Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wake me up when September begins

 I will say, the DTLs showed up to play on Saturday, and that first half was sure fun to watch. They marched right down the field on the opening drive and forced a turnover on the Saints' opening drive. And then another on their third drive. They went into halftime with a 14-10 lead. Calvin the Amazing Great was both amazing and great. Titus, Wormtail, and Burleson all made big plays. Stafford set a franchise playoff record with 380 passing yards in his first postseason game. Yet ultimately, the showdown in the Superdome played out like this pivotal scene in "A Knights Tale": the Detroit Lions were weighed, they were measured, and they were found wanting.

"In what world, could you, have ever beaten me?"

It would be very hard for me to say with a straight face that the DTLs were a better team than the Saints this year. The most profilific offense in NFL history rolled up a staggering 626 yards of offense against a defense that was supposed to be pretty good. Brees and the New Orleans receiving corps made Detroit's secondary look like a schoolboy chasing after the bus in vain after sleeping through his alarm. That schoolboy is me, by the way. Luckily, I had a great rapport with my bus driver Dan, and Dan would always wait extra long for me and stop if he saw me in the rearview mirror while pulling away. Unfortunately for the Lions, Big Meachy and Devery Henderson didn't grant that luxury to their secondary, preferring instead to score touchdowns and make Aaron Berry and company look pretty freaking sleaux down on the bayou. Despite the disparity in talent between the Saints offense and Lions D, the Bromothymols still have to be kicking themselves for the amount of opportunities they let slip away in this game.

Once while riding home from school on Dan's bus, a few unruly middle schoolers were tossing a pigskin across the back rows of seats. Laying down the law, Dan yelled back, "Hey! Put football away!" to the offending students. The defending backs for the DTLs would have also done well to heed that piece of advice on Saturday, instead dropping four different golden opportunities for interceptions. You really can't put football away one time out of four? I felt and still feel that Stafford outplayed Brees, with the only difference being that the Saints picked off two of Staff's bad throws, while Brees got away with four bad ones due to all the drops. Add in the fact that the Lions couldn't score any points off of the two New Orleans fumbles, and you see a winnable game and strong effort that just wasn't meant to be.

I can't fault the effort of the boys on Saturday, and I recognize that they happened to catch a rough opening round matchup against a superior team (thanks to the idiotic system that gives home playoff games to 7-9 and 8-8 teams for some reason). Any objective observer can tell you that looking at the DTLs, they can see a team on the verge of greatness, but whose time has not yet arrived. However, we are far past the point of taking playoff appearances for granted. What if all that potential is never realized, and it takes 12 more years to get another shot at this? The thought that I could be 36 years old the next time I get to watch the Lions playing postseason football again in unbearable to me.

The dumber the Berry, the sweeter the juice

If there's any scapegoat to be found from this game, it has to be cornerback Aaron Berry. After allowing 466 passing yards and dropping two giftwrapped interceptions, Berry went on Twitter to tell DTLs fans who were upset by his performance, "Y'all can go back to being Broke and Miserable." Time for me to do my best Jim Rome imitation:

I'm afraid you're a little bit confused, Aaron. At no point during the previous weekend was I more miserable than when I was watching you attempt to play defense on Saturday night. The only broke things I saw were your ankles as the Saints juked you time and again, or perhaps your concentration on those two game-changing interception chances that you managed to gorf up. I understand that some idiot fans may have hurt your feelings, but as a player who is borderline good enough to be in the NFL to begin with, going to a social networking microblog to insult and alienate the fans of the only franchise willing to give you a chance is probably not the best career move to make after hemorrhaging 466 passing yards in a playoff game. I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised or disappointed if this was your final game as a Detroit Lion. The secondary couldn't have been much worse off on Saturday if they'd stuck Aaron Carter in at cornerback (in case you forget who Aaron Carter is, picture a late 90s version of Justin Bieber, minus the fans). Then you want to go on Twitter and remind everyone that at least you're RICH? If I may borrow one more catchphrase from my bus driver Dan, I'll offer this to this to you, Mr. Berry: "Turn around, sit down, and shut up!"

I certainly don't want to let Aaron Berry be the lasting image of this very exciting and memorable rollercoaster of a season, so I'm finished ranting and will move on to some other odds and ends from Saturday night that stuck with me.

Final Thoughts on the Playoff Game

-Among the unexpected people in attendance at the Superdome were Brent Favre and Spike Lee. Now Brent we could have done without, but I thought it was great when the cameras zoomed in on Spikey. Since Spike has an honorary degree from Michigan and not Tulane, it's a safe bet that he was fervently cheering for the DTLs. Brent was not cheering.

-After scoring the game's opening touchdown, Will Heller continued the time-honored NFL tight end tradition of just doing the big hard generic spike of the football to celebrate. Tony Scheffler notwithstanding, what is it about tight ends that make their TD celebrations so unimaginative?

-I said it on draft day and at the mid-point of the season, and I'll say it again: Titus Young will be a very good receiver for the Lions. I by no means am saying that Titus has the physical gifts to be anything like Calvin, but in his rookie year, Titus had the same amount of catches and even more touchdowns than Calvin's 2007 rookie season. He made big catches all year and showed on the opening drive on Saturday that he was not afraid of the moment, coming up with several impressive catches to start off the game.

- Let's not forget how fortunate we are to be able to watch Calvin Johnson play football every week during the fall.

- The Lions for the first time since I've been a fan, finally look like a team on the verge of greatness. While this remains unrealized potential and gives absolutely no guarantee of any type of success moving forward, for the third year in a row the H-Bromos have vastly improved upon their previous season. After watching Stafford play is first full season, I'm beyond impressed with what he was able to accomplish, both statistically and in late game comebacks. Keep in mind that Staff is still about three years away from entering his prime as an athlete. Calvin is just beginning to enter his. With this tandem, it no longer seems absurd to think that this team can finally reach the Super Bowl sometime this decade. Just so long as they take care of business.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Sinners vs Saints, Part Two

Can't say there's another video out there that would get me more pumped for Saturday night than this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRhEcKHU5LY&feature=related

Completely agree with Mr. Mathers, "this ain't a movie, there's no Mekhi Phifer". But if it was a movie, Mekhi Phifer would likely play the role of DTLs safety Louis Delmas, by virtue of his impeccable dreadlocks. And while I'm playing this game, I'll go ahead and cast Eminem as Jason "the Best in the Business" Hanson, the role he always knew he was born to play. Since I brought up Eminem, I'll also go ahead and share a funny anecdote that blends the topics of Em and football...

When I was in early high school, I had the PS2 game "ESPN Football", a slightly inferior Madden competitor with a gimmicky 'first person football' option that let you play the game from the perspective of inside the player's helmet, which by the way was ridiculously stupid. Anyhow, another feature of the game was that it played fake songs over the stadium loudspeaker; you know, songs that sounded very much like other popular tunes of the time, but that were just slightly off in order to avoid copyright infringement (a technique also employed to hilarious effect by the Disney Channel show "Even Stevens"). Examples of these fake songs included Lenny Kravitz's "Fly Away", The Kinks' "You Really Got Me", and Gary Glitter's "The Hey Song". My favorite of these songs was a ripoff of Em's "Lose Yourself", which would often play right before a kickoff. It always cut off just before any lyrics were sung, but me and Big Mitchy always pictured that it would have been something like,

"You'd better, not be able to find yourself,
in the music, the instant, you want it,
you'd better always hold on to it!
You won't get a second chance,
do not miss your chance to go!
This opportunity comes once, before you die!"

In the soundtrack to the game, the name of that song was "N n' N". So shameless.

So I hear the rematch is on. Same time, same place, same TV channel, same record-setting QB wearing the fleur-de-lis helmet on the other side of the line. The last time the Detroit Lions won a playoff game, I didn't yet know who the Detroit Lions were. The last time they won a playoff game on the road, my Pops didn't yet know who the Detroit Lions were. In part one of this Saga Genesis, we saw a DTLs meltdown akin to Dr. Robotnik going haywire after Sonic get the final hit on him in the Final Zone. What gives fans like myself the hope, no, the expectation that things will be different this time around?

For one thing, the H-Bromo defense will have a few key players back this week that were unavailable the first time the two teams played: wounded warrior Louis Delmas, back from a knee injury, and wounding warrior Dom Suh, back from his Stompsgiving suspension. Despite how unremarkable of a season Dom has thus far had, I have to think his presence on Saturday will help the front four to get some much-needed pressure on Brees. Delmas, who has missed the last five games, is the heart and soul of a hot and cold secondary that feeds off of his boundless energy and enthusiasm when on the field.

Even amid the injuries and suspensions in the first meeting, the game was actually much closer than the 31-17 final score would indicate. New Orleans jumped out to a big first half lead. but the Lions outplayed them in the final 2 1/2 quarters if you take away their unbelievably stupid penalties (I know you can't really take them away, but let's pretend). For all the (much deserved) accolades the Saints' high powered offense receives, the boxscore shows that the Lions actually outgained them in that game, 466-438. About those penalties...

It is no secret that Detroit's immaturity directly cost them 10 points in that game, and indirectly cost them a lot more, figuring in wasted field position and wiped out first downs and all. This culminated in a grand total of 107 penalty yards, three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, and three offensive pass interference penalties on the same player, which I still believe has to be some kind of record. Like how Happy Gilmore still holds a Junior League hockey record for being the only guy ever to take his skate off and try to stab someone.

For those who forget, Jimmy Schwartz was left teary-eyed and speechless, Stafford's 400 yard passing game went completely unnoticed, and after the game, Dom Raiola (master of the illegal snap penalty) yelled to the locker room to "Grow the F#@K up!", as reported by the Detroit Free Press. I wonder how one goes about pronouncing the word 'F#@K', or if Raiola actually said 'FUCK' and one of Michael Rosenberg's buddies just misquoted him, as so often happens in journalism these days. To prove my point, I don't even know if it was actually the Free Press that reported that. I'm just fed up with the sloppy typographical errors that appear in seemingly every one of their on-line articles (even more than this blog), so I feel like making fun of them.

As for other reprimandings that occurred following the penalty debacle, it's been reported that rookie Titus Young got plenty of earsful from his coaches and veterans on the squad, and I assume that Stef Logan received the same and is genuinely remorseful for his actions. As for Pettigrew, I'm not worried about him one bit; I hear that Voldemort gave ol' Wormtail a thick dose of the cruciatus curse back at the Riddle House following his personal foul penalty and subsequent bumping of the ref. If that doesn't help get the message across, I don't know what will.

(and since Nitch requested it)...
There are two things in the Harry Potter movie series regarding wand use that I found to be humorous:
1) the way Lord Voldemort holds his wand kind of skinny in Goblet of Fire. Tentatively, using all five of his long fingers, but barely grasping it. That was done perfectly.
2) When one wizard threatens another, they always hold the point of the wand close to the other's throat, as if it were a sharp knife or switchblade. Since a) the point of a wand is not sharp, and b) several much more painful curses can be performed from a longer range, this is completely unnecessary in my opinion. Back to pigskin.

If the DTLs go out and underperform on Saturday, the cliche that the squawking heads in the sports media will probably use is, "oh, they were just happy to be there in the first place". To some degree, this is true, at least from a fan's perspective. I haven't been able to watch Lions playoff football in quite a long time, and I'm very excited that I'll have the chance this weekend. I don't harbor any wet dreams of winning the Super Bowl, at least not this year, especially with the vicious schedule moving forward (all roads seem to go through Green Bay at this point). However, I think our Bromothymols have the firepower to hang around with anybody, and this should make for a very compelling shot at redemption on Saturday.

I will certainly be wearing my new B.Sanders throwback jersey to work tomorrow.

As Pops says while reaching the crest of every roller coaster at Cedar Point, "Here we gooo, babbbeeyyy!!!"

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Flynn Supremacy

Is there a quarterback controversy suddenly brewing in Green Bay? My sources tell me no NO, but I tell me YES, and the locker room divide that this could cause may very well derail Green Bay’s hopes of a second straight Super Bowl run.

 I’m upset about the Lions’ loss today, not because of the game itself, but because I didn’t get to watch any of it. The biggest downside to being an oxymoronical blogger with a life is that I have to be traveling during the entirety of what sounded like a highly entertaining game of pigskin on the final day of the regular season. With 3 ½ hours of downtime in Chicago before a final flight to Denver, I should have at least been able to catch the final 8 minutes of the DTLs…but no. Upon arrival at O’Hare International, the only games in sight were the Atlanta Falcons and the Timmys. I’m pretty sure this happened either because of sour grapes by the Bears fans in the vicinity, or due to a budgeting flaw by the O’Hare Planning Committee that allocated too much money toward building large replica dinosaur skeletons and not enough money toward adding a few more television channels. Or at the very least, they could have used the extra dough to build an underground doomsday shelter for the world leaders once the apocalypse happens, like at the Denver Airport. This was exactly the type of game that was just purely fun to watch too. Both teams had essentially already clinched what they wanted to clinch (Lions could have gained one more playoff seed), and they were all just out there tossing the skin around and having a good time. No, the football part isn’t what bothered me.

 If Jason Bourne, in his first sniff of the field all season, can come in and throw more TDs than even Aaron Rog could dream of, you just tip your cap and say, “at least now we don’t have to play you guys again until the NFC Championship.” Stafford had a few picks, but still racked up over 500 yards and 5 TDs through the air. When even your biggest detractor goes on record to text, “at the end of the day, who am I to question a dude throwin for 40 TD and 15 int?”, it’s a safe bet that your first real job after college is off to a good start (41 TD and 16 picks are Staff’s final regular season numbers). Calvin the Amazing Great continues to astound, coming within 58 yards of Cloyce Box’s single game receiving record, with 11 catches, 244 yards, and another TD.

 A few other thoughts to wrap up what was a fine Honolulu Bromothymol regular season:

-My mom gave me a new iPhone for Christmas, which I’m very grateful for. However, I think the ESPN Gamecast app must be faulty, as it reported to me that Jason Hanson missed a chipshot 39-yard field goal today. Surely, such a travesty could not have occurred, not to the Best in the Business.

-I haven’t been able to sneak in this small piece of trivia in any of my other posts, so with the regular season drawing to a close, I suppose now is as good of a time as any: Over the course of the season, I’ve noticed that DTLs linebacker Bobby Carpenter looks a lot like infamous werewolf/Death Eater pledge Fenrir Greyback of the Harry Potter series (Compare and contrast, Bobby and Fenrir). Actually, that brings me to another point from the Harry Potter series that has troubled me somewhat through the years. Of the two known werewolves mentioned in the books, both have uncannily wolfish names. There is Fenrir Greyback, whose first name is derived from a famous wolf in Norse mythology (Fenrirsulfr), and surname happens to be a common attribute of wolves. Then you have Remus Lupin, the Remus likely taken from the founding father of Rome who was raised by wolves, the Lupin meaning “wolf-like” in Latin. Now, if Lupin and Greyback had been werewolves from birth, I would understand their being named as such, but as both became werewolves sometime in their childhoods (lycanthropy being a random condition that only afflicts the unlucky few who are bitten), either a) it was simply destined from birth that Greyback and Lupin would eventually become werewolves, or b) J.K. Rowling was using some clever wordplay that appears tacky in retrospect. Anyway, this is a discussion topic for an entirely different blog, I don’t know what I was thinking.

- As I write this, Atlanta is beating whatever piss the Buccaneers have left out of them, with a 42-7 halftime lead. This means that the DTLs will almost certainly be the #6 seed in the NFC Playoffs unless some Houston Oilering of epic proportions happens in the second half. This also means a return to the Superdome against the Saints for a rematch of the Sunday Night abomination that happened a month ago. Let’s hope the Dome is kind to the state of Michigan in the near future, as both the DTLs and the Maize and Bromothymol Wolverines will travel there for huge games this week. I’ve heard that it’s wrong to make bargains with your God, but if I could only have one, I’d take a Lions win over a Michigan one any day of the week, including the Sabbath.

- The Lions’ 45-41 loss to Green Bay in today’s shoot out makes their path out of the first round a little more difficult (a win today and they’d have the pleasure of beating either the shaky Giants or the shakier Cowboys in the Wild Card game)*Update: Giants it is. The upside is that the path to the NFC Championship game is actually a little easier as the #6 seed. Win the Wild Card game as the 6, and instead of playing the Packers on the frozen tundra in round 2, they would instead play a pleasant-weather game in San Francisco. I know that a team must be extremely good to go 13-3 in the NFL, but the thing about the 49ers is that they just don’t seem that good. Beating the Saints will be very difficult, but if the boys somehow pull it off, I would be quite confident about getting a win at San Francisco the next week. Bet Schwartz would have a great handshake in store for Harbaugh after that one! My recommendation would be “the tickler”, a move in which you use the middle finger to give an uncomfortable tickle to the victim’s lower palm during the shake.
*Correction: It has been brought to my attention that the NFL does not used a fixed playoff system. The #1 seed gets matched up with the lowest remaining seed in the Divisional round, so if the Lions beat New Orleans, they will play Green Bay in their next game regardless.

 I’ll be working next weekend, so with any luck, the football gods will be kind and give a late kickoff for the DTLs game. I’ll be back sometime during the week with some more playoff fever, and until then, I’ll leave you with a hearty DE-TROIT LIONS! DE-TROIT LIONS! DE-TROIT LIONS! DE-TROIT LIONS!!!!