After every Lions victory, I will write the Hangover. Its purpose is to devour what remains of the game, chew through facts, highlights, and alternate between a cold shower on your joy or a nice glass of hair-of-the-dog mixed with the blue kool-aid. On a Lions loss, I'll have something different, but that will remain a mystery for at least a week. On the very first Hangover, we're late on a Tuesday, but that's okay.
Isa Abdul-Quddus has brain-balls of silver
I'm going to go ahead and assume this: Lions strong safety Isa Abdul-Quddus is probably a smart man. He graduated from Fordham, which I've seen ranked at about #66. That's not bad! You could do worse. It's a school in New York, and from what people in New York tell me they're all smart people. You can't argue with that!
Either way, Abdul-Quddus proved on Sunday he was smart by deciding to call a play on special teams with the Lions down seven at fourth-and-two on their own 38. Five minutes remained in the game and the punt unit came onto the field. Abdul-Quddus had called for a fake and he took it 30 yards down the field to continue a scoring drive for the Lions.
That's very smart. First off, going with our theme that things from New York are smart, the New York Times 4th Down Bot agreed with the logic to the call to run a play rather than punt (there is irony that the Bot, in its generated text, gives credit to the coach). The robot runs algorithms to analyze decisions on fourth down around the NFL and its logic is generally sound, for it is a robot and not a person and thus not accustomed to bias or playing the results. Second, this coaching staff proved Sunday it has lost whatever fire Jim Caldwell was running the previous season. Last year, Caldwell had the Lions going for it on fourth down more than any other team in the NFL, a position that should be taken regardless of the outcome of those plays. This year, Caldwell decided to kick a field goal down seven points with 2:45 remaining.
We won't know if Caldwell was in favor of punting on the series that ended in that field goal, the same where Abdul-Quddus called for a fake and busted out 30 yards, but it wouldn't surprise me. NFL coaches are paid to be cowards -- we deem anyone who has half a lick of probability knowledge about them to be a "riverboat gambler" -- and the saving grace for the Lions was that the coach on the other sideline was John Fox, a man somehow imbued with even less understanding of game theory.
With this all said, I'm going to raise a Solo cup to Isa Abdul-Quddus. You did the math. You executed the play and you imbued the Detroit Lions with smart decisions on an afternoon of many bad ones, even if Jim Caldwell punched that dude in the face right after you got him into the club on the down-low. We won't know for certain what would have happened if the Lions punted from their own 38 but I can feel those evil vibrations coming from another timeline right now.
No that wasn't a top defense stop saying that
Somewhere along the way, the trope got out that the Chicago Bears were boasting a top-five defense in the NFL, and one had to wonder if there was a drunken tall tale that got taken for gospel. I think some of the counting stats for total defense out there might have had a hand in it, but those are utterly simplistic and fairly misleading. Here's the full breakdown of their defensive metrics before Sunday from Football Outsiders in defensive efficiency metrics (if you don't know what the numbers represent or measure you can check out the explanations in the link):
|Rank||Team||Def. DVOA||Last Week||Def. DAVE||Rank||Pass Def.||Rank||Rush Def.||Rank|
|DVOA||Rank||Passes per game||Yards per game|
|vs. WR #1||25.4%||26||7.2||53.6|
|vs. WR #2||33.3%||24||5.4||55.3|
|vs. Other WRs||-1.0%||15||4.5||29.7|
If you don't like advanced metrics, just consider this: the Chicago Bears let up 546 yards, with 391 coming through the air from Matthew Stafford being guarded by a broken offensive line. That's not a top five defense in any sense.
You can take this sip either way: a bit of cold water on the Lions success over the Bears defense, or a perhaps a pick-me-up of continuing schadenfreude against a hated Bears rival that's down here being terrible alongside the Lions.
This is also why I don't buy into the narrative that the benching of Matthew Stafford shot fire into him like a kick of black coffee. This matchup came at just the right time to alleviate pressure off the Lions quarterback. Give Stafford the credit to make some bold plays from the pocket to close out the game, but I won't believe for a second that the reason he's turned around is because his starting position was challenged (it never was in the first place). There's far easier explanations in the numbers.
Abdullah might be okay
Fumbles terrify people. It's the cold wash of the mind realizing that you don't know where you left your car last night. That's the power to sober a soul. Along the way in enjoying the game of football we've let our analysis turn us scared and confused about anything that might swing the game on mistakes. This same mentality is why coaches will go out and punt from their own 38 or kick a field goal down seven with less than three minutes to go. It's also why Ameer Abdullah is, for fans, in the doghouse for all the times he's put the football on the ground. In the church of the NFL, a "turnover-prone" individual must be ex-communicated.
This happens with younger running backs at times. In his first year in the league, Barry Sanders fumbled the ball 10 times. In a similar vein, Adrian Peterson fumbled nine times in two of his first three seasons. Playing out the math with today's analysis of rookie running backs with those numbers in front of everyone would be horrifying.
Melvin Gordon is in a similar situation right now and he shares the same fumble statistics as Abdullah. The Chargers have leaned on the rookie for workhorse carries and he fumbled twice last Sunday against the Packers, one with less than six minutes to play. I cannot and will not accept that both of these running backs will be busts on less-than-half a season of data to go on, nor can I accept a narrative based on superstition about second-round draft picks made by the Detroit Lions.
These things take time. That's the one thing that's become lacking in today's NFL. Rookies no longer get any time. There is a need to run the player out, chew them up and spit them out on first taste. This is doubly so for running backs who are perceived to have a short shelf life and again so in an age where defenders are becoming specialized in tactics to knock the ball free. You want to see improvement for Ameer Abdullah, but the time of judgment is not here.
There's no need to be upset
The Lions are still 1-5. That's not good. No one is claiming that's good. But let the people celebrate if they want, damn.
This Lions organization is already looking at who they will take for the draft and plenty of Detroit sports fans have checked out for the Red Wings and Pistons. There's little chance for the division crown chasing a 6-0 Packers team and I'm not sure how great the outlook is on a NFC wild card. This team isn't even playing well enough to start talking about a winning record. But that's also no reason to dump out this ice water, throw the King's Hawaiian rolls to the ground and sit and bemoan celebrating the win as folly and accept that your head will spin for hours.
I do not like where we have come in sports where everything has become a matter of reaching the playoffs or tanking for first in the draft and all middle-ground is verboten. I despise that your overall record dictates how one must feel about a mid-season victory. There has to be a point where a fan can enjoy a win for its own sake without getting thrown into this dystopian Sam Hinkie-inspired gulag; never mind for a moment that professional athletes also despise the idea of losing for the sake of some front office goblin's minimax scheme. If your team wins on Sunday you should be allowed to feel good for a while regardless of what this does or means in a macro sense.
Many individuals reach sports as children, when they cared little beyond their favorite players and favorite teams and the joy they felt on a victory on any given day. To explain "the Process" to a child is useless. To dump on their joy because the win is meaningless on a macro scale is cruel. If you're reading this you're probably an adult because only an adult has the attention span to get through 1500 words, but I simply ask that you take a moment and remember that some fans just won't be wired to only look Big Picture. Those fans don't care about draft position or playoffs. Many just want to feel good on their Sunday about a hard-fought victory. That's all. Let them have that.