Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Day Special Edition

“Put a bow on it, Merry Christmas! Touchdown, DETROIT LIONS!!”
Lions 38, Chargers 10

I apologize for a lack of a pregame entry, but holiday traveling and last minute shopping made such a feat unmanageable for me to pull off before toe met leather this afternoon. I thought about taking the holiday break off from Bromothymoling entirely, but thought better of it. As Pops Ruettiger tells his son Rudy, “There’s no special days around here.” Although I disagree, seeing as today was certainly a special day worth squawking about for the DTLs franchise.

I have to think that any churchgoing Michiganders opted to hold out until the late service this evening in order to soak in this late afternoon contest in its entirety. After all, for the first time since Y2K almost happened, the squad was set to play a meaningful late December home game with a playoff spot in their sights. Loyal H-Bromolyte Nitch was so worked up for the game that he sent me a Facebook post counting down the minutes until the pregame warmups were to start at Ford Field. Since landing back in Michigan this week for the Winter holidays, there was a tangible buzz of cautious excitement from a weary fan base wondering if this time their team was for real, or if yet another crushing disappointment was waiting for them to close out this season that has been bizarre even by Lions’ standards. Readers who are fans of other, more traditionally successful teams (I can think of my friend in Boston as an example of this) probably can’t comprehend why we’re so worked up about something as menial as a lousy playoff berth. Fans of the L.A. Clippers, recently ordained “the New Cool Team of the NBA”, may understand somewhat, but as far as I know, the only Clipper fans on the planet are Will Ferrell’s unfunny character in the movie “Bewitched”, and the recent wash of bandwagoners hopping on board last week after the Ahh Chreese trade. It is different in Detroit, where sports are so indispensably embedded within the culture and collective psyche of the city and state. So, in the final home game of a roller coaster of a season that finally had the Lions on the upswing rather than in Power Tower free fall mode, it was a foregone conclusion that the fans were going to show up with an influenzic intensity once 4 o’clock rolled around today.

As I would have mentioned had I put out a pregame post, this game was anything but a sure thing going into it. The visiting Chargers had been playing well and were on the verge of pulling off yet another improbable late season power surge. Before today’s game, over the last 6 years, the Chargers were an electric 25-2 during the month of December, bolstered by two consecutive impressive wins leading up to this week. And I haven’t yet been able to wipe from my memory what happened the last time these two teams had met, in 2007. San Diego rolled to a 51-14 win in an ugly game that reached FGs status very early in the third quarter (refer to my second ever post for a refresher on the criteria for an “FGs game”).  The ESPN experts were on the fence as to who to pick for this one as well, though “Cartoon Chris” Berman picked the Lions to break the tie amongst the panel members. The one thing they agreed upon was that Detroit could not afford to fall behind early in this one, as Chargers are a very difficult team to play catch-up against. In the spirit of Christmas (the getting presents part of it; not the lesser known aspect of the holiday, the birth of Timmy Tebow’s Lord and savior, which coincidentally is also celebrated on Christmas), I put together a wish list before today’s game. Though Santa couldn’t deliver on all of my wishes, most of them were fulfilled by today’s 38-10 thrashing of San Diego.


Put a smile on Grinch Hanson’s face
Over the past few days, The Best in the Business had likened himself to Grinch Christmas, leading to this bizarre artistic rendering.  He had to at least smile a little bit after blasting a 50-yard field goal straight through the posts in the first quarter. After today’s win, I have a feeling that the little Bromos in Bromothymolville even let Mr. Hanson carve the roast beast at the team’s postgame Christmas party.

Shock the Chargers
Even though he was only sacked once, Chargers QB Phillip Rivers didn’t look for a moment appear comfortable back there today. “Uncle Phil”, as Rivers prefers to be called, looked so shaky in the pocket, one would have thought that he must have been electrocuted to skeleton level in the pregame huddle, a la Marv Merchins in Home Alone 2.

In their best start-to-finish game of the season, the DTLs pummeled San Diego immediately, from Staff’s bomb to Calvin on the first play from scrimmage, to the 24-0 halftime lead, and straight to Heathcliff’s one-handed pick six of a poor Uncle Phil effort in the game’s final minutes.

A Miracle on 44th Street
This one didn’t quite come true. I was hoping that Jahvid Best’s season-ending concussion would magically heal itself in the hours leading up to the game, so we’d all be able to watch him dance into the end zones like a Sugar Plum Fairy. Fortunately, understudy Kevin Smith once again valiantly filled the void at running back, dancing in for 2 touchdowns of his own.

No Holey Night in the Lions’ Secondary
After a poor performance against the Raiders last week, I wasn’t sure that the defensive backs would be able to patch up all the holes against Uncle Phil and Co. I was pleasantly surprised to see a great game from the secondary today. Spievey and the Ahh Chreeses (Houston and Harris) all had strong games today to shut down the Chargers. I’ve noticed that the ups and downs that this unit has seem to especially hinge on their confidence levels, so I hope the confidence gained from today’s game will be able to carry over into the playoffs (Playoffs. It feels good to say it).

Party Like it’s 1999
Ford Field was rocking today, Coach Jimmy got a Gatorade bath to commemorate what is hopefully the first of many 10-win seasons as DTLs’ skipper, and the players took a victory lap following the game to celebrate the first playoff berth in twelve years with the fans. Stafford was spectacular once again, with a 29-36, 373 yard, 3 touchdown showcase. Wormtail Pettigrew brought his hands with him to the game today, coming up with big catch after big catch. After Rog Goodell put a lump of coal in his stomping stocking a month ago, Dommy Suh looks under control. Redemption story of the season Kevin Smith once again channeled the John Starks essence of a man who is absolutely thrilled to be back in the league, and will do anything and everything that is necessary to keep his spot on the team. I could go on and on. This was a team performance, setting off a long awaited and much deserved celebration for the Lions and their city.

Another thrilling aspect for me about today’s game was that this was the one and only game this season that I was able to watch in Michigan with Pops (who finally accepted the slow and painful degeneration of the old idiot box and popped a brand new 46-inch screen into the living since I last saw him).

Happy Holidays Everyone!  Santa left us a shiny new playoff berth under the tree tonight!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Calvin and Lobs

"He's CALLLVVIINN, the amazing great!
CALLLVVVINN!! He's the one that can't be beat,
He's the one you want to meet!
--Bill Watterson

There are too many directions that I can go in with this one, so I'll preface by saying that I might be all over the place in my professional analysis of yesterday's thrilling 28-27 win. Bear with me.



- Move over Pippen Mitchell, there's a new touchdown king in Detroit! In the biggest game of his career to date, Stafford (with help from 8-1) turned in one of his best games, throwing for nearly 400 yards and cashing in 4 touchdown passes, the final one tying the game and giving him a Lions' record 33 for the season. 

- Of course there was Calvin the Amazing Great absolutely TORCHING poor Stanford Routt(ins) and the rest of the Raider secondary for most of the afternoon, especially conspicuous on the Lions' spectacular final drive. With catches of 21, 48, and a 6 yards, plus a 17 yard interference penalty, Calvin accounted for over 90 yards as well as the game's final touchdown on that drive alone. Add in a 52-yard TD catch in the first quarter and more clutch grabs at every juncture, Calvin finished with 214 receiving yards, plus 17 from a desperate penalty (not to mention another obvious interference call that the zebras missed and would have been good for another 40 yards or so). Former Lions great Cloyce Box was rightfully unimpressed, having once caught for over 300 yards and 4 TDs in a 1950 game.

-The final drive: 2 minutes, 99 yards to go, no timeouts, with the infamous "Black Hole" cheering section unleashing only the foulest of obscenities at deafening volume, and Stafford and Calvin engineer a drive with such proficiency that they actually left too much time on the clock to give Oakland a final chance. Even more startling was the infamous Macaroni and Cheese stirrer re-entering the picture to lambast Staff's underthrown 48-yard bomb to Calvin to set up the game-winning score. You know, the pass that was underthrown because Stafford had to throw it from his back foot and release it at a very high angle to avoid having his arm knocked sideways by the Raiders' defender who was right in his face. 

-Sebastian Janikowski. When Janikowski first entered the NFL in 2000, Sports Illustrated quickly ran an article about him, ordaining that it was only a matter of time until his trebuchet of a leg broke Tom Dempsey's record for longest field goal, 63 yards. I mean Dempsey had a strong leg, but he was born with only half of a foot, so Sebastian's ruthlessly powerful leg attached to a full foot should at least be good for about a hundred twenty-six yarder, right? In that article, I remember Janikowski boasting something to the effect of, "65 yards? With no wind? Should be too much of a problem." 

Lo and behold, with four seconds left yesterday, Janikowski lines up where else but for a 65-yard field goal to win the game against Detroit. Like Tom Dempsey before him, lining up for a 63-yard field goal to win the game, also against Detroit. Sebastian had already tied Dempsey's record with a 63-yard blast of his own against Denver earlier this year, which arguably would have been good from 70. Perfect snap, solid hold, Seabass swings his leg...

And Dom gets a thumb on it! The skin flutters harmlessly to the ground, setting off a wild celebration from the now 9-5 DTLs.

-The Best in the Business. In dishing out credit and praise to the heroes from yesterday's game, it would be foolhardy to leave out the man who put the 28th and final point on the board for the Bromothymols. With an eternally steady foot, Mr. Hanson put yet another clutch kick into the safety net, as he's done for the past two decades. That game-winning point was the 2001st point of #4's storied career.  Fun fact: The next field goal that Hanson puts over the crossbar will move him into 4th place in the NFL's all-time points leader board. This is only speculation, but I have to think that if the shoe is on the other foot, The Best in the Business finds a way to hit that final 65-yarder.

-Lions Pass Catchers, other than Calvin, had a pretty disappointing showing yesterday, dropping 8 perfectly well-meaning pigskins. To me, that indicates a very young unit playing overly tight and nervous in what they knew was a huge game for the franchise. This immaturity manifested itself in the form of late penalties against the Saints (if you'll recall, Titus, Wormtail, Burley, and Logan were the worst offenders) and in dropped passes yesterday. 

However, in my opinion, they more than made up for it with their awesome group celebrations, with all the receivers doing some kind of dance circle on the sideline after Cal's first TD and an all-out dogpile after his second. I also commend Titus for his clutch fourth down TD catch with five minutes left to make the final drive possible.

-The Comeback. Trailing 20-14 with the ball and 8 minutes remaining, I confidently texted to Nitch, "How great will it be when the Best in the Business shoots a one point shot to send the boys back to the playoffs?"...On the very next play, Stafford fumbled inside the ten, and the Raiders promptly returned it for a touchdown and 27-14 lead. Well, I thought, I didn't necessarily say it was going to happen in this game. But it did. And it was. 

While the game-winning drive was all Calvin, the equally important drive before that was all on Stafford. I  hope I'm not the only one who noticed that Stafford was getting drilled by the Raiders almost every time he threw a pass during that series (clean hits, maybe one that was a touch late), but was standing tall and firing "LASERS" to his receivers, who were catching the "LASERS" in the times that they weren't dropping them. 

-Jekyll and Hyde. What in the world is going on with this edition of the DTLs? The same team that has completely pissed away two games on national TV with mindless penalties is the same team that has clawed back from double-didge second half deficits FOUR separate times to win games this year. The team that did all they could a week ago to blow a 3 touchdown lead in the closing minutes at home against the 2-10 Vikings is the same team that I watched erase a 2 touchdown lead in the closing minutes on the road against a solid Oakland outfit. Big Bad Dom's stomping foot morphs into the Dominator's swatting hand as he blocks Oakland's final kick, fresh off his two game suspension. As it feels like I do every single week this year, I had to once again ask myself, how can a team that is so mentally weak also be so mentally strong? 


While we're all still coming down from yesterday's Millennium Force of a thriller, here is the dark underbelly that still looms moving forward: I was wrong in thinking that with the Bears going into hibernation, the DTLs can now waltz their way into the playoffs. With clutch wins yesterday, the Cardinals and Seahawks in the mirror are closer than they appear. If either of these teams (as well as the Bears and the setting for an absolutely terrible movie) finish the season at 9-7 along with the Lions, Detroit would lose the tiebreaker in virtually any scenario. So while the Bears are slumbering in a forest somewhere, the Lions aren't out of the woods yet either. Until yesterday, I had completely overlooked the fact that the Cards and Hawks were still in the picture. Long story short, it sure wouldn't hurt to win one more of these final regular season games. San Diego at home is certainly a winnable game, and if the Kansas City Chieves can beat Green Bay, no reason why the DTLs can't do it too.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Raiders of the Lost Game

An interesting tidbit from the college football landscape: former Notre Dame laughingstock Charlie Weis has been hired as the head coach at the University of Kansas. Pops oughta get a kick out of that one. After all, he had a field day with Kansas's previous coach who was a little on the obese side, Mark Mangino. While watching a Kansas game a couple of years back, Pops quietly thumbed through a "1001 Funny Jokes" book for about ten minutes before declaring to the living room, "Mangino's so fat, he eats Wheat THICKS!"

On to Lions football.

What if I were to tell you the Detroit Lions would be 8-5 in mid-December and in total control of their playoff destiny, is that something you might be interested in? Carson Palmer had better keep his head on a swivel, cuz' you know crazy the nDominator can get!

Until I can think of a few more Entourage references to squeeze out, I'd better continue. I've gotta say, I'm feeling very good about how the DTLs stack up against Oakland, despite their solid 7-6 record. After all, this is the same team that Tim "the Tool Man" Tebow beat by two touchdowns a month ago. How can you lose by two touchdowns to a team who requires supernatural intervention from their quarterback's Lord and Savior to even score two touchdowns in most of their games? And if you'll allow me to go off on a tangent relating to divine intervention in sporting events, what was up with Christopher Lloyd's "rules" in the movie "Angels in the Outfield"? The angels weren't allowed to help the Angels win their final pennant-clinching game against the White Sox ("Championships must be won on their own"), but they were allowed to practically hand talentless Angels to about 70 games in a row to even put them in that position to begin with? That just seems inconsistent and has never sat well with me. And besides, who blackmailed Danny Glover and Tony Danza into signing on for that movie anyway?

Let's talk Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer, the lesser known brother of Jessemon Palmer of "The Bachelor" fame. In case you all weren't watching ESPN this summer, Carson Palmer caused a bit of a disruption for his old team, the Cincinnati Bengals. Palmer didn't feel like playing for the Bengals anymore, so he stopped trying, threatening to retire rather than play another season in Cincinnati. Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes did that same thing once when his parents forced him to shovel the walkway path to the front door of their house. Calvin left huge clumps of snow blocking the path every few steps, proclaiming in the last panel, "Sometimes if you do a job poorly enough, you don't ever get asked to do it again!" Carson Palmer certainly did the job poorly enough last year for the 4-12 Bengals, but even so they asked him to do the job again, it caused a huge commotion when he just stopped showing up in Cincinnati because he didn't want to be there. Eventually, his demands were appeased and he ended up in Oakland, throwing 3 interceptions in his first 30 minutes of action this year. While his numbers have improved considerably since then, he still isn't really the type of quarterback that has given the Lions D too many problems this year. Like perhaps, I don't know, a good one. If the front four gives the amount of pressure that has come to be expected from them, Carson is screwed. With his concrete feet, he certainly isn't going to escape a rush and spin any Webb-like runs. Joe, not Spud. If you're comparing quarterbacks, I'll take Stafford over Carson Palmer any day of the week, if only because Staff was on the team that allowed this to happen.

At 7-6, Oakland is fighting for their playoff lives in this game, maybe even moreso than the DTLs. A loss would be devastating to their chances of winning the division over Timmy and the Broncos. So while they arguably need a win more than the Lions this week, on paper the Lions are the superior team, and as I've been saying all year, just need to take care of business and they will be OK. In their two games against AFC West teams this season, the DTLs have thus far outscored the division a combined 93-13. The only touchdown they've given up in these two games was a garbage time Halloween treat to Timmy's anorexic offense. The achilles heel all year for the H-Bromos has been penalties, we all know this. However, Oakland gets called for even more penalties than the Lions, so the discipline intangible should be about even for both teams. To quote my old English teacher, Mr. _____, it will probably "be a good day to invest in little...yellow...FLAYGGS." I hope I don't get in trouble with the SEC (the government SEC, not the college football one) for divulging that nugget of insider trading information.

I've engaged in a fair amunt of AFC West bashing at the office to my Broncos fan co-worker in some old fashioned water cooler trash talk. I already lost a bet that the DTLs would win more games combined this year than the Broncos and Panthers (his favorite teams).  I hope I'm not made a fool of again this weekend.  But from what I've seen, even at their worst, the Lions still have a better team than the Raiders. That's just what I see having watched each team a considerable amount throughout the season. I expect the same in this late afternoon matchup that I'll be able to catch the final three quarters of (You got me until 3 o'clock Nitch?).

My friend in Boston said that despite Oakland having a solid squad, if you're really a playoff team, this is the type of game you should be winning. Couldn't agree with him more. So come Sunday afternoon, let's all plop down on the nearest couch, pop open a box of Wheat Thicks, and cheer our DTLs on to victory number nine!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

"The break that backed the camel's straw"

Some of the details from today's game are lost on me. Being out snowboarding with twenty 9-13 year-olds for most of the day, I wasn't able to watch any of the game. Instead, I relied on two associates feeding me scores and updates via text message, one more frequently and accurately than the other. As I wasn't able to watch any of the game through my own eyes, in this post I'll let you relive the game through the eyes of my phone. A special thanks goes out to Nitch for keeping me in the loop.

11:01 AM
Nitch: Game will start with a 0-0 tie.
While seemingly innocuous, this information was actually a very encouraging sign for the events of the afternoon. In most of the other DTLs games this season, it seems as if the game starts with the opposition already leading 17-0.

11:10 AM
Nitch: 7-0 cats. Heathcliff strips ponders on first vikings play, tulloch recovers in the zone.
Heathcliff "Combustible" Avril has had a fine season. Take away his penalties and he's a probable Pro Bowl pick. He might still be one, even with the penalties.

11:15 AM
Nitch: The phonz picks one off. Looks like that D had their morning DPs today!
AYYY!! A big play from Alphonso, and a second turnover in five minutes of life for Ponder, which I assume is about 12 seconds of football time.
Cultural Reference: DP stands for Doctor Pepper, a delicious and empowering soft drink, for any of you having trouble following along. For those who are upset that "that doesn't even make sense!", just pretend that it stands for 'Defensive Practice'. The D had their morning Defensive Practice, therefore they played well in the game's beginning. Makes perfect sense.

11:19 AM
Nitch: Titus for 6.
The Best in the Business's extra point is obviously assumed. Lions lead 14-0.

11:32 AM
Nitch: Wormtail leaps a defender for a first down, finds back of end zone on next play.
11:35 AM
Nitch: Everyone who fucked up last week has made amends.
11:45 AM
Nitch: Nice drive by the vikes. 21-7.

11:57 AM
Nitch: Smiff reaching didge boy status today. Pick six.
Alphonso Smith has gotten his second interception of the day, takes it back for a touchdown.
Cultural Reference: With the "didge boy" remark, Nitch is referencing the defensive prowess of himself and myself on the UofM intramural flag football field, as well as our back-to-back Harbor Springs Winter Football Classic championships. Before you even think about interceptioning a pass, better be wearing them single digits on your back!

I inquire as to whether the score is now 28-7 in favor of the Honolulu Bromothymols.
12:00 PM
Nitch: Your math is correct.
It's noon now, and I'm back inside eating lunch with my group of youngsters. Third-grader Manny offers me some Wheat Thins, the DTLs are up 28-7. It's safe to say I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself at this point in the day.

The next couple of texts I received came from somewhat unexpected sources. The first was from my brother's phone, but it seemed to be in Brent Favre's voice. The next was from Associate #2, who had until then remained silent.
12:04 PM
Brent: Boy Payne, Perce and Tobes are having a tough game.
12:08 PM
Associate #2: Lions are winning 28-7!

12:09 PM
Nitch: 28-14. D is snoozin.
12:20 PM
Nitch: 31-14. And the lions fight song plays again. 1 to go in first half.
That Hephaestus-sculpted boot of wrought iron strikes again as the Best in the Business adds another 3 to his all-time Lions points record. The DTLs do have a great fight song as well; I'd rank it 2nd place among NFL fight songs, slightly behind the old Houston Oilers song that would get Warren Moon so pumped up during games.

Since the next hour passes without any updates, I assume that the squad entered the locker room with a 31-14 H-time lead.

1:20 PM
Associate #2: 31-21 end of the 3rd.
1:21 PM
Nitch: 31-21 4 min left in 3rd.
This little sequence of updates baffles me considerably. Rather than face the fact that one of these texts is obviously inaccurate, I'll chalk it up to the time zone differential and leave it at that.

1:40 PM
Nitch: 34-21. 12 skins to go.
"Skins" in this case is substituting for the word "minutes". There are 12 "minutes" remaining in the game. Seeing that 13 point lead pop up, I immediately thought of the 07' Cowboys game. Also the 13th game of the season, the Lions held a 13 point lead in the 4th quarter against Dallas. All Paris Lennon has to do is fall on a lazy fumble in the closing minutes to keep the DTLs' playoff hopes alive. Instead, Lennon Imagines a touchdown, kicks the ball back to Dallas, and Revolution #9 leads the Cowboys into the end zone for a 28-27 win. With this history, the approaching feeling of unease in the pit of my stomach has nothing to do with my shoddy snowboarding skills.

1:52 PM
Nitch: 34-28. 8 left.
I can tell Nitch is feeling uneasy too, because his texts are getting shorter and chippier.

2:01 PM
Nitch: Minny ball, 3:20 to go. "This is the biggest defensive series for Detroit all season."
Either the announcer must have said that, or Nitch was quoting himself so that I would quote him in the H-bromo blog. Regardless, it was probably a true statement.

The next 17 minutes and 40 seconds were a silent agony for me. As each minute passed, all I wanted was a simple "tulloch picks one off" or "turnover on downs, Staff takes a knee", or even "Vikings score, Lions have it with a minute left" would have sufficed. But no.

As the time passed, I got more and more worried. Did something so appalling happen in the final minutes that Nitch can't even bring himself to tell me about it? Did he smash his phone to pieces after the Lions blew it on the final play?


2:18:40 PM
Nitch: We some lucky sob's deebo. Squeaked one out.
Cultural reference: Deebo is the villain character from Chris Tucker's Friday.
2:26 PM
Nitch: Vikes drove it down to the 1 yard line. Webb fumbles the ball and it keeps rolling 60 yds downfield to run out the clock. Got away with a facemask too.

Oh geez.
So the boys caught a major break today in a game where they shouldn't have ever needed one in the first place. The record now stands at 8-5, assuring them their best season since 2000. It has been predetermined that this is going to be a crazy final three weeks to end the season. 2 wins will almost certainly put the DTLs in the playoffs. 1 win might.

As Samuel L. Jackson said in Jurassic Park, "Hold on to yo' butts!!"
As Samuel W. Jackson said in a text message today, "Whuuup whhhheeeeeewww!!!"

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"I was ONNE OFFF!"

What's the over/under for idiotic and backbreaking penalties at crucial moments in the game this week? I'll set it at 3.5.

The 2-10 Vikings come into town this week, and if the DTLs are going to assure themselves of at least a .500 season, this would likely be the game to do it. The next three games are all Winnebagos winnable, and while the boys have done some irrevocably stupid things over the past two games, at the end of the day, they've still won all the games that they were supposed to this year (as well as a few they had no business winning). And make no mistake, they are supposed to win this game.

Ford Field has become sort of a second home for Minnesota in recent times. They traveled to Detroit twice for games last year, once to add to the Lions' end-of-season winning streak and again when the roof of their own house collapsed and left them with a new ski hill at the 35 yard line. My only regret about the 20-13 win last year is that the Bromos didn't get one last chance to wreck Brent Favre worse than Dom Suh's car, as the Bills and Bears and Vikings' assistant coach did. Alas, Brent decided to sit that one out, choosing instead to watch the final game of his career from the sidelines, wearing the double hats to fight off Ford Field's frigid 68 degree conditions. "I guess I ain't no spring chicken anymore."


As the starting quarterback this Sunday, rookie Christian Ponder will be the fourth Vikings quarterback to start against the Lions in the last two season, and the third to start a game in Ford Field in the last calendar year. True to his name, Ponder's play has been very thought-provoking thus far in his opening campaign. Similar to Cam Newton, Ponder isn't necessarily getting the Ws that he'd like, but he has displayed a composure well beyond his years and has been a bright spot in an otherwise dismal season for our Scandinavian rivals. I personally was baffled that the Vikes used the #12 pick in the draft to get a guy who'd had a pretty good college career for a mediocre Florida State team. But as they say, that's the reason why they're sitting in that front office, and I'm sitting...well, here. Among other reasons, I hope. After all, if the one thing separating me from an NFL front office position is my pre-draft evaluation on Christian Ponder, then... never mind, I'm being stupid.

Anyway, how is Detroit going to prevent the Metrodome roof from caving in on their once bright playoff hopes? Here's hoping that Minnesota uses the same blueprint as New Orleans for covering Cal: double and triple-team him, and leave every other DTLs pass-catcher wide open most of the time. Cal will still outclass his defenders for 5 catches or so, and Stafford would throw for about 500 yards, provided that Burley can keep his hands to himself. Staff's finger looks fully healed, and suddenly Glassy9 has made it through almost an entire season without major incident. I remain a subscriber to the line of thinking positing that Stafford will follow the Phil Simms career arc.

 In the first meeting this year, Coach Leslie decided to give Tobes the ball on 4th and 1 with the game on the line, instead of handing it to future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson. Obviously Tobes was stopped for no gain. I wouldn't mind if Leslie did that on every play this time around.

Minnesota's top defensive player is all-pro DE Jared Allen, who ranks second in the NFL with 14.5 sacks for the season. An infamous trash talker, watching him in action you get the feeling that Jared Allen is one of those guys that picks jersey #69 because he thinks it's the funny number; like my friend Mit back on the middle school football team, who after getting jersey #68 lamented, "I was ONNE OFFF!!" I wouldn't be surprised at all if his email address is something like j_allen_69@yahoo.com, like countless other idiotic 7th graders who are trying to be funny.

  Jared Allen went on the radio this week to insult the city of Detroit, saying that if he had to live there, he would likely drown himself in the river. I've got some extra cinder blocks lying around, who wants to grab some string? Joakim Noah tried this tactic a few years back during the Bulls' playoff series against Cleveland. His rant about Cleveland was actually kind of funny, but the Bulls were still blown out of the building by Lebron and co. Well, actually just by LeBron, this is back when he was still a competitor.

 Among the many things that I don't like about Jared Allen is his method of celebrating a sack or a strong defensive play. All he ever does is "the Big Arms", not very creative. Maybe I wouldn't dislike him quite so much if he tried a different celebration every once in awhile, maybe get the teammates involved for a dance number or something.

One of the best parts about the comeback win over Minnesota back in September was the progression of Jared Allen facial expressions on the bench after each shrinkage of his team's 20-0 halftime lead. You know, Vikesing it at first, but then slowly becoming distraught as the DTLs kept scoring. Similar to Quagmire when he found out that Taylor Hanson is a guy (go to 17:23 of the link).


I would end by making some sort of prediction for this week's tilt with the Vikings, but like former Bulls assistant coach Johnny Bach once told Cliff Levingston after being invited out to the strip club, "No, I'm kind of retired from that sort of thing." Good times Cliff was not smiling.

After hitting rock bottom in last week's loss to themselves, at the very least I have to be confident that the DTLs will put forth a better showing in this game. I really hope that Jeff Backus does a lock-down job of blocking Jared Allen, because I'd like to avoid the "Big Arms" celebration from Big Sixty-Nine if at all possible.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sinners vs Saints

"Lord, what fools these mortals be!"

Usually I put a little more thought into these, but I'll just fly off the cuff tonight, what's the point. I'm not even going to bother putting a question mark where it belongs after the previous sentence.

I'll open with saying that I can't think of a time when I've ever been more ashamed and embarrassed to vicariously associate myself with this team. This is worse than Barry rushing for negative 1 yards in the playoffs. This is worse than 0-16. This is worse than last week. Especially living outside of Michigan, how can you look someone in the face and admit to being a fan of the team who just showed the most egregious lack of discipline possible on a football field, on national television, for the second consecutive week?

I was wrong, this goes far beyond Dom Suh. If it was just one player, that's easy enough to fix. Fine him, suspend him, then cut him, and it's someone else's problem. This is a compulsive habit of committing the absolute most 'developmentally delayed' penalties at the absolute worst possible times to commit them, by the MAJORITY of the players on the field at any given time. The Spartys are awfully disappointed that they fucked up their BCS chances last night by running into the kicker. The Lions did the metaphorical equivalent of that at least nine different times tonight. To quote Coach Ping of Hoop Dreams, "this team makes me sick".

The TV cameras showed Jimmy Schwartz on the sideline about midway through the fourth quarter tonight, and he looked like he was about to cry. And quite frankly, I consider myself fortunate that there weren't any cameras on me right about then. You're out there in the fourth quarter of a farily close game, coaching a team in the thick of the playoff hunt, who had a GOLDEN opportunity to help their chances today with EVERY other team close to them in the NFC standings losing their games earlier in the day, with your quarterback playing his best game of the season, and your team is so far beyond your control and playing with such appalling stupidity, that all you can do is stand there biting your lip as hard as you can to prevent yourself from bawling on national television!!!

To quote Coach Ping again, "That is crap! That is DOG-SHIT CRAP!!"

Nate Burleson I believe set an NFL record tonight by committing THREE offensive pass interference penalties. That's not to mention his 15 yard offensive face mask penalty, to give him 55 penalty yards for the game. The truly horrible thing about watching this team, is that even after they do something good, you have to hold off celebrating for a good 3 to 10, sometimes 15 seconds after the play is done, just to make entirely certain that they don't go off and do something absolutely 'developmentally delayed' after the whistle and have it all go to waste. Because most of the time they do!

From where I sit, this team has all to talent in the world to contend and make it to the NFC Championship game this year. However, in no way, shape, or form are they anywhere near deserving to make the playoffs. Where is that team from last year, that despite having so many injuries, bad breaks, and bad calls go against them, fought admirably for the entire season and finished with a 4 game winning streak?

In the fandom of myself, as well as anyone else self-aware enough to admit it, a fine line is walked on a constant basis between fun/entertainment/rooting on your hometown team, and an unhealthy and one-sided emotional attachment to those that play sports better than you. That's the paradox; are sports bigger than the game and societally important, or only because we make them so? With consciousness of that dichotomy, I will go on record to say that tonight, the Detroit Lions franchise were an embarrassment to themselves, to their teammates and coaching staff, to their families, and to the entire state of Michigan.

Hitting a guy in the facemask ten seconds after the play is dead with your team at the one yard line. Throwing the ball into the face of an opponent ten seconds after the play is dead, after catching a punt and getting great field position. Going after the guy who tackled you, five seconds after the play is dead, and then shoving the ref who is doing everything in his power to NOT throw a flag on you. This goes beyond stupidity, NOBODY is that stupid. This is selfishness and a complete egotistical lack of concern for your teammates, organization, and fans. Kevin Smith is out there courageously playing his heart out , essentially on one leg trying to help this team win, and he is repaid by that type of behavior? And it's not even just one player. It is most of them. Why is Dom Raiola getting in Titus's face after a late hit flag? I've seen Raiola commit that same penalty at least five times during his sorry career, so who is he to talk? Schwartz can't even yell at them anymore. This franchise is on the cusp of having their best season in 20 years, and they're out there playing with such a lack of basic mental control that their coach is completely defeated and about to cry right on the sidelines right in the middle of the game. Watching this team play, it honestly looks like they are CONSCIOUSLY TRYING to screw up everything that they've been working towards ever since the end of the 0-16 season.

Not that I stuck up for this type of play earlier on, but I'm done trying to defend this team. It's like being a parent of an underachieving and troublemaking son, and after problem after problem after problem that the child causes, you stick with them. And keep parenting, and think you'll be able to turn them around. And after all the lessons you try to patiently teach, your child finally has a breakthrough during their senior year of high school. And gets straight As. Leads the basketball team to the championship game. All the teachers at the school are raving about how much improved your child's behavior in the classroom has been. And on the night before graduation, this young man gets drunk, crashes the family car, and paralyzes the innocent driver in the other lane.

I'll always love you and always have, but this one is on you.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A look back at December 21, 1997

The DTLs face off against the Saints this week, in a nationally televised night game on NBC. Rather than dwell on the cold hard facts that they'll be without two of their top defenders (Dom and Delmas), are playing an 8-3 team that's undefeated at home, against a QB on pace to break the NFL single-season passing yardage record, with QB9 having matched his jersey number in interceptions over the past three games, with the national media and Jay Leno foaming at the mouth for another opportunity to make the Detroit Lions once again the running joke of professional sports, I'll instead take a different route with this post, one that passes through memory lane.

The last time a Lions game was broadcast on NBC was in the final week of the 1997 season, which happens to be my all-time favorite Lions game. For any of you with twenty minutes to spare, I highly recommend watching the game highlights that I'll post at the end of the post. My own recollections from the fateful game can't begin to do justice to the vast spectrum of emotion captured inside the Silverdome on that day.

First off, I was very sick with the flu that day. I'm talking so sick that my mom didn't even make me go to church that morning. So sick that she actually had to come up to my room at around 4 o'clock to see if I was feeling well enough to go downstairs and watch my beloved Lions. And I actually considered saying no. I believe this to be the one and only time in my life that my mom encouraged me to go watch football. For most Sundays during my childhood, she was doing everything in her power to prevent me from watching the DTLs, like assigning a day's worth of yard work, forcing me to quickly rake all of our leaves into the Bitts's yard, say I was finished, and sprint into the living room just in time to catch Gus Frerotte's 4th and 28 heave to Germane Crowell. The moral of the story is that on this particular day, I was sick enough even to be allowed to skip dinner and watch the Lions versing the Jets while uninterrupted.

The game was important for many reasons, the first being that the winning team would clinch a spot in the playoffs (Bromos in NFC, Jets in AFC), while the loser would be automatically eliminated from contention. Secondly, Barry entered the game needing only 131 yards to reach 2000 for the season, a feat accomplished only twice before in NFL history.

The first half did nothing to help my flu. Jets QB Neil O'Donnell, about as average of a pro quarterback as one can find, methodically picked the defense apart to the tune of an early 10-0 lead. Worse still, Barry couldn't find anywhere to run for much of the first three quarters, with his chances at 2000 looking increasingly dim. Trailing 10-6, Barry finally found a crease on the final play of the third, sprinting for 47 yards, more than double his entire game total to that point. I let out my first words in hours (unless you count puking as words, which I don't), yelling in excitement as Barry brought the fans to life. Two plays later, he scored from 15 yards out, completely freezing two Jets with a move that only he could do, giving Detroit their first lead of the game and setting the stage for a 4th quarter unlike any other.

As soon as Barry scored, the Silverdome crowd stirred into a frenzy, becoming so loud that Neil O'Donnell couldn't even get a play called at the start of the Jets' next drive. He was forced to waste a crucial timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty. Then, as the play clock neared double-zeros for a second time, O'Donnell pleaded with the refs to make the crowd quiet down. The ref clicked on his microphone and asked the fans be quiet so a play could be ran, prompting them to roar even louder than before. The play clock wound down again without the Jets being able to call out their signals, and this time the ref threatened to give the Lions defense a penalty if the noise continued. Finally, play resumed. I had never seen this bizarre situation play out in a game before, and haven't seen it since. Fans in attendance that day still claim that it was the loudest environment they had even been in.

However, just minutes later, the Dome became deafeningly quiet when young linebacker Reggie Brown went down and didn't get back up.

Just six years removed from Mike Utley's tragic paralyzation in a game at the Silverdome, Reggie Brown now lay unconscious in an eerily similar scene. Lions players were close to tears on the sideline as ambulances raced onto the field to try and save Reggie. Members of both teams dropped to their knees in prayer as CPR saved his life. After nearly 20 minutes lying motionless on the field, the ambulance took Reggie Brown away from his teammates and 80,000 fans, none of whom would ever see him play football again. There was still the rest of the 4th quarter to be played. How are you able to finish a football game after something like that happens?

The Jets drove straight down the field when the game finally continued, easily getting inside the ten yard line with a chance to snatch away the lead and whatever air was still left in the Dome. Jets coach Bill Packages then made one of the dumbest coaching calls of his illustrious coaching career. The Jets amazingly ran a half-back toss/pass on first and goal, with their running back chucking a duck straight to Lions' corner Bryant Westbrook in the end zone. Replays clearly showed that Westbrook was out of bounds before gaining control of the ball, but this was before the time of replay challenges, so the call stood. The Lions caught a break and were given the interception. Suddenly there was some noise in the building again, and Barry still had a chance to get his 2000.

Barry kept finding small gaps in the Jets defense, churning away and finally reaching the 2000 milestone right on the nose after a two yard run. The ref stopped the game to hand Barry the game ball, as his teammates mobbed him and the crowd gave a minutes-long standing ovation. The announcers joked that since Barry was notorious for being tackled behind the line of scrimmage, maybe they shouldn't quite celebrate the achievement just yet; after all, he could be stopped for a loss of four on the very next play and be right back to 1996. However, on the next play, Barry emphatically raced 53 yards down the right sideline to put the game away, send the Lions back to the playoffs, and amass 2053 yards for his historic season.

In a haunting duality of life's triumphs and tragedies, two players were carried off the Silverdome Astroturf on December 21, 1997: Reggie Brown, by a frantic team of paramedics, and Barry Sanders, by a euphoric team of Lions.

Let's keep all players healthy this time around, but other than that, here's hoping for another Lions classic on NBC.

Lions/Jets 1997 Highlights part one
Lions/Jets 1997 Highlights part two