Monday, November 28, 2011

Nothing like an ice cold Laimbeer

So as I write this, Judge Goodell hasn't yet given a verdict on the Stomp the Yard incident, but the consensus seems to be that we'll be Dom-less for at least the next 2 games. Which isn't exactly a Suhthing thought on the face of it, but then again it might not be so bad after all. For one thing, Dom has been nothing but a distraction all year long to this point. His stats (other than penalties) are way down from last year's all-pro numbers, partly due to his almost always being double-teamed, and partly due to a certain...I don't know what. He's been the third best D-lineman on the team to this point, being outplayed by Ol' Red Eyes and Heathcliff Huxtable Avril (Lawrence Jackson has more sacks than Suh as well), and the two week vacation may give him a chance to figure out how to...stop doin'...all that...STUFF. Furthermore, Dom's absence will challenge Fairley to step up and contribute, and provide an opportunity for Willie Young to continue doing his best Langston Moore impression week-in and week-out. This could be the kick in the pants that the DTLs need to finally put a complete game together, free of the Lennie Small-esque penalties that have plagued them all season, and really go out and stomp the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night. And if not, well then this season could head Suth rather quickly.

Compare and Contrast

Earlier this season, a lot of people (myself not necessarily included) dubbed this version of the DTL squad "the New Detroit Bad Boys". If I go ahead and humor this comparison to the "Final Countdown" Pistons teams of the late 80s, then Dom Suh is the Bill Laimbeer: team leader, poster child for dirty play, universally hated outside the city of Detroit. However, the more I thought about it, that analogy just doesn't really work for me. In fact, Dom is actually kind of the opposite of the man myself and Big Mitchy used to call "Bill Beerhead" while playing Tecmo Super NBA on Sega. By the way, Bill Laimbeer Combat Basketball is probably the worst video game that I've ever played.

Let's compare and contrast Bill and Dom.

Laimbeer- Slow footed and unathletic big man. Could barely jump, yet dominated the psyche of nearly everyone he matched up against.
Suh- 6-4, 300 lb athletic marvel, with a combination of strength and athleticism rarely seen at his position. Physical gifts could allow him to Dom-inate opposing offensive linemen for at least a decade.

Laimbeer- Undisputed dirtiest player in the NBA in his time. Wore #40 for Detroit.
Suh- Has quickly become the undisputed dirtiest player in the NFL. Wears #90 for Detroit, which kind of looks like an over-inflated 40.

Laimbeer- Picked fights with the likes of NBA legends Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, and Rog Parish.
Suh- Cheapshotted the likes of rookie Andy Dalton, washed-up Jake Delhomme, and Something Dietrich-Something of the Green Bay Packers.

Laimbeer- Seemed to get away with everything, timing his sneaky cheapshots when the refs weren't looking, then waiting for someone like Scottie Tip-in to retaliate and get caught.
Suh- Doesn't get away with anything. Has had his every move closely monitored by every ref in the league since his first preseason ravaging of Nearly-Headless Jake.

Laimbeer- The NBA eventually changed its rules shortly before his career ended. Finally, a few flagrant fouls were called due to the unsportsmanlike and un-thinking-feeling-humanlike physicality of Laimbeer and the Pistons.
Suh- The NFL abruptly changed its rules shortly before his career began to protect quarterbacks. In addition to Suh's penchant for beheadings, every time a fly sneezes on someone like Drew Brees these days, you can bet a roughing the passer flag will be thrown.

Laimbeer- Offered no apologies and seemed to relish his role as the Villain.
Suh- Still is in denial about being a dirty player, and is now pathetically begging Rog Goodell to like him.

Laimbeer- The Pistons always seemed to benefit from any on-court 'incidents' involving Laimbeer.
Suh- The on-field 'incidents' involving Suh have hurt the Lions each and every time.

Laimbeer- Helped the Pistons to two consecutive championships.
Suh- May have just cost his team two consecutive games and a playoff berth.

Laimbeer- As arrogant and boorish off the court as on it. According to legend, while waiting in line at a Harbor Springs sandwich shop, he once turned to some middle school girls and asked, "Don't you think people like me should be served before people like you?" As a Michael and Scottie fan growing up, Laimbeer was and remains the ogre that I love to hate.
Suh- Intelligent and soft-spoken when not in uniform,  I really want to like this guy. He's just making it extremely difficult for me right now.

Closing Thoughts

If Suh gets suspended by the Lions, does that mean that he has to sit out Omaha Steaks' next game too? Because that would really throw a damper into the playoff hopes of two football teams. Omaha Steaks is sitting at 5-4 right now, but they have a big road game next week against TheGeneral.com that could very well decide the final wild card spot in the Fake Commercial Football League (FCFL). After watching some highlights, I have to say that The General is the early favorite to win MVP honors in the FCFL this year. Wow.

See you Sunday everyone.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Day Special Edition

I contemplated skipping a pre-game post for this week and sticking to my Thursday/Sunday posting routine, but I'm just too excited to not write something about tomorrow's Thanksgiving showdown with our neighbors across Lake Michigan.

It's safe to say that I've maintained a healthy dislike of the Green Bay Packers ever since elementary school, when classmate LB McV boastfully wore his love of the Pack on his snot-covered sleeves. It annoyed me to no end when LB McV would "walk like the Packers" in the school lunch line, imitating the exaggerated steps of Reggie White's post-sack celebration. It's one thing to be a cocky bandwagon fan of the sports team that happens to be the best at that particular time (this is 1997, Green Bay ended up winning the Super Bowl). It's a whole 'nother beast when that person also knows nothing about football besides the fact that the Packers are good. LB McV wearing his green #4 jersey, once tried to negate a kickoff return by my team in recess football, waving his arms in the incompletion signal and citing the rule of "injury before touchdown." I think that moment alone cemented my hatred of Vince Lombardi, Brent Favre, and all things Lambeau Field. I'd love nothing more than for our boys to give the 72' Dolphins a reason to be getting all Miami Dolphins as they sit down to their plates of yams tomorrow afternoon.

So do the DTLs have any chance in H-E-double loss columns to pull off the upset and knock the 10-0 Packers from the ranks of the unbeatens? Despite the fact that they're facing a future Hall of Fame QB in the midst an astoundingly magnificent season, as they did with Tom Brady last year, Aaron Rog in '07, and Peyton Manning in '04 (is it any wonder that we've lost 7 straight on Thanksgiving?), I have to say yes.

Was anybody around last year? Have you forgotten the DTLs' win over the Pack in early December, which nearly derailed Green Bay's playoff run before it even started? I know, I know, "Aaron Rodgers didn't play in the second half! That's the only reason Detroit won!"  Well, Matthew Stafford didn't play in the second half either. Didn't even play in the first half, come to think of it. Does this mean that the game is to be washed from the record books? If memory serves, Rog wasn't exactly tearing it up in there before getting hurt. In fact he didn't lead his team to a single point in his one half of play. And Green Bay has a perfectly suitable backup QB in Matt Damon, who can certainly be counted on to find lanky tight end Ben Affleck on a crossing pattern when the situation calls for it. Lions 7 Pack 3, end of story.

Last year's result is irrelevant though. If Aaron Rog was great in 2010, he's been Mohandas Gandhi so far in 2011. With 31 TD tosses and a QB rating of nearly 129 for the season, it has actually been theorized that the Packer defense has been sub-par this year simply because they're bored by how unstoppable Aaron Rog and the offense has been. Even so, I still think that the Lions will keep the Pack more than interested tomorrow afternoon, with the reasons being three-fold.

1) Aaron Rog's one weak link this year has been his offensive line's inability to protect him (he's been sacked 25 times), while the strength of the Bromo defense is the Four Lokos wreaking havoc in the trenches. With this in mind, I'll go ahead and assume at least four sacks from Dom & Co. tomorrow. If the D can be opportunistic and somehow force a fumble on one of these sacks at the proper time, as well as force an interception off a heavy rush at some point, those breaks could be all the offense needs to take care of business and make an upset feasible. Rog can still throw for 4 TDs, but 3 from Stafford plus 10 points off turnovers would tip the scales in Detroit's favor. But perhaps I'm straying too far into the realm of guesswork and conjecture; my next point is irrefutable.

2) Aaron Rog isn't a cool quarterback. Good, yes. Cool, no. There's a big difference, and in a game like this, that sort of stuff matters. For instance, would a cool quarterback wear the same generic single-snap chinstrap that predecessor Brent Favre used to wear, and unsnap it after every single play, also as predecessor Brent Favre used to do? I think not. Now, Wisconsers might argue that the stupid little Power Ranger morphin' time belt thing that Rog does after touchdowns is cool; however, these are the same people whose main contribution to the world of fashion is wearing thick wedges of cheese as hats.

3) Green Bay has the second worst passing defense in the NFL. It seems like every time the Packers have taken the field this year, after the game one would think that they'd just watched the league's two best quarterbacks duke it out. Staff is not a better quarterback than Aaron Rog (he is a cooler one), but he very well could outperform Rodgers tomorrow, with the luxury of facing a defense that gives up 289 passing yards per game. Harry Lyme of Home Alone 2 said it best when he yelled at the top of his lungs, "If you can't do any better than that, yer gonna' LOSE!!"

"Don't wear Wranglers because of me; wear Wranglers because of YOU." --Brent Favre, former Packer quarterback, and current backyard jean commercial football quarterback.
Or, how about I just don't wear Wranglers at all, Brent? That way, the underlying motivations behind my pant-wearing choices won't be called into question by the likes of you. And furthermore, is Brent Favre really the person who should be dispensing pant-wearing advice to begin with, considering the uproar he caused last year concerning his problems with keeping his own Wranglers on? As we're constantly reminded, Aaron Rog is the proud owner of a very nice belt that I'm sure he would have been more than happy to lend to Favre if he just would have asked, rather than calling in radio shows to deliver backhanded compliments about his replacement in Green Bay.

I don't know about any of you, but I'm ready to put an end to this Thanksgiving Day losing streak. Let's get back to the days of Dre Bly intercepting his way to the Galloping Gobbler trophy, of the Bus taking a wrong turn at the overtime coin flip, of Barry torching the Barrs for a buck 67 and 3 TDs. Get your throwback jerseys ready, hang up the Christmas tree from the Silverdome roof, cover your ears when Nickelback takes the stage, tell the Miami Dolphins to get the champagne ready, I'm calling for the upset tomorrow!! After you've finished your turkey, keep those forks ready, because the Packers' undefeated season is about to be DONE!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

If you need a lift, who's the kid in the drop, who else Kev Smith!

Just when I thought the DTLs couldn't get any dumber, they go and do something like this...


I missed the first half of the game today, being up in the mountains for my first ever day of snowboarding. Which is fitting, because the Lions didn't show up until the second half either. Thanks to some swarming defense, a red-hot quarterback, and some inspiring play from an old friend, the boys put together their best all-around half of the season, scoring 35 second half points, 7 touchdowns in all, and a much-needed 7th victory. The 49 points was the most in a single game for the franchise since 1997.

Matthew Stafford picked up right where he left off last week, starting off 3 of 8 passing and chucking two early interceptions. With Cam Newton looking strong and three forced turnovers from the defense, Carolina jumped out to a 24-7 lead. However, after Staff's second pick, backup QB Shaun Hill came over and reminded him that the Chicago game was over.

Oh yeah. Thanks for the reminder.

From that point forward, QB9 played almost as well as one can possibly play. He completed 25 of his final 28 passes for 300 yards. His 5 passing touchdowns matched my own record-setting performance in the 2009 Harbor Springs Winter Football Classic. He threw TD passes to 5 different players, none of them named Calvin Johnson. Stafford now has 25 touchdown passes through ten games, more than Drew Stanton, Shaun Hill, Daunte Culpepper, Dan Orlovsky, Daunte Culpepper, Dan Orlovsky, Jon Kitna, Jeff Garcia, Joey Harrington, Mike McMahon, Ty Detmer, Charlie Batch, Stoney Case, Gus Frerotte, Frank Reich, Don Majkowski, or Rodney Peete ever had in a season as the Lions' QB. He is only 7 behind Scott Mitchell's team record of 32 touchdown passes (Mitchell's lasting legacy is of being a very poor QB, but he actually had a great 1995 season).


Even overshadowing Staff's dazzling final 45 minutes was the return of a familiar face, Kevin "Millen
used to tease me, give it to 'em now nice and easy" Smith. Smith's outstanding stat line, getting jiggy to the tune of 142 rush yards, 61 yards receiving, and 3 touchdowns still doesn't do justice to just how impressive and inspiring his performance today was.

Drafted out of Central Florida in 2008, Smith was known more for his work ethic than his talent. After 3 somewhat productive but average seasons with the team, Smith was essentially told last spring by the front office that he simply wasn't worth a roster spot anymore. Jahvid Best and Uncle Mikel LeShoure had been drafted in consecutive years to replace him. The Lions didn't renew his contract, and Smith was left without a job. Summer training camps came and went, and he was still left unsigned by the Lions and unwanted by any other team in the NFL.

Though this is all speculation, I can picture Kevin Smith's last three months or so going as follows:
The former NFL starter trudges his way to some health and fitness club in the metro Detroit area every single day and works his tail off in the weight room, with no idea if it will even pay off in the future. At least once per day, his workout is interrupted when someone, be it a meathead high schooler at the bench press, a soccer mom on the elliptical, or a runty accountant at the leg extension machine, notices that Smith is both black and completely ripped and strikes up a conversation.

Runt/Mom/Meathead: Excuse me, but do you play Foot-ball?
Smith: Yeah.
Runt/Mom/Meathead: Ooo, Foot-ball players! What team are you for?
Smith: None... I'm just staying in shape, tryin' to get picked up by someone.
Runt/Mom/Meathead: Ohhh...never mind, you're not as interesting as I thought.

Until November rolls around, and suddenly an opportunity opens up. The Lions' running back corps is depleted by injuries, and Smith is given a tryout again. A mass tryout, not even an individual workout, but it's something. Smith seizes his chance, outshines all the other applicants, and earns a spot as a Detroit Lion once again. Then, less than two weeks after returning to the team, he has the game of his life, with his fantastic play leading the team to a crucial comeback victory. I can do nothing but respect and applaud the resiliency of this young man, best exemplified by his determined 19-yard "you thought I took a spill...but I didn't" touchdown run to put the game out of reach. That's Smith for you.


-Down 27-14, the defense starts the second half with stifling stops on consecutive series to take the air out of the Panther offense and open the door for a Bromothymol comeback. Rookie QB Cam Newton is later forced into 3 second half interceptions.

- Down 27-21, Staff connects with Tony Sheffler, who then adds to his repertoire of hilarious TD celebrations (I think he was imitating that cell phone commercial where the guy does a goofy dance by himself in public only to find that the flash mob had been moved to 12:30. Or something like that.) In typical fashion, the Best in the Business breaks the tie with a picture perfect boot through the posts.

-Leading 28-27, DeAndre "Eugene" Levy picks off a pass in the red zone to shut down yet another Carolina drive.

-Tied 35-35 late in the game, Brandon "Wormtail" Pettigrew displays his polished silver hands with a go-ahead touchdown reception, PrettyBoy9's fifth of the game. This was sweet redemption for Wormtail, who was called for a false start on an earlier drive, trembling as if the Dark Lord himself had lined up at defensive end for the Panthers.

-Leading 42-35, "Cupps" Tulloch tips a Newton pass into the arms of recent cornerback addition Ahh Chreese Harris, putting an end to Carolina's final chance to tie the game.


Gotta say, my first day of snowboarding was successful in all aspects, even though I got knocked on my butt more times than Cam Newton. Next up for the DTLs is a highly-anticipated Thanksgiving clash with one of our oldest and fiercest rivals. Outside of Ford Field last year, I saw a t-shirt vendor peddling "Green Gay Packers" shirts, but I think they're actually called the Green BAY Packers. The atmosphere in that building on Thursday ought to be a throwback to the raucous days back in the Pontiac Silverdome, where it was once so incredibly loud that Jets QB Neil O'Donnell begged the ref to please make the crowd quiet down because he couldn't even get a play called. The defending Super Bowl champions and 10-0 Packers will be heavily favored; But as the venerable Mr. ______ once told me, I must remind you all that "the Lions are a different team on Thanksgiving".

Thursday, November 17, 2011

This One's for North Caro-lina!


A few orders of business to take care of before getting rolling tonight: 1) Michigan basketball scored a win against the Western Illinois Leathernecks tonight. I'm getting a funny image in my head about what their mascot might possibly look like. The Eastern Indiana Chickenheads are up next on the schedule. 2) The front page headline on ESPN.com currently reads, "Prime Tim". I'm not sure if that's the pun I would've used, but at any rate, the legend of Timmy Tebow continues to inexplicably grow. I think I'd have tried, "Using Tebow and errors, Denver shoots down the Jets" and see if anyone got it. The script for victory was largely the same for the Broncos as their other Tebow Time wins. Timmy looks like the worst QB in NFL history for about the first 55 minutes or so, the team stays in it thanks to some strong defense and some plays that are kinda weird right when Denver needs it (a 13-yard Jets punt, a rocket snap that sails past Sanchez's head, a telegraphed pass by Sanchez for a pick-6, and a Jets fumble on the very next play), and then Timmy charges through the defense like they're bowling pins for a 95-yard game winning drive. The DTLs seem to be the only team who have been able to crack the code thus far. On to Sunday's tilt, where our boys will be versing Carolina.

Forgive me for my bipolar viewpoints here, but I just keep going back and forth trying to decide how I feel about this one. On paper, the Lions are the far superior team and should walk away with an easy win at home. On plastic, they're a reeling team that's lost 3 out of 4, have an injured QB coming off his worst outing as a pro, and their all-world WR is beat up, the same to nearly all of the running backs as well. Add to that the fact that after ordaining them "the New Cool Team of the NFL" just a month ago, the mainstream national media has already turned on the Bromothymols, calling out every single penalty as evidence of dirty play and sending around a petition for Ndamakung Suh to be thrown out of the league or something (okay, I made that last part up). Suddenly, a home game against the 2-7 Carolina Panthers becomes a toss-up.

Panthers' QB Cam Newton may or may not present some significant problems for Dom and Co. on Sunday. At 6 foot 5 and weighing in at just over 1,100 Newtons, Newton will likely finish no lower than 2nd in the Rookie of the Year voting at the end of the season and is on pace to break Peyton Manning's neck. league record for passing yards by a rookie. Hard to bring down and always a threat to run, Newton is a guy who will be giving D-coordinators nightmares for a solid decade at least. Then again, he still is a rookie, plays on a lousy team, and has made critical mistakes in late game situations more than once already this year. I haven't actually seen him play an NFL game yet, so I'm very intrigued to see how the Cam vs DTLs front four matchup will play out.

The only other Panther that I can even name off the top of my head is Steve Smith, unless Rae Carruth is still on the team, but that doesn't sound right. Steve "Cupps" Smith (don't worry if you're not getting that obscure reference) is an elite receiver who ranks second in the NFL in receiving yards (951), and in my opinion looks an awful lot like Nelly. "Cupps" Smith is also a notorious trash talker, so the back and forths between him and Louis Delmas should be very amusing until Delmas gets flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and I whip my miniature Lions football at the idiot box in frustration. In the words of the real Steve Cupps, "It's gonna be a wild one."

Some might say that this has the potential to be a "trap" game for the DTLs, who may indeed be looking ahead to the awarding of the Galloping Gobbler trophy and hearing Terry Bradshaw laugh like a hyena following the Thanksgiving game. This is a unique situation for a team that has had to scrap and claw for every single win for that last few decades or so. By my calculations, the last time the Lions were "caught looking ahead" was in 1999, when the 2-win Cardinals knocked off the 6-win Lions the week before the big Green Bay game (ahh geez).

After being blown away last week in the Windy City, the Lions should return to Ford Field with a bad taste in their mouthpieces and a hunger to prove that last week was one of those flukes that we sometimes hear about. After all, this is the 2008 and 2011 NFL Preseason Champions we're talking about! The defense will be rightfully cantankerous, Stafford and Calvin will back back to early season form, and it will be a decisive business-as-usual 7th victory of the season for our DTLs. Please? I hate to label this game as a "must win", but a loss to the Panthers, and we would have quite a Mike from Jersey Shore on our hands.

I'm going to need a little bit of feedback from my readers (both of you) for this post, because I'm completely torn in terms of trying to make any kind of intelligent prediction for the game. How should I be feeling about the squad's chances against Carolina? As Pops has asked every Sunday since I was about five, "Are the Lions gonna GET ONE this week?"

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Smith, can I borrow your neuralyzer?

Let's start things off with a piece from a local singer/songwriter that might help sum up everyone's feelings about today:


This one became an FGs game very early in the third. This term stems from an old college tradition in which once a Lions game crosses the line from horrific to unwatchable, we pop in a DVD of Family Guy or Entourage  and try to forget about the whole thing until the next Sunday. That point was reached today after Cal and Scheffler's back to back touchdown drops, so forgive me but I don't have anything from the last 20 minutes of play to report on. I heard Stafford and one of the Bears got in a fight or something.

As I don't have a working DVD player, "FGs game" is a bit of a misnomer for me. I went to the grocery store instead, so distraught that I wandered around for the first 10 minutes or so not even knowing what foods to get. It probably wasn't the right time to be there; how are you supposed to get groceries when all you want to do is vomit?

Now I know what some of you may be thinking: "But Payne, a TRUE FAN would stay and watch every second of the game, win or lose! You must not be a TRUE FAN!" My response to that is, "Please shut up." If the DTLs don't have the courtesy to provide me with a watchable game, it is well within my rights to forego my viewing privileges.

"But Payne," your next response might be. "Imagine if the Detroits had came back to win the football game! You would be feeling most foolish if that had occurred!" While a valid argument,  all I can say is that I've watched an awful lot of pigskin over the years, and I feel that I have a somewhat solid grasp of the in-game dynamics that can lead to such a comeback. Based on what I saw for the first three quarters, I was quite certain that no one was going to be getting all Houston Oilers today.

Furthermore, even had the DTLs somehow come all the way back to win, I don't think it would have been fulfilling for me, because they did not deserve to win today, in any way, shape, or form. This was a disaster on offense, defense, and special teams from start to finish (or at least from start to towards the end of the third quarter; I'm just assuming that the parts that I missed were also equally disastrous). Back to the grocery store.

The first thing that sounded even remotely appetizing to me was some frozen blueberries, which were advertised on the package as being "sweet and firm, with soft skin", precisely how I like my women (Hi Nina). It seems the mass media's ubiquitous sexualization of American culture has even extended its way to the frozen foods aisle. So after picking up these oversexed fruits So after picking up these blueberries, I continued wandering around aimlessly, thinking about what went wrong in the game and loading up my grocery basket with random things until it started getting heavy.


First half: Everything.

Lions Offense: resembles the title of an old and unfunny Christopher Lloyd movie.
Bears Offense: took whatever they felt like from Lions D, and unfortunately the things that they wanted were yards and points.
Special Teams: I'll take responsibility for this one, actually. It seems Punter Ryan Donahue read my first post and was placed on the injured list with "Hurt Feelings" shortly thereafter. So the front office scrambles to find a replacement Punter and ends up with Robert Malone, which first off let me just say, that sounds like a fake name. And in his limited practice time this week, Rog Malone seemed to have missed the part about not letting the NFL's all-time punt returner take one 82 yards to the house while gleefully singing this as he runs by won't-be tacklers. I Googled "Nick Harris" just to see whether the NCAA's all-time punting yardage leader was busy today (he was, punting for the Jaguars), and the Google auto-correct feature suggested "Mick Harris napalm death " to me. Wonder what that's all about.
Play that was kinda weird: You know how every once in awhile, a defender will pick an obvious incompletion off of the ground, and run it all the way to the other end zone while everyone stands around? And how you smugly chortle in front of the TV, snorting "Look at that DUMMY! Alls he's doin' is just wastin' time!"? Well today was the one time where that move would have paid off for the defender. With the Bears driving late in the 2nd quarter, Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler was hit as he threw and the ball harmlessly bounced onto the turf, rightfully ignored by the defenders. However, replays showed that Cutler had actually fumbled the ball when he was hit, his right wrist then pushing the ball forward to create the illusion of a forward pass. Under NFL rules, had a Lions defender, say Eric Wright (who had done the same thing with an apparent fumble earlier in the very same drive, only to have replays reveal that the runner was down), picked up the ball and ran it all the way back while everyone was standing around, it would have been a Lions touchdown and 20-13 halftime deficit. Alas, this did not happen, and they went into the half down 20-6.

Second half: Everything else.

Here is the start of the second half as I remember it. The Bears start off with the ball, but the Bromothymol D forces a nice three and out, and get it back with a chance to cut into the Bears' two touchdown lead. Stafford, wearing a thick glove on his throwing hand then immediately makes a mind-bogglingly incorrect read and chucks one into the eager arms of a Chicago defender, who easily takes it back for a touchdown. Bears lead 27-6, Lions get the ball back. Then the Fox broadcast team shows a replay of the previous Stafford interception, and by some glitch in the video game, the scoreboard reads 34-6 at the conclusion of the replay. At this point, the game is essentially over.

After the game was over, I received an unexpected phone call from esteemed defense attorney Johnnie Cochran, who barked into the phone, "If the glove don't fit, you throw like shit!!" I politely thanked him for calling and hung up the phone. Stafford's 4 INT performance today was easily the worst he has ever looked as a Lion. I'd say the real winner of the second half today was the Mac n' Cheese kid, who saw his worst assumptions about Prettyboy9 realized in the final thirty minutes of play. As Mac demanded, I will admit that against the Bears today, Stafford made many inaccurate throws, incorrect coverage reads, and displayed a lack of composure and resilience.

Lions lose in embarrassing fashion, 37-13. Much of the blame is falling on QB9.


With that in mind, I'm not quite ready to demand a Matthew Stafford for Shane Falco trade just yet.

One of the main knocks on Stafford is his maturity. That is because he has not yet matured as an NFL quarterback, duh. When Aaron Rog was 23, he spent most of his time whining about how big bad Brent Favre wouldn't give him any reps in practice. At that age, Staffy has the task of leading a franchise to their first playoff berth since Ron Rivers and Greg Hill split time at running back. I am confident that he will mature.

Also, I'd like to take a closer look at the abomination that was today's game. Why exactly was Staff wearing that thick glove on his throwing hand? Is it because he is a bratty, attention-seeking prima donna who wanted to show off his cool new gloves? Or, is it because he dislocated his finger against Denver last week and didn't say anything about it because a certain pasta-loving critic would call him a sissy if he did? Could the searing pain in his dislocated finger have caused some of his off-target throws today, much like a tight rotator cuff once caused a friend of mine to stir his large vat of Macaroni and Cheese at far too many RPMs? It seems plausible.

It also seems plausible that some of his poor decisions could have been caused by a complex defensive scheme cooked up to stop a team with no threat whatsoever at having a run game this year. Speedster Jahvid Best was out of the lineup. As was Uncle Mikel Leshoure, who won't play a down this year due to a torn Achilles'. As was Jerome Harrison, whose season (career?) has been cut short due to a brain tumor. As was Ronnie Brown, who never got traded here, due to said brain tumor. I like Maurice Morris, but he is essentially the DTLs' FIFTH choice at running back right now. I have to think that Rod Marinelli (hope Chicago is having fun with our sloppy seconds, Rod and Martz, on their staff) could devise a defensive game plan without too much concern about the DTLs run game.

Add in the fact that Cal dropped two catchable touchdowns and Scheffler a third, and this culminates in a very tall mountain for Stafford to climb today. I would be pouty too.


I think the best course of action for today would be to do our best to forget that today's game ever happened. Our DTLs still have a very manageable path to 10 wins and a playoff berth this year. Let's be thankful that we have Carolina at home this week, and that Cam Newton has looked slightly less impressive with each passing week. Minnesota at home is still on the schedule as well. There's still the two games against AFC West teams, whose only wins this year seem to be when they play against each other. As long as the DTLs TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS and win the games that they should win, it will be a very successful season. Add in one upset (Thanksgiving), and it could become a special one.

I'll be back on Thursday or Friday. Until then, I'll be consoling myself with some frozen blueberries.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


The halfway point in the season seems to be an apt starting point for this page, as this is the time of year when nerds like John Clayton start making their "Midseason Report Cards" and stuff like that. As I missed the boat at the start of the season, now is as good of a time as any to get started, so the pilot episode of this blog will be thoughts from the DTLs' first 8 games, my own Midseason Grade Report, as well as a quick glance at what's in store for the team in the near future.


QB9 Matthew Stafford: A

I give Staffy an A, partly out of spite toward a friend who will remain nameless and has been heaping undeserved criticism on him, and mostly because he is off the best start of a Lions quarterback not only in my lifetime, but since the time of legendary Lion Bobby Layne. It just so happens that Staff and Layne hail from the same hometown and even went to the same high school in Highland Park, Texas, a fun fact that I'm sure the television networks will eat up when he leads the team back to the NFL Championship Game sometime in the next four years. At the midway point, not only has Staff stayed healthy (a sight for sore eyes), but his QB Rating (99.1) ranks 4th in the NFL. He is also 4th in touchdown passes (19), has thrown only 4 picks, and led an impressive 20-point second half comeback against Minny in week 3. Speaking of the Vikings, I wish *Brent had done us a Favre and stuck around for one more go-round. That would have been fun for NDom and co.

Has Stafford played a perfect season? Of course not. He threw an early pick-6 in the opener, had poor first halves against both Minnesota and Dallas, and his uninspired attempts at the two-minute drill in both of our losses were disappointing, which prompted the hailstorm of criticism from my friend, who I must add is usually a very knowledgeable sports fan. After defending Stafford's youth, pointing out that Staffy is still only 23 years old, I was told that age isn't in excuse. I reminded him that when he was 23, his job was mixing large vats of macaroni and cheese in the Central Michigan cafeteria. And he fucked that up too from time to time. So give Stafford a break.

The schedule moving forward is very difficult; we still have to play an undefeated team TWICE, for God's sake. There may well be ample opportunities in the near-future for Stafford-bashing, but that time is not now. I urge anyone who hasn't already to please acknowledge the Pro Bowl-worthy job that QB9 has done up to this point.

WR81 Calvin Johnson: A++

I don't need to spend three paragraphs extolling the virtues of Calvy (I shouldn't have needed to with Stafford either, come to think of it). Unless you've spent the last two months living in a cave that isn't as well furnished as the one the Bin Laden sons inherited last May, you had to have heard by now about the monster season that Mr. Calvin "Megatron" Johnson is putting together.

Rather than list off his 47 catches, 804 receiving yards, 17.1 yards per catch, and 11 touchdowns, I'll merely quote an old Calvin and Hobbes comic:

"He's CALLLVVIINN, the amazing great!

CALLLVVVINN!! He's the one that can't be beat,

He's the one you want to meet!


 (I ought to properly cite author Bill Watterson here so that he doesn't accuse me of commercializing art, diluting intellectual property, and whatever other reasons he gave for prematurely ending the strip in 1995 and flatly refusing to consider selling the rights for a C&H movie, which if done correctly would be my all-time favorite movie and a timeless classic)

K4 Jason Hanson: A-

Before giving my brief opinions on the kicking merits of Jason Hanson, I'll interlude with a brief anecdote that contributes to Jason being one of my favorite Lions:

 In 1999, I was watching a late season Lions-Bucs game at the house of one of my old teachers, Mr. ______, also a die-hard and eternally optimistic Lions fan. Despite the fact that the Lions were outplayed all game by the Bucs, slowly watching their  playoff hopes vanish, Mr. ______ still could find only good things to comment on from the boys in Honolulu Blue, no matter how hard they may be to spot. And so it was, as Jason Hanson kicked through a meaningless field goal from inside the 10 yard line as yet another promising drive stalled out, that Mr. ______ smiled wistfully and said, "Ahhh, that's the Best in the Business right there." From that point on, I have referred to Jason Hanson simply as "The Best in the Business", regardless of whether it is true or not (though it often is). After 20 remarkably consistent seasons with the DTLs, when Mr. Hanson retires, it just might say on his Hall of Fame placque: He was the best that the business has ever seen.

 So with that in mind, "The Best in the Business" is once again having a very solid season. In my opinion, the new kickoff rule was added simply to level the playing field with the number of touchbacks that Jason can kick. As a side note, I strongly believe that 1 point should be awarded to teams when the kicker is able to put a kickoff through the uprights.

 RB44 Jahvid Best: B-

Oh, the curious case of Jahvid. For the second straight year, he has shown flashes of his sprinter's speed and explosive big play capabilities, only to have them come in inconsistent intervals and then have them halted by injuries.

Jahvid turned a benign screen pass into a momentum-changing 60-yard play in the Minnesota comeback. He gave us our "Saints punt block" moment in the Monday Night game, with an 88-yard scamper to put away the Bears. But he can't seem to stay on the field long enough to be a consistent threat. After a second concussion, he's been sidelined lately and will likely miss the Bears game this weekend. On a positive note, the DTLs signed former RB Kevin Smith a few days ago. Though only a painfully average running back, Smith is a very likable player and it's great to have him back home.

 DL90 "Dom" Suh: B (Probably should be a B-, but gets some extra credit at the end of the term.)

The idiots at ESPN give Dom about 98% of the credit for the turnaround of the Lions franchise. Since he is controversial, he gets all the media coverage. After all, in the world of news media "If it bleeds, it leads", and Suh has certainly made some opponents bleed in his short tenure in the NFL.

My feelings about Suh have been kind of similar to your friends recounting all of the hilarious things you don't remember doing when you were drunk the night before. As you sit there listening to the laughter of your friends as they tell you tales of how "awesome" you were on the previous night's misadventures, you simultaneously have feelings of both pride and embarrassment. That is Ndamukong Suh.

In 24 career games, Suh has been named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, collected double figures in sacks, and is the poster child for the resurgent Lions defense and blue-collar mentality of the city of Detroit.

In 24 career games, Suh has been named Dirtiest Player in the NFL in a poll of his peers, been fined three times for rough play, collected numerous personal foul penalties, and is the poster child for a Lions defense that is fast developing a reputation for being a dirty team.

Therein lies the rub; how does a Lions fan reconcile these contradictions? If we keep winning, does that make it okay? I may be in the minority here, but I certainly don't subscribe to that school of thought. And as evidenced by his recent meeting with Roger Goodell to discuss the rules and his style of play, neither does Ndamukong Suh. Yes, he's a bad-ass. Yes, the defense's beat-down and mocking of Tebow was great to watch. But I think if we're all entirely honest with ourselves, at the end of the day nobody wants to be known as a dirty player or a dirty team.

Production-wise, Suh has been somewhat average this year, likely due to an increased awareness of him on the part of other teams. From an objective viewpoint, he has been a solid player on an exceptional defensive line thus far (I've never seen a D-Line stop more 4th and inches plays than the 2011 Lions). This season, he hasn't played like the superstar that he's portrayed as, nor the villain that he's also portrayed as. Just Dom bein' Dom.

WR16 Titus Young: A-

I don't like Boise State. At all. But I openly cheered when the DTLs picked Titus in the second round of the draft last spring. Rooting against his team 4 or 5 times last season was enough for me to see that this guy can play the game. As soon as the pick was made, I marveled at what a good fit he is for this team. Good speed, great hands, and comes through in the clutch. His 55 yard catch in the closing seconds of regulation in the Nevada game last year should have saved Boise State's undefeated season ("but FINKLE missed the big KICK!!")

So far this year, Titus has had two key moments that cement him as a new favorite of mine. 1) That diving catch in traffic that he had against the Chieves on 3rd and 68 or whatever it was 2) At Denver when he not only caught a touchdown pass where he was as inexplicably wide open as I have ever seen a receiver, but then proceeded to jump into the home team’s stands to celebrate with the OPPOSING TEAM’s fans, who honestly didn’t seem too upset about his being there. Maybe they were just confused since he used to play for a Blue and Orange team called the Broncos in college.

Other than a few bad drops, Titus has had a very good rookie season and has proven himself to be a reliable third-option at receiver, which is exactly what he was drafted to do. I also like that he wears #16 instead of a boring number in the 80s like most receivers, continuing a longstanding Lions receiver tradition that includes Nate Burleson (#13), Roy Williams (#11), Eddie Drummond (#18) and Kez McCorvey (#10), whom I’d be shocked if more than 10 percent of my readers has ever heard of until now.

P5 Ryan Donahue: C

When the Lions special teams unit took the field for the first time this season, the mood in Ford Field was palpable, even 1,300 miles away through my television set. Hmm, they seemed to collectively notice. The punting unit doesn’t seem quite as annoying as in years past.

That’s right, ladies and gentleman. Nick Harris, once dubbed “the Most Annoying Punter in the NFL” by a resentful Bears fan who couldn’t think of anything better to say, is no longer with the team. Rookie Ryan Donahue has taken his place, and while not as annoying as his predecessor, he also doesn’t quite have the same power and touch to his kicks either. There have been times this season when Donahue will accidentally punt one in the Zone for a touchback, and I think to myself, “Man, ol’ Tricky Nick would’ve pinned that one down at about the 2”. Or if he weakly shoves a guy like Devin Hester out of bounds to thwart a potential return, I’ll think, “Yeah but, wouldn’t Nick the Slick have dove at his knees, or maybe caused him to step awkwardly on his ankle if given the same situation?”

He’s only a rookie, but it’s apparent that Ryan Donahue still has a long way to go towards being an annoying punter in the National Football League.

While we’re on the topic of Nick Harris, am I the only one who found it extremely bizarre that he had no placekicking skills whatsoever when Hanson went down in the Jets game last year? Yes, I know that he is a punter, not a kicker, but certainly there must be some type of carryover between the two skills. When Hanson was unable to do a kickoff, Nick was second in command, and in his time to shine he let loose what might have otherwise passed for a decent squib kick had he not been trying to kick it as hard as he could. Why was Dom Suh the second string field goal kicker? It’s not that Dom didn’t give a valiant effort in his only extra point attempt, but how was Nick not good enough at kicking to be the next in command, ahead of the 300 pound rookie D-lineman? When he and Hanson were off kicking by themselves at practice every single day in the 9 years that they were teammates, they didn’t once get bored and switch roles just to see how funny it would be? I know Nick’s excuse is probably, “Hey, but I was the holder! What, am I supposed to just hold it for myself and then kick it too?” That, however, is a piss-poor excuse. I’m sure Stafford, or Hill, or Stanton would have been perfectly capable of catching a snap and setting it ever so gently on the lush Ford Field turf as Nick barrels in and shanks it thirty feet left and into the 4th row.

 That’s enough report cards for now. Time to look toward the future.

 *Calm down, I know his name is Brett. In my mind, he's Brent though. Out of disrespect.


I can’t stress enough how important the game on Sunday against Chicago is, so I won’t. The Monday Night game against the Bears a month back was all about Detroit. It was a triumphant symbolism of post-recession rebirth in the city that took the economy’s free fall harder than any other in the country. It was a coronation of the reinvigorated Lions franchise, a welcome back moment for a long-struggling team, with its brightest glimpse of prosperity in more than half a century. I’ve only seen one regular season game in my life which was as emotional and electric for the home team: the New Orleans Saints’ Monday night return to the Superdome following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. There are certain games, every once in a while, where even though the two teams are relatively evenly matched, you just absolutely KNOW who is going to win. That Saints game was like that, with the blocked punt early in the game that literally brought some fans to tears. The Lions on Monday night was one of those rare games, with Jahvid Best’s 88-yard run to seal the game, nearly blowing the roof off of Ford Field in the process.

This time, it’s different. There is no symbolism here. The Chicago Bears are now an obstacle. An obstacle that the DTLs MUST overcome, for reasons both symbolic and logistical moving forward as a franchise. In my opinion, the word ‘opportunity’ should be synonymous with the word ‘obstacle’, because they are one in the same.

Symbolically, this is a wonderful opportunity to exorcise the demons of the 2010 season, which seemed irrefutably cursed from the very beginning until about Week 13. Soldier Field is where Stafford went down with an injury, in the first half of the opening game. Soldier Field is the venue of the disallowed Calvin Johnson game-winning touchdown catch, a blatant miscarriage of justice that ranks right up with the Tom Brady “tuck rule” game. For a cursed franchise, a victory over the Bears in Soldier Field would serve as a perfect amulet to help reverse the curse and continue the healing process.

Logistically, the game on Sunday is a wonderful opportunity for the DTLs to put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat for their first playoff appearance in over a decade. Beating the Bears would help them out in three major ways in the standings: 1) a win would put them 2 full games ahead of the Bears in the playoff race, while a loss would give both teams identical records. 2) a win would give them a season sweep over the Bears, giving them the head-to-head tiebreaker edge if they end the year with identical records 3) a win would give the DTLs their third divisional win, and hand the Bears their third divisional loss. As divisional records are also used in the tiebreaker process, this would mean that the Bears cannot possibly finish with a better divisional record than the Lions (each would be 3-3 in Chicago’s best case scenario), and since the Lions would have swept the season series, the Bears could not possibly overtake them in tiebreakers if they finish the season with the same record (Unless I’m overlooking some loophole in the league rulebook, which I might be, seeing as I have never sat down and read it).

A victory on Sunday would give Detroit their 7th win. They still have home games against the 2-6 Panthers and 2-6 Vikings. They have two remaining games against AFC West teams, a very even division which they’ve already outscored 93-13 in two meetings this year.

It really hasn’t been that long since the DTLs started off 6-2. They did it in 2007, with the 6th win coming in a categorical beatdown of a shell-shocked Broncos team, eerily similar to what they did two weeks ago. In 2007, it took them seven more tries to pick up a 7th win. It took three years to get seven more wins after that. We’ve seen 6-2 before; it didn’t end up going very well. We haven’t seen 7-2. I still can’t quite see the light at the end of the tunnel. Beating Chicago on Sunday would sure help.


The Thanksgiving game against the Patriots last year was the first time I’ve ever been to a Lions game in person. Being immediately engulfed by a dense wave of excitement as soon as I entered the building, I nearly gasped in amazement. I turned to Pops and said, as we prepared for the 2-9 Lions to take the field, “Oh man, imagine what this place would be like if they were GOOD.”

As evidenced by the nine false starts the ravenous crowd caused for Chicago in the Monday Night game, the Lions being good translates to the absolute loudest stadium in pro football. This is not by any means to say that the DTL fan base is composed of only fair-weather fans. This a testament to a dormant fan base being reawakened from hibernation after a long, long, long winter.

I’m not in the business of making predictions, and so I won’t try to do anything like that as far as the rest of the season goes. I’ll just say that I’m very excited about the position this team has put itself in and the opportunity of something very special in Detroit sometime in the next few years. I’ll end this opening post as a call to action for readers, whether it be 1 or 100 people who decide to take the time to read this. Whether you like the column or hate it, please feel free to comment and interact with myself and fellow readers (unless you hate it, of course. I don’t respond to criticism all that well). I suppose my true purpose for this blog is to use it as a means to stay connected to my friends and create a small little community of DTLs fans so I don’t become too homesick out in Colorado. The only football player anyone wants to talk about out here is some guy named Timmy.