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The Monday Morning Microscope: Week 1 - The Fleecing

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 Disclaimer: Because I may not be available tomorrow until later in the day, I'm posting my inaugural Monday Morning Microscope tonight.  I'm taking the band-aid approach.  Just get it done quickly and maybe it won't hurt as much.

As I sit here staring at a blank page, I feel as if I scarcely have the heart to start writing.  Today's game has rocked me to my core as a Lions fan.  When Stafford went down, I honestly got nauseous.  No lie.  I think that's a sign that I have a real problem, but that's another discussion best left for a future psychotherapy session.  I watched all the hope and optimism that I've carried since the end of the 2009 season come crashing down as hard as Julius Peppers on Stafford's shoulder.  All the cheering and excitement came to an abrupt halt and the vision of Shaun Hill warming up after halftime chilled me to the bone.  Little did I know, that disturbing mental snapshot was not going to be the worst sight of the day.  Still clinging to the hope that Stafford would emerge after a quick, precautionary MRI to lead this team to a victory, my heart sank deep into my chest as he emerged from the tunnel... no pads and his arm in a sling under his shirt.  For nearly the entire third quarter, I sat motionless... staring at the television, completely comatose.

A few weeks back, I playfully commented in someone's fanpost about a nightmare scenario with Stafford going down for the year.  Now I was staring at that scenario in week one.  In my mind, there was no worse situation.  This was it.  The season is lost.  My optimism was completely drained from my body.  Right or wrong, that is the way I felt.  My mind started to reel at the thought of all of the lost progress losing Stafford would mean.  I came unraveled.  

As the defense started to step up in the fourth quarter, I did manage to come out of my fog a little.  The thought of winning the game started to creep back into my numb mind.  The back and forth emotions continued as the game came down to a few shots at the end zone.  As I watched Calvin go up into the air and come down with the football - in bounds - I jumped from my couch, screaming at the television in sheer exhilaration (which my kids found hilarious)... feeling like maybe all is not lost.  Wait.  What?  The ruling on the field was what?

 Snap back to reality...  oh, there goes gravity... (insert the clip from the movie "Fight Club" where Edward Norton's character realizes he is Tyler Durden here...)

A part of me simply wants to fall to my knees with arms reaching to the sky, screaming "Why?  Why? WHY!?!?"  What in the hell have we done to deserve such cruelty and suffering?  Why don't we deserve to catch a break every now and then?  Can the football gods not smile down on us once in a while?  I just want to play the victim here.  We didn't get beat because of talent today.  We got beat because of a key injury and horrible rule.  We are a better team than the Bears.  In fact, if Stafford had not gotten hurt and we go into the half up 17-10 or better yet, 21-10, we easily win.  The final score would likely have been 27-13 or something like that.  But that didn't happen.  Instead, the football gods decided to once again strike down our chances to be successful this year.  I just can't understand it.

Never has a loss felt so empty or a season felt so lost so early.  One play has changed the course of our entire season.  Like I said, if Stafford had not gotten hit, fumbled and gotten hurt, we'd have won the game today and I'd be feeling very different right now.  In fact, I'd be feeling pretty damn good.  But instead, I'm feeling something disturbing.  I feel like never wanting to watch another Lions game again.  I feel like this has finally happened one too many times.  How many lost seasons can I endure?  How many countless hours in the offseason can I spend devoted to this team only to have the season seemingly gone after one half of football?  I just feel sick.  I understand that we have fifteen more games and the season is not over, but I simply can't change the way I feel at this particular moment in time.

I'm not even going to get into the call at the end of the game.  It's an exercise in futility and it is the rule.  As many have already said, it is an idiotic rule and it will likely be brought into the spotlight like the infamous Tom Brady "tuck rule", but that gives me absolutely no solace right now.  None at all.  Even if we won this game, the reality still would have to set in that Matthew Stafford could be out long term and the way Hill played today, gives us little hope considering our schedule.  Yes, that is a pessimistic view, but my wounds are very deep right now.  I truly hope that things aren't as bad as they appear, but right now the uncertainty is disconcerting at best.

So, as much as I really don't want to delve back into this one, I'll give my...

 Thoughts on the Game:

  • As I always did last year, I'll start with the quarterbacks. And it really sucks that I have to use the plural form of the word. Before the injury, Stafford was hit and miss and the offense was very vanilla. I expected that, however. Offenses are usually a little slow to get in sync in week one and typically take some time to iron out the kinks. But the bottom line with the Stafford-led offense is that they got into the end zone twice. That's all you really need to know. Shortly before the injury (and the Forte sideline tightrope miscue), it was 14-3 and we were primed to go into the half up by two scores.
  • Once Hill entered the game, the entire offense fizzled. In fact, until the last drive, they had one first down the entire second half. One. Are you kidding me? I don't know if it was Linehan's bland playcalling or the lack of leadership under Hill, but something was certainly off. Watching that offense in the second half certainly gives me absolutely no faith that this offense will be explosive with Hill under center.
  • Where the hell were our wide receivers today? Calvin showed up in the fourth quarter, but where was he the rest of the game? One measly catch by wide receivers in the first half? That's not good enough. I don't know whether to blame the receivers or Linehan. The Lions sure came out ready to dink and dunk and check-down all game. Like I said, I can't tell whether that was the plan or if the receivers simply weren't getting open. Stafford had time in the first half, so it appears that the receivers simply weren't doing enough to get open. If Calvin is going to take the jump to elite, he's got to do more to make plays.
  • The other day, I commented on a fanpost that I was having nightmares about Julius Peppers going up against Jeff Backus. I can't remember who, but one of you chimed in and told me I had nothing to worry about. Care to restate that claim?
  • I do have to say the bright spot today was the defense. The injury and bad rule aside, the defense played one of the best games of football I've seen a Lions' team play in a long time. Take the two long Matt Forte touchdowns out of the game and it would have been absolutely dominant. They were put in awful field position all day long and still stood firm. They got pressure, hustled, got turnovers and just tackled... really well, for the most part. In fact, I don't remember more than one or two times complaining about missed tackles.
  • This defensive line will wreak havoc on weaker offensive lines... that much is sure. But I was actually impressed by the secondary. They made plays, tackled well and for the most part, kept the offense in front of them. I was very impressed - all things being relative to my fairly low expectations. Staying on the theme of defense, I just wanted to highlight a few players that I thought really played well today:
    • Kyle Vanden Bosch - Not since Chris Speilman have we had a Lions player with such a motor. The guy is non-stop and a real force. I am so glad we picked up this guy.
    • Ndamakong Suh - He was double-teamed all day long. I watched him a lot today and he was nothing short of superb. One of the strongest players, pound-for-pound, I've ever watched. This kid is going to be one of the best defensive tackles to ever play the game. Take that to the bank!
    • Sammie Lee Hill - Hill outperformed Corey Williams today... easily. Williams occupied space, but Hill was a real force. He was disruptive and dominant. A change in starters could happen soon.
    • Louis Delmas - Just confirmed all our suspicions that he is going to be special. He's so quick and his angles are just perfect.
    • Turk McBride - This kid really impressed me today. He was fast and powerful off the edge and played very well against the run.
    • Alphonso Smith - For a guy who has had one week to get ready, he played very well. He's a sure tackler and didn't make any huge mistakes. I think we got an absolute steal. If he could provide value in a game a week after his trade, imagine what he'll be worth to this team next year!
  • Actually, there were very few liabilities on defense today. I thought everyone out there played well today. There was a lot fewer containment issues and guys did a great job of staying with their assignments. This secondary is going to be susceptible to the big play, but today they did a good job of bending but not breaking. I would also be remiss if I did not mention that goal line stand. That was one of the most impressive displays of heart and physicality I've ever seen. Watching Gunther walk around and give the guys a quick pound on the pads gave me goosebumps. Once again, kudos for the defense being a bright spot on such a dark day.

As of right now, a part of me is still clinging to the delusion that maybe Stafford's injury isn't too bad.  As I write, the optimistic reports are that he is out 2-3 weeks.  If he can come back after the bye week, I guess that's better than what could have been.  But still... I am so pissed that this kind of thing always seems to happen.  After watching our defense today, I think we had a chance.  Without Stafford, I'm just not optimistic.  If we are 0-4 at the bye week, it's going to be tough to go into Giants Stadium on the road and win.  A 1-0 start today, then facing a potentially Kolb-less Eagles team next week would have given us some momentum and a chance to do something special this year.  I'll admit... a little piece of me was left on Soldier Field today. 

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