With the regular season now down it's final quarter, the DTLs suddenly find themselves with a little bit of breathing room again. It's up for debate whether that's such a good thing or not, comparing the spectacular performances they've put together with their backs against the wall compared to the horse excrement they've come up with every time things are getting a little too comfortable, but for the next 6 days at least, it's an enviable position to be in. With 4 games remaining, winning three or all four definitely gets a banner put up in Ford Field. Winning two would most likely have them in a very good spot, and the way the NFC North is going at the moment it's even conceivable that they could back their way in with one more win.
I'll be flying back to Michigan for Christmas and plan on going to the Giants game on the 22nd, and all I'm asking Santa is for this to be the one that clinches the Detroit Lions' first division title in 20 years.
-It doesn't get much Samer, Older, or Lionser than the first quarter and a half of that game. The offense moved the ball at will and the D held Green Bay to pretty much no yardage...and somehow the Packers were up 10-3 and had the ball at midfield with a golden (or cheese-colored, as they prefer) opportunity to add to the lead midway through the second. Starting with the fake field goal against Pittsburgh and ending with Matthew Stafford's forced interception immediately after getting sacked for a fumble-6, that was one of the worst stretches of Bromothymol self-destruction that I've seen in a while. In just over six quarters of football, they committed 10 turnovers (not counting a blocked punt). When Ty Detmer threw 7 picks in one game back in 2001, everybody just kind of laughed it off because the team was so bad anyway, but how can this happen in the second half of the season in a tight playoff race?
- Can't give enough credit to how the defense has been able to hold up during the turnover meltdown. Against Tampa Bay, they still put the team in position to win the game, and Thursday afternoon, they unleashed what looked like a lot of pent-up frustration on Matt Flynn. Dom Suh and Levy look like easy Pro Bowl picks, and Ziggy is looking like a strong candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year, with his two sacks of Flynn giving him 7 for the season, despite missing two games with injury.
- Watching the offense finally get out of its own way and play to their potential for the final 2 1/2 quarters was pretty fun. Reggie Bush, despite his fumbles, is having a career year playing in this system, and similar to Denard Robinson, he's one of those people is his such a good guy that you can't really get mad at him when he fumbles or drops a pass. Stafford found nine different receivers, throwing TD passes to three of them, and the offensive line was so dominant that that Joicque Bell was only 6 yards away from giving them two separate backs with 100 yard rushing days (Reggie went off for 117). I can't be the only one who's noticed how well rookie O-lineman Larry Warford has played this year, right?
- I loved watching Jeremy Ross help fumble things away for Green Bay against the Bengals earlier in the season, but it's that much sweeter that they cut him the next week, and he got picked up by the DTLs and had the chance to get a little revenge against his former team on Thursday. With a touchdown reception, a 24 yard run on an end-around, and a 35 yard punt return, Ross was a major catalyst in the boys getting the turkey off their backs and finally getting a win on Thanksgiving.
- Packers offensive linemen Josh Sitton was really stirring the pot on Wednesday morning, going on the radio just to call the Lions' D-line 'scumbags' and 'dirtbags' and all other types of bags. Whether that served as extra motivation for Dom and the crew, who knows, but the only type of bags Green Bay should have been worried about by the end of that one was a bodybag for their quarterback. No Flynn Supremacy this time around.
Sometimes it's nice to see other teams screw up
I'm tying myself in knots trying to figure out whether the enemy of my enemy's enemy should be my friend or not, but I've been cheering pretty hard for the Vikings over the past two weeks when they've played Green Bay and Chicago. They've been a good friend indeed, fighting to an overtime draw against the Pack and today nearly having second tie in a row before coming away with a bizarre 23-20 win in overtime. However, it wasn't without some mind-numbingly idiotic decisions from both sides at crucial moments along the way.
The Vikings literally had the game won, kicking a 39-yard field goal to end it in OT, only to have a blocker commit a face mask penalty wiping the points off the board and moving the ball back out of field goal range.While out of field goal range, they decided to try a 57-yarder anyway (seeing as it worked out so well for 'Bama yesterday), giving the Bears the ball near midfield when it missed. Then of course, there was Marc Trestman, opting for a 47-yarder to win the game on 2nd down, rather than run two more offensive plays to get a first down or at least an easier field goal. Blame Robbie Gould all you want for missing it, but a 47-yard kick is anything but a gimme, especially when you have at least two more plays to try and get closer. Yes, stupid turnovers can and do happen, but this was on a scale of 1 to Al Borges, this was an incredibly conservative call. For an unnecessarily comprehensive statistical analysis and over-worded dissection of just how poor this field goal decision was, feel free to check out Bill Barnwell's "Thank You for Not Coaching" column on Tuesday; Trestman's field goal call will likely make the cut.
Can Schwartz just defer when he wins a coin toss from now on?
Something that's been annoying me all season is how it seems like the Lions always end up with the ball to start the game, whether they win the coin toss or not. I went back and checked the play-by-plays of every game so far, and it confirmed my suspicions: the DTLs have gotten the ball first (and therefore have had kickoff to start the second half) in 11 out of their 12 games this year. I feel like Schwartz's rationale for this is to try and attack early, showcasing his high-powered offense right from the start and setting the tone with a quick scoring drive to start each game. This line of thinking is all well and good, except that it hasn't worked a single time the entire year yet. Out of the 11 times that Detroit has started off with the ball, they've come away with a grand total of zero points. The only game where they scored on their first possession was at Chicago, where they started on defense and forced a punt right away, then drove down for a touchdown. For the record, they also scored a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half of that Chicago game, the only time all year that they've received the second half kickoff.
Schwartz knows this. They have like 30 assistant coaches to sift through data like this. It's a coin toss. Schwartz can put his ego away and mix things up a little.
Tough road game against Philly next Sunday. The Eagles are on fire, and Nick Foles hasn't thrown an interception yet this year. Should be a fun test for the Bromothymols, and fortunately this is the type of test that they've actually woken up for so far this season.
Still a lot of issues to clear up with this Lions team. I don't think they've even came close to playing their best game yet, but at the end of the day, I guess I can't say much against beating a bitter division rival by 30 on Thanksgiving.