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.

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