have faced this season, and in fact they are the very WORST team we have faced this season against the pass. The Patriots are 30th overall in total defense, which ranks them as the 2nd worst team we have faced overall in that category (only Washington was worse). They are ranked 17th in the league against the run, placing them pretty much equal with the Packers in that aspect, but 10 teams BEHIND the Vikings in terms of stopping the run. They are ranked 31st in the league against the pass, 2 spots behind the Redskins, which means there is no reason why we should not successfully pass the ball all day long.
On offense, the Patriots rank 17th in the league in total offense (2 spots ahead of the Lions), ranking 16th in BOTH passing and rushing offense. Clearly, the Patriots have a very well balanced attack on offense, which is their greatest strength. They are better than Detroit at running the ball, but they are nowhere near us in the passing game, which means that they are winning games based on clock management, field position, and special teams play. Considering the teams we have already faced, not to mention the ones that we already beat, I think that the Lions should be able to win against the Patriots, and I most certainly laugh at the people who have already written the Lions off for a blowout loss this week. VICTORY can be ours, and I'll tell you why and how as the WS W12E begins after the jump...
Let's be real here guys. The Lions are not losing games because of the fact that they can not stop the pass. They are losing games because they can not stop the run and they are killing themselves with senseless penalties. If I could wish for ONE thing for this game, it would be that we did not commit a SINGLE penalty. I truly believe that should that happen, we would win this game. However, I know as well as you all do that it won't go down that way. The Lion's are tied for the most penalized team in the league, and I lost count, a long time ago, of how many drives it has killed and how many easy touchdowns it has allowed. I am ultimately confused as to why we can not stop the run (sarcasm alert). Maybe it is because our middle linebacker, while a solid player, is not truly a run stopping kind of guy, and maybe because our ONE highly touted safety takes some of the worst angles I have ever seen? Couple those glaring issues with the fact that we have a rookie at the other safety, and a backup at WLB, and PRESTO you have a swiss cheese run defense.
The Lions have done an admirable job against the pass this season, due to the fact that our defensive line has been amazingly good. But, while our average to above average corners have looked very good with the increased pressure provided by our defensive line, I doubt that even Revis and Cromartie could do much better (than 13th in the league against the pass) with no help against the run. With every team being able to run all over us, it does almost the same thing that having a terrible defensive line did to our corners in the past. It forces the corners to sit harder, read run longer, and makes them beatable over the top. A successful run game against our defense also forces the safeties to cheat up, with the end result being long touchdown passes when our corners do get beat, since they have no help over the top.
I have basically outlined what I feel are the three keys to this game for the Lions, in order for them to WIN and shut all of the doubters mouths. 1) PASS the ball, PASS the ball, PASS the ball! 2) Stop shooting yourselves in the feet with the dumb ass penalties! At least do your best to limit the mistakes! 3) Stop the RUN! If the Lions were to come out firing passes, and stick to a majority passing attack, if they were to limit the penalties, and if they were to stop the run...they WOULD WIN! It would be a NO CONTEST! With those keys in mind, let's talk about KEY PLAYERS.
Offensively, it is no secret that I want Detroit to pass the ball to expose the weakness of the Patriot defense this week. The Lions have the 6th ranked passing offense in the NFL, and they face the 31st ranked pass defense. This should be a no brainer. However, we are the Lions...so I imagine that the Patriots will get more pressure on Shaun Hill than they have any other QB this season. As such, and due to the fact that Hill clearly does not have the cannon that Matt Stafford possesses, I believe he will check down to Pettigrew an awful lot in this game. Last week I named Calvin Johnson as my key player, and this week I am going with Brandon Pettigrew. I believe Pettigrew has the size and athletic ability to pose a serious problem for the Patriots defense over the middle, and I believe that Shaun Hill will see it and use it. Look for Pettigrew to have 100+ yards receiving this week. If things went my way, Calvin Johnson would also have 100+ yards receiving and Burleson, Best, Morris, Brown, and Heller would split up another 150-200 yards worth.
I want to see Shaun Hill break 400 passing yards in this game, and I think he can do it. If Brandon Pettigrew can be his safety valve during the times that Hill has to get rid of the ball while under duress, and if he can capitalize on those opportunities by catching the ball and making the best of his targets, then I can see CJ breaking 100 yards receiving too, on top of about 4 TD passes by Hill. Of course, it may very well go the other way. I would not be opposed to seeing Hill throw the ball to Calvin Johnson 20+ times in this game, and then STILL hitting Pettigrew for 9-10 catches and 100+ yards and a TD or two. I believe it CAN happen, and if Linehan will call the plays I believe it WILL happen. Wouldn't it be nice to see the Lion's pass so much that a mediocre running back like Maurice Morris could bust off 100 yards rushing? It could happen, with a majority of those yards coming in GARBAGE TIME, IF Linehan pulls the cork out of his butt and opens up the passing attack. For God's sake...PLEASE pass the ball on 3rd and short!!
That said, I still think that Calvin Johnson is our go to guy and that he should be treated as such. New England's corners are beatable, and they do not match up well on the outside against Megatron. Rookie CB Devin McCourty is 5'10" 193 lbs, 2nd year CB Darius Butler is 5'10" 190 lbs, and 2nd year man Kyle Arrington is 5'10" 196 lbs. All of them are GREEN and one of them has to cover the 6'5" 236 lb Calvin Johnson!! Devin McCourty is CLEARLY the best the Patriots have to offer, as he has 10 pass deflections, 3 INTs, 47 solo tackles, and 7 assists on the season. Tell me that you do not feel confident knowing that he will be matched up against one of the best WRs in the game today, and I'll call you stupid or a liar. Yep...we need to expose the rook, along with the entire Patriot defensive backfield, and we need to do it all day long. The only reason I named Pettigrew as the key player on offense, and not CJ yet again, is because of Patrick Chung and Pro bowl safety Brandon Meriweather. Because of the presence of Meriweather, I believe that we will be better off setting up the passes over the top, by passing the ball to Pettigrew on mid range routes over the middle (in front of the safeties and behind the linebackers).
Defensively, it is no secret that I want Detroit to do whatever it takes to stop the run. I do not care if it means run blitzing all day long, we need to play with a bend but don't break attitude on defense against New England. I know it is a cliche that we are not fond of around here, but in this case I believe it will work. Stacking the box and/or run blitzing regularly will allow Tom Brady (if he plays) to hit Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Benjarvis Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Alge Crumpler, and maybe even Brandon Tate on the short to mid range routes, but hopefully it will also create enough pressure on Brady that they can not beat us deep. If we can somehow stop the run, it will give our defensive line and linebackers a chance to allow the corners and safeties to make plays. It is unlikely that we can stop the Patriots on offense, but if we can slow them down...maybe get them off the field quickly a few times...and hang with them on offense, then we have a chance to win the game.
We can not allow Danny Woodhead and Benjarvis Green-Ellis to beat us...plain and simple. We have to force Tom Brady to beat us. In light of these ideas, I believe that Louis Delmas will prove to be the key player on defense this week. Delmas HAS to take the proper angles in run support, and he has to be quick to read pass or run. He can not get caught out of position on a passing play, just because he is trying to hard to stop the run, or else we will get beat deep. He can not over pursue on running plays, and he has to hit AND wrap. All of our defenders could use a lesson or two in fundamental tackling techniques by the looks of it, but Delmas is a guy that can make or break us in this game, in my opinion. IF Delmas is on his game, and if he can make good reads, take the proper angles against the run, do a good job helping the corners over the top, and if he can do his best to not allow anyone to break a tackle against him (not just him, but everyone), then we will be doing much better off than if he does not.
Of course, our defensive line, corners, and linebackers are also going to have to play a solid game in order for Delmas' efforts to make a difference. But I think they will do better than a lot of people expect, and Louis Delmas is going to SHINE. I do not see the Lions stopping New England from scoring in their passing game, but I have hope that our defense can give our offense a chance to generate a lead and keep it. Stopping the run is the first step, and the play of Louis Delmas is going to be the key to that happening, in my humble opinion.
In conclusion, I believe that the Lions CAN win this week. The Lions WILL win IF they can stop the run, pass the ball regularly and effectively, and avoid the costly mistakes that kill drives and give up easy scores to the opposing team. All they have to do is make it difficult! They do not have to completely shut down the Patriots to win...just make it hard for them to keep doing it over and over. They do not have to hold the Patriots to 0 rushing yards or even 0 TDs...just hold them to 100 yards or less and DO NOT let them break off any BIG runs for TDs. The Patriots might get a rushing TD or two, but hopefully it will be in short yardage situations where the pass has gotten them in that position. If they can avoid letting the run BEAT them, and simply contain the Patriots on the ground, then we may have a chance to make some plays against the pass and get their offense off the field. And lastly, the Lions do not have to be 100% penalty free to win this game...they just have to avoid the really stupid penalties that kill drives on offense or give up easy scores on defense.
Since this is a short week, I decided not to beat a dead horse by doing a follow-up on the loss to Dallas. I want to thank all of you who read this post, and who voted for my series as best weekly article. I truly appreciate it! As always, I hope the refs do not beat us, and I hope that the Lions play a well disciplined game. This has been KDawg, and you have been reading the eleventh regular season edition of The Weekend Spotlight! Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and your families, enjoy the people you love and the food that you eat, and GOOOOOOOOOO LIOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNSS!!!!!
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