Category Archives: NFL Football

Detroit Lions – Need Defensive Playmakers and Big Running Back

Lions have been fairly active in the free-agent market.  They have especially beefed up the right side of the offensive line signing right tackle Rick Wagner from the Baltimore Ravens and stole T.J. Lang, a Detroit homeboy, from the Green Bay Packers.  Wagner and Lang more than make up for the loss of Riley Reif (Vikings) and Larry Warford (Saints.)

The Lions offensive line should be more productive with a starting O-line of Decker at left tackle, Tomlinson at left guard, Swanson at center, Lang at RG and Wagner at right tackle along with free agent TE Darren Fells who is a good blocking TE.  It’s a solid offensive line that will protect QB Matthew Stafford better and open up decent running lanes.

There is a point of contention that the Lions need to have defensive playmakers.  I couldn’t agree more but I don’t think they need to use their first round pick, not when the lack of a running game is so apparent.  I had written an article, back on February 18, that in the draft, the Lions should get a running back with their first pick.  With the recent free agent signings of Lang and Wagner, I believe it’s the correct move even more.

Now I know there are big supporters of Ameer Abdullah and I don’t deny that he can be a dynamic playmaker if he can stay healthy.  Granted he is coming into his third year and he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder since he will feel that he’s got something to prove.  Abdullah believes that he can be an every down back that the Lions have been so desperately seeking.  But the NFC North is one of the most physical divisions in the NFL.  And at 5-9 and 209 lbs., I’m not convinced that he will be able to take the wear and tear of playing in such a tough division.

So to those fans who feel the need to go with a defensive playmaker in the first round, hear me out.  If the Lions cannot find better balance on the offensive side of the ball, no matter how good of a defensive player, the Lions will struggle to get above .500 in 2017.

The best defense the Lions can play is a well-rested one.  That means the Lions will need to control the clock and that means having an effective ground attack.  I would love to see the Lions with an average time of possession to be anywhere from 31 to 33 minutes a game, which would be a one to three minute improvement.  Keeping the ball and extra one to three minutes a game means more scoring opportunities for the Lions and less for opponents.  I’d much rather see opposing defenses gasping for breath as the Lions churn out first down after first down and getting more into the end zone instead of field goals.

In my expert opinion (OK, I admit, I am a legend in my own mind), I would trade Abdullah for draft picks…perhaps picking up a 3rd round pick in 2017 and maybe another 3rd round pick in 2018.

Then I would target D’Onta Foreman, the 6’1″, 250 lbs. beast out of Texas.  He was one of the most productive runners in the 2016 collegiate season, averaging 6.3 yards per carry, gaining over 2,000 yards and running for 15 touchdowns.  And once he gets past the line, he will look for contact and run over defenders.

By drafting Foreman, you make Jim Bob Cooter’s offense just that much more dangerous.  Matt Stafford will become even more efficient as a passer since the defense will have to creep up to protect against the run.  That frees up Golden Tate and Marvin Jones for some 1-1 opportunities and give TE Eric Ebron receiving opportunities underneath for six to ten yard gains.

Let’s not forget that the Lions have one of the best 3rd down backs in the league in Theo Riddick as well as a change of pace runner in Zack Zenner to spell Foreman.

Control time of possession just allows so many scoring chances and keeps opposing quarterbacks on the bench which where they are the least effective.  I am so tired of Aaron Rodgers pretty much having his way with the Lions either at Ford Field or at Lambeau.  Keep him on the bench and he can’t hurt you.

So take Foreman with the first pick and then address the rest of the needs in later rounds.

Lions need to get a middle linebacker.  Tahir Whitehead gave up too many passes over the middle.  Good player against the run and on occasion can get after the quarterback, but Lions need a linebacker that can stay with opposing tight ends.  The middle is probably the weakest area on the field for the Lions in regard to pass defense.

Round 2 pick:  Jarrad Davis, Florida  6-1, 238 lbs., Linebacker

In his senior year, Davis recorded 60 tackles, two sacks and broke up four passes.  He has above grade instincts and is a play-maker on the field to go along with his leadership skills.  He does need to improve getting off blocks but he has skills and is a dangerous blitzer.  He is very physical when hitting backs, quarterbacks, receivers and offensive linemen.  Will bring a certain amount of nastiness to the defense.

Round 3 pick:  Jordan Willis, Kansas State  6-3, 255 lbs., Defensive End

Jordan Willis has good speed for his size with a 4.53 40 time.  At the combine, he looked smooth and athletic in the field drills.  As for his season, he caused a lot of disruption and negative plays.  With 16.5 sacks, 52 tackles (17.5 of them for loss) and three forced fumbles, he would be a great bookend for Ziggy Ansah.

Round 4 pick:  Davon Godchauex, LSU  6-3, 310 lbs.  Defensive Tackle

Godchauex has a good first step off the ball with speed to shoot the gap.  He has the ability to fire up the field and get to the quarterback as well as being effective in stunts to loop around and causing disruption.  He is at his best charging up field and dropping running backs for loss and sacking the QB.  He needs to work on holding his own against downhill runners but his upside is to good to pass up.

There are a few more areas the Lions need help…and despite signing  free agent TE Darren Fells, he isn’t the pass catching TE the Lions could use.  I would love to see the Lions nab Seattle Seahawk TE Luke Willson who is on the cusp of breaking out.  He could very well challenge Ebron for playing time.  He’s a smart receiver with good route instincts and not a bad blocker to boot.

Ah heck, if I was a good GM, some team would hire me, right?

Go Lions!

 

 

Detroit Lions – Draft A Running Back!

There…that picture right there is what I want other teams to see when they think about the Detroit Lions running game.

Most NFL draft experts are seeing the Lions leaning toward focusing on defense for the 2017 draft.  I seriously think that would be a mistake.  The Lions need to cultivate a highly-effective running game and soon.

Yes, yes, I know that mantra “Defense wins championships.”  So I did a bit of research.  Granted, my research isn’t on the level of some (ok, most) sites but I think it tells a story.

Over the past 10 years, winning Super Bowl teams have ranked, on average, about 15th in the league in rushing the ball with a 114.8 yards per game.  Losing teams were ranked 14th at 120.8 yards per game.  Over that same 10 year span, the Lions average rank was 27th with a 90.8 yards per game average.

As for defense, I used total yards allowed for ranking.  On winning Super Bowl teams, they ranked on average 11th in the league, giving up 317.8 yards a game, while the losing side ranked 12th while giving up 323 yards per game.  The Lions?  A dismal rank of 21 with a 356.7 yards per game average.  However, over the last five years, they rank right with Super Bowl teams at 13 while giving up 338.6 yards per game.

Not so with the running game over the past five years.  The Lions ranked at an average of 26 with a 93.4 yards per game.

While I agree that there are some defensive needs, I think getting a 3-down back to go with a healthy Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah  and Zack Zenner would do a couple of things.

First, it would allow the Lions to improve on time of possession.  Keeping opposing QB’s on the bench is a huge deal, especially when it comes to Aaron Rodgers.

Second, it would allow the Lions defense to stay fresh.  They could pin their ears back and get after opposing QB’s for the entire game instead of being out on the field all the time gasping for breath.

Third, it would make Matthew Stafford a much more effective quarterback.  Since the Lions running doesn’t scare opposing teams all that much, play fakes aren’t near as effective.  Imagine the Lions are in a tight game late in the third quarter with a 7 point lead.  But instead of a rushing total of less than 40 yards by that time, they have a back that’s at 75 yards or more.  Stafford can either give the ball in a draw situation which freezes D-lineman and allows the offensive line to block effectively and the play gains 7-10 yards, moves the chains and the clock keeps moving.

Or, Stafford pulls the ball back, the runner dives into the line which forces the secondary to come up…Stafford drops two more steps, turns and throws a 30-yard strike down the sideline to Golden Tate who takes it in for a score.

A big running back with speed and good hands can do all that for a team.  Just ask the Dallas Cowboys how they feel about Ezekiel Elliott these days.

I know Darius Slay needs help in the secondary but I also believe that can be had in the later rounds.  I love Sidney Jones’s potential but to be honest, it’s not the most critical need.

Lions need to get a running back and I think they should do that in the first round.   Then they can focus on other needs with the other 6 picks.  Keep in mind that selecting any of these could mean using Abdullah or Riddick as trade material for future picks.

Options at 21:

  • Alvin Kamara – Tennessee.  5-10, 215 lbs.  4.55 40 time.
  • Christian McCaffery – Stanford.  6-1, 200 lbs.  4.49 40 time
  • Dalvin Cook – Florida State.  6-0, 203 lbs.  4.52 40 time
  • D’Onta Foreman – Texas.  6-1, 249 lbs.  4.55 40 time.

Kamara is a Jamal Charles style runner.  He is a fast-slasher type of runner with some power.  He has great hands and can be used as a slot receiver.  If the Lions are confident with Kamara, they can trade Theo Riddick for multiple draft picks to use later to shore up the defense.  I love Riddick but I think Kamara can be an every down back and be just as effective on third down as Riddick.

McCaffery has acceleration and explosiveness that separates him from other runners.  Think Reggie Bush with some power.  He may not run over tacklers but he does make yardage after contact.  He is a home run threat on every down, has a great first step and doesn’t need much of a hole to get into the second level of defense.  A patient runner, he can wait for the hole to develop as well and he is a capable receiver.  He is the fastest of the four backs I have targeted.  McCaffery could make Abdullah expendable while keeping Riddick as the 3rd down back and Zenner as a capable back-up.

Cook is reminiscent of Marshawn Lynch.  Good speed, athleticism and versatility.  He is put together well with a thick lower body that allows him to keep his balance and pick up additional yards after contact.  He is fast to the hole and has serious acceleration when he gets into the secondary.  There is some off-field issues that the Lions may want to be cautious about.  Last thing we need is another Titus Young issue.  But Cook has some serious upside to him with speed to run away from most defensive backs and is a threat to score from anywhere on the field.

Foreman, the biggest back isn’t much of a receiver but is a load who can and will run over the opposition.  With an average of 6.3 yards a carry and rushing for 2,028 yards, he was one of the most productive runners in the nation.  Might also resolve some of the red zone issues the Lions have.  With 15 touchdowns last season, Foreman knows how to get into the end zone.

My gut tells me they should draft Foreman.  Lions have their slash and speed runners in both Riddick and Abdullah.  Foreman would be the grinder the Lions need to have time of possession stat improve.

The other back I would love to see in Honolulu blue would be McCaffery.  He just looks like he would leave it all out on the field and would take so much pressure of Stafford.

Then the Lions would have six other picks to concentrate on defense.  There would be some great options for the Lions with their second pick for cornerback.

  • Tre’Davious White – LSU.  5-11, 191 lbs.  4.53 40 Time
  • Jalen Tabor – Florida.  6-0, 191 lbs.  4.49 40 Time
  • Gareon Conley – Ohio State.  6-0, 195 lbs.  4.45 40 Time
  • Cordrea Tankersley – Clemson.  6-1, 195 lbs.  4.43 40 Time

White played well in 2016.  He made 35 tackles and broke up 14 passes to go along with two interceptions.  He’s a good corner to run with receivers and prevent separation.  He does have issues with big receivers.  He can return punts so he can pack a lot of bang for the buck.

Tabor has good ball skills and has the instincts to make big plays.  He also gambles and can struggle with receivers that have deep speed.    However, he is very good at running the receiver’s route and prevent separation in the short to intermediate part of the field, an area where the Lions have struggled.  He uses his quickness and athleticism to stay with wideouts in and out of their break which puts him in good position to drive on the ball and he breaks on the ball hard.  Tabor has good hands and times his contact with receivers to lead to incompletions rather than penalties.

Conley recorded 26 tackles, broke up 8 passes and intercepted opposing quarterbacks 4 times in 2016.  He is a solid defender who could go in the first round but if he is available with the Lions at 56, they might be wise to take him while they can.  He has a good skill set and pairing him with Darius Slay would improve the Lions secondary nicely.

Tankersley was part of a tough cornerback duo for Clemson in 2015 when he was paired with Mackenzie Alexander.  He showed impressive skills with five interceptions and nine broken passes.  He was thrown at more than Alexander but he was up to the task.  He followed up with four interceptions and broke up 10 passes in 2016.  He has the size and skill to be a starter in the NFL and could be a steal if he is still available when the Lions pick in the 2nd round.

Lions need to improve the running game to make Stafford a much more effective and a deep passing threat.  They also need to improve in the run game to not be one-dimensional.  Once the Lions got pinned and had to pass, with no threat in the run game, opposing defenses went after Stafford hard.  A good to great running game protects the Lions biggest asset and allows him to perform to a much higher level.

So Detroit Lions, DRAFT A DAMN RUNNING BACK!

Patriots Play Lucy to Falcons Charlie Brown, Win 34 – 28

I hate Tom Brady.

I hate Bill Belichick.

I hate the New England Patriots.

I hate the fact that Tom Brady is so freaking good and comes up huge in big games.  I am not looking forward to all of the GOAT talk that will invariably surround him from this day forward until he mercifully retires from the game.  But the way he has been playing, that may not be for another five years or so.

I hate the fact that Bill Belichick is always so calm during the face of adversity.  Granted, he came close to being unglued a few times in the first quarter but by the end of the first half, down 21-3, you could just see that he was going to come up with something to get back into the game.

His quarterback was getting hit, a pick-six interception was forced as well as a fumble.  Just how good was it going for the Atlanta Falcons?  Better than head coach Dan Quinn could have imagined.

In the third quarter, Atlanta thought they had put a strong nail in the coffin by going up 28-3.  But New England came back and put six on the board.  Normally reliable Steve Gostkowski went wide with the extra point.  Personally, I thought that would have taken the wind out of the Patriots sails and lift Atlanta a bit.  But that wasn’t the case.

The crucial turn in the game, for me was at 3:56 left to go in the fourth quarter.  Atlanta was up 28-20 and driving from New England 23 yard line, second down and 11 yards for a first down.  They were in good shape for a field goal, about a 33-35 yards away, well within the range for Falcon’s kicker Matt Bryant.  One would think with the success Atlanta had running the ball, they would have kept it on the ground.

And for some damn reason, the Falcons choose to pass the ball.  New England’s Trey Flowers dropped Falcons QB Matt Ryan for a 12-yard loss.  Now it’s third down and 23 yards needed for a first down.  Still within range for Matt Bryant from 47 yards out.

Again, they dropped back to pass and completed a nine yarder to Mohamed Sanu to give Bryant just a little more insurance.  But a flag was thrown on the play for offensive holding on lineman Jake Matthews.

In two plays, the Atlanta Falcons went from 2nd down from the 23 yard line to 3rd down and 33 yards.  From New England’s 23 yard line to New England’s 45 yard line, making a field goal attempt of 55-58 yards.  Even indoors, I don’t think Matt Bryant has that kind of leg.

On third down, Matt Ryan threw an incomplete pass and the Falcons were forced to punt.  And that was the ball game.  From there, New England marched down the field to score and then made the 2 point conversion to tie the game at 28.

New England won the toss and in 3 minutes and 58 seconds in overtime, became the winners of Super Bowl LI.

There are two questions I have for the Atlanta Falcons:

  1. Why change the defensive strategy of going after Brady?  Atlanta was getting to Brady often, getting him out of rhythm and making him throw when he didn’t want to.  Later in the second half, Brady was barely touched as the Falcons chose to drop back in coverage and play a prevent defense.  All that did was prevent them from winning the Super Bowl.
  2. Why didn’t you run the ball at 3:56 to stay within Matt Bryant’s range to make it a two score game?  Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman had run the ball effectively and had in fact, gotten into the Patriots secondary a few times.

If the Falcons would have stayed with the game plan of going after Brady, I’m convinced they would be the champs instead of New England.  Yes, it is a tiring effect on the defense to chase the QB all the time.  But when you have one of the best passers in the game on the ropes, you don’t let him get up.  I would have even been OK if the Falcons had taken a couple of roughing the passer penalties if it would have caused Brady to be looking out of his ear hole of his helmet.

And giving up points is perhaps the worst thing a team can do.  Those three points the Atlanta Falcons didn’t score when they were up 28-20 were the biggest three points they could have ever scored.  It would have made it a 2 score game and even as hot as the Patriots were, I just don’t think they would have had the time to win it.

The Atlanta Falcons are a young team with an experienced QB who did fairly well on the big stage.  And in the end, there were only two outcomes that could happen for them:  Win or Lose,  This time they lost but I believe there will be a next time for the Atlanta Falcons.

Dan Quinn has  good scheme in place.  And even though he will be losing Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shananhan, who will become head coach for San Francisco, he is getting another offensive wizard in Chip Kelly.

And yes, those gosh-darn New England Patriots (did I mention I hate these guys?) will also be in the mix yet again.

Remember, only 214 more days until the 2017 season begins!

Super Bowl LI Prediction – Going With The Atlanta Falcons

super-bowl-li

I just know everyone has been waiting for the Beer Thinker’s prediction on the Super Bowl.  And to be quite honest, I needed to really do a deep search on what my prediction would be.

Everyone knows that Bill Belicheck’s philosophy in winning games is to take away the opponent’s strength.  It’s been a great strategy for them over the past 14 years.  One can hardly argue with a team that has gone 176-48 over that span, winning 78% of the time.

There are a lot of teams in the NFL that would love to say a 10-6 season was an “off” one.  Just ask the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns.

Back to Belicheck’s philosophy regarding taking away a teams strength.  In the case of the Atlanta Falcons, I believe they just have too many weapons, starting with quarterback Matt Ryan.

Ryan passed for 4,944 yards with 38 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions.  He has been cool and calm under pressure and with the myriad of targets he has available, he has also come adept at finding the open man.

Let’s start with Julio Jones who is the most potent offensive weapons that Ryan has available to him.  While Jones has missed some playing time this year with various injuries, he still put together a stellar season…1,409 yards receiving along with 6 touchdowns.  And let’s not forget the monster game he had against the Carolina Panthers when he torched them for 300 yards and a TD.

Going to take away Jones?  Now you need to worry about Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel.  Combined they have caught 131 passes for 1,232 yards and 10 touchdowns.  And let’s not forget running back Devontae Freeman coming out of the backfield with 54 catches for 462 yards and 2 scores.

Take away the passing game?  No worries, Freeman put up solid numbers there as well with 1,079 yards rushing and 11 TD’s.  And his partner in crime, Tevin Coleman, rushed for 520 yards with 8 scores.  Both Freeman and Coleman average 4 plus yards a carry and both have breakaway speed once they get in the secondary.

New England just won’t have enough defense to focus on just one area of the game.

That’s not to say that they are just going to roll over.  Admittedly, I am not a Patriots fan, I have to admire there consistency and game planning.

Tom Brady, despite missing 4 games because of the Deflategate fiasco, still passed for 3,554 yards with 28 TD’s and just 2 interceptions, completing 67% of his passes.

With Rob Gronkowski out with a back injury, the remaining Patriots receivers have stepped up.  One of Brady’s favorite targets has been Julian Edelman who led the Pats wit 1,106 yards receiving but only 3 scores.  Edelman’s job has been to be Brady’s go to guy on third down and he has excelled at it.

TE Martellus Bennett has done a serviceable job.  He comes in with 55 catches for 701 yards and 7 touchdowns and has a knack for making a big play when the Patriots need it.  Chris Hogan has come on strong in the playoffs, especially against the Steelers when he lit them up with 9 catches for 180 yards and 2 TD’s.

Patriots rushing attack, while not as strong as Atlanta’s two headed monster of Freeman and Coleman, isn’t anything to sneeze at.  LaGarrette Blount had a fine season with 1,168 yards and 18 scores.  Not much of a receiving threat as he only had 7 catches for 38 yards in 2016.  For a receiving threat out of the backfield, Brady will rely on RB James White who had 60 catches for 551 yards and 5 TD’s.

It could be said offensively that who is better is a toss-up.  I give a slight edge to the Falcons…they just have too many weapons and they can hang with the Patriots offense just fine.

Defensively is ultimately where this game will be decided and I believe that Atlanta will have the edge.  Atlanta has great team speed defensively and I can see them getting some hits on Brady.

Atlanta tallied 34 sacks in 2016 with linebacker Vic Beasley racking up 15.5 of them.  The defensive line collectively sacked opposing QB’s 12 times.  The ageless wonder of Dwight Freeney recorded 3 sacks used in situational schemes.

As for the secondary, the Falcons intercepted opposing teams 12 times running back 3 of them for scores.  Linebacker Deion Jones led the way with 3 interceptions, 2 of them the pick-six variety.

Atlanta defended 90 passes and many of those were clutch 3rd down situations to force three and outs, getting the ball back to their offense.

New England also racked up 34 sacks in 2016 with D-Lineman Trey Flowers leading the way with seven.  Jabaal Sheard recorded five sacks and former Ram Chris Long chipped in with four.  The have a pretty good defensive line scheme that will attack QB’s from different directions.  Matt Ryan will need to rely on his offensive line to give him the time he needs.

New England also intercepted opposing teams 13 times but none resulting in a score.  New England defended 68 passes but also gave up a lot of ground while doing so.

What I see is Atlanta being able to control the clock better than New England to keep Brady on the sidelines.  They will take there shots and once they start scoring, head coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will step on the gas and stay on it until the game clock reaches 0:00 and Lombardi Trophy for Super Bowl LI will be theirs.

 

Detroit Lions – Look Forward to 2017 and Beyond

running-lion

Well damn.

The Detroit Lions came to Seattle to play in the NFC Wild Card game with some lofty expectations…only to discover that the Seattle Seahawks were indeed a very large obstacle they could not get around.

Some of it was of their own doing. The four dropped passes (three of which would have led to first downs). Four very stupid 15-yard penalty calls (two by 13 year veteran Anquan Bouldin and one by Haloti Ngata, an 11-year vet. Those two players should know better.) And of course, the most evident, they were made one-dimensional when the Seahawk defense took away the Lions anemic running and forced Matthew Stafford to put the game on his shoulders.

Not that Matthew Stafford didn’t relish the challenge. I mean, after all, he did lead the Lions this year to an NFL record of 8 fourth quarter comebacks in 2016. And don’t give me that tripe that they accomplished that feat against mediocre teams. Ticks me off to no end when Peyton Manning, Eli Manning or Tom Brady accomplish something similar to this and they are hailed the greatest. But when Matthew Stafford does it, it’s for some other reason.

I’m not going to re-hash the season nor am I going to re-hash the wild card game. You all saw it. Suffice to say, I was rather uncomfortable when I showed up to a friend’s house to watch the game in my Golden Tate III jersey…and even more so after the game had ended. Thankfully I have fantastic friends so the needling wasn’t too awful.

I will say this: I am going to give the Lions organization a pass for 2016. Not that it is of any great importance that I do so since I really, really doubt that what I write here for Beer Thinker Sports is read by anyone in the Detroit Lions organization. None the less, I’ll give them the pass.

My reasons are that since this is the first full season for GM Bob Quinn. And while some of the moves and acquisitions he made prior to the start of the season got the Lions a chance to be in the playoffs, there is more work to be done. And I’m sure Mr. Quinn will be the first to admit it.

What I am going to offer is just my opinion on what’s needed for the future of the Detroit Lions.

  1. The road to the NFC North Division runs through Green Bay. Not a big surprise. Since 2011, the Green Bay Packers have won the NFC North title five out of the last six years. Not sure how they can accomplish that other than to say it rests all on how well Aaron Rodgers plays. And for the last three years, when it looked as though each time the Pack had no chance of even getting to the playoffs, they find a way to dig deep and pull yet another miracle season. So the first step for the Lions to be successful is to build a team that can stop Aaron Rodgers. Best way to beat him is to keep him off the field. That means the Lions need to get themselves a running game that can tire out an opportunistic Green Bay defense and keep their best player on the bench. That means improving the Lions offensive line and getting a dominating running back to take pressure off Mathew Stafford. It also means the Lions need an upgrade to the defense, particularly in the secondary as well as the defensive line. Darius Slay is a good cornerback but Rodgers pin point accuracy can defeat just about any one on one coverage. In order to force Rodgers into mistakes, pressure has to be put on him, force him into making mistakes. Unfortunately, it’s a Catch-22 as Rodgers has an insane ability to escape and keep plays alive until someone gets open. But if the Lions can get another speed rusher to complement Ziggy Ansah and replace an aging Haloti Ngata, they just might be able to at least stay with the Packers.
  2. The Lions need to get a big running back to help Matthew Stafford. No surprise here. For the last 10 years, the Lions have averaged an anemic 92.8 yards a game and only once did a player top 1,000 yards for the season, Reggie Bush in 2013 for 1,006 yards. I don’t know about you but I am pretty fed-up hearing the words the Lions need an “effective running game.” It’s a bunch of bull. The Lions need a rusher that will carry the ball 25-30 yards per game and get you 110 to 125 yards per game. That leads to better time management and keeps the opposing offense off the field. It may be boring but it does lead to wins despite the fact the NFL has become a pass-happy league. And that requires a big running back, one that can make up for any deficiencies in the offense line yet capitalize when blocking is done correctly. Not a big play back, Lions have that in Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. But a big back that will wear down a defense and allow Abdullah and Riddick to hit big gains when they do come in for a change of pace. And since a big back will force the linebackers to come up, that opens up the passing game and all of a sudden, the Lions dominate on time of possession.  It will also give the Lions a bigger threat in the red zone. Don’t know about you…I like Matt Prater and all but I’d like to see games where he just kicks extra points instead of field goals.

There are 4 running backs in the 2017 draft that I think would be a great fit in the Lions running game. In most cases, any one of these running backs will make Ameer Abdullah expendable.

  • Leonard Fournette, LSU. At 6-1 and 230 lbs. and a 40 time of 4.5, Fournette might not be available to the Lions as he is projected as a top-10 pick. But I list him in case GM Quinn can do some magic to move up in the draft to get him. He has been compared to Adrian Peterson. In his 2016 season, he gained 1,953 yards with an average of 6.5 yards per carry. He is a powerful downhill runner that can run through tackles and can break off big gainers.
  • D’Onta Foreman, Texas. 6-1, 249 lbs. Ran for 2,028 yards for an average of 6.3 yards per carry for Texas in 2016. He isn’t much of a receiver but that’s not what the Lions need since Theo Riddick fills that spot nicely. Foreman is a load who can run over the opposition and bring a bit of attitude and toughness the Lions so desperately need.
  • Samaje Perine, Oklahoma. 5-11, 237 lbs. Perine reminds me a lot of Marshawn Lynch in that he will just not be tackled. Again, toughness and attitude the Lions need and Perine would definitely get Green Bay’s attention. His position in the draft has dropped due to being banged up this season but Perine rushed for 735 yards with an average of 5.2 yards per carry in limited action. He is a decent receiver as well with 10 receptions for 106 yards. Love to see this guy in screen pass situations on first or second downs.
  • James Conner, Pittsburgh. 6-2, 250 lbs. Is listed as a possible 4-6 round pick due to a serious knee injury in 2015 and then being diagnosed with cancer. He was proclaimed cancer free in 2016 as well as coming back from a torn ACL. He responded with 1,092 yards with a 5.1 yard per carry and scored 16 TD’s. He also caught well out of the backfield with 21 passes for 302 yards and four scores. He is worth taking a chance on since he has the potential to become a 3 down back and be a major threat in the red zone with his running and receiving abilities.

3.  Lions need to upgrade the secondary. Granted, NFL rules will favor the receiver in most cases. However, there are 2 places that teams really can’t shortchange themselves: The offensive line and the secondary. Both are exposed if the talent isn’t there. I feel the Lions offensive line is good enough going into 2017 but the secondary has been exposed. The Lions need another good cover corner to compliment Slay and a safety in the league of an Earl Thomas to help cover the middle.

  • Jalen Ramsey, Florida State. 6-1, 209 lbs. I doubt the Lions will have a shot at this guy but I felt the need to list him just in case GM Quinn can maneuver to get him. He is projected as a top-5 pick so it is a longshot. Ramsey is comparable to Richard Sherman. However, it is felt that he would do better at safety than corner. Teams have high regard for Ramsey and they love him off the field which pretty much means you aren’t going to see his name for any off the field antics. With his great character and impressive skill set, a lot of teams want him on their roster.
  • Eli Apple, Ohio State. 6-0, 199 lbs. He has Number 1 corner potential in the NFL with his size, agility and speed. He does need coaching to stop grabbing receivers but that’s just a matter of technique. Possible he’ll be available late first round or early second.
  • Su’a Cravens USC. 6-1, 226 lbs. Cravens was moved to linebacker in 2016 but most experts feel that Cravens potential in the NFL reside in playing safety. I’d like to see him gain at least 10-15 lbs. to play in the NFL. He is physical, strong and quick and has shown to be a capable tackler. A good defensive coordinator would be wise to use him in a variety of ways. Could be that game changer on defense.

4.  Protect the den. It is one of the most important aspects of the game. Great teams know how to win at home. Winning 6-8 games at home and go .500 on the road gives you 10-6 to a 12-4 season and pretty much gives the Lions a playoff slot. Lion’s fans are more than willing to do their part and if the Lions get that big running back and beef up the secondary, Lions will be able to challenge the Green Bay Packers better for the division title.

There are other aspects that I’m sure need to be addressed. I, for one, am not sure that current head coach Jim Caldwell is the one to lead the team to the Super Bowl. But he is close with owner Martha Firestone Ford who really likes him. Caldwell has Jim Bob Cooter as his offensive coordinator and is a good one. He and Matthew Stafford are on the same page and in his first full season, got as much as he could out of Stafford. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is a good one as well. But he has been mentioned for several head coaching jobs and with 6 openings this year, he may be gone. Whoever comes up next needs to improve the coverage and mitigate the big plays the Lions seem to give up.

Seattle Seahawks – Offensive Line Has To Play Better

Seahawk Shining

There is a saying about the three most important things when you want to open a business:  Location, location, location.

Pretty much the same thing can be said if an NFL football team needs to be successful:  O-Line, O-Line, O-Line.

I watched the Seattle Seahawk-Arizona Cardinal game Saturday and I was amazed at just how the Cardinal defense dominated the Hawks offensive line in the first half:  QB Russell Wilson sacked 5 times and under constant pressure.  34 plays run by the Seahawks in the first half and of those, 19 of them resulted in no gain, yards lost or a turnover.  One yard of offense in the first quarter and a total of just 94 yards for the first half.  A total of seven plays run inside Arizona’s 10-yard line and failed to punch it in and having to settle for a field goal.

While everything appeared to improve in the second half, I still am having a hard time as to why the O-Line has been so inconsistent.  How can they look so pitiful as they did in the first half and then seem to become above average as they did in the second half?

The play of the Seahawks offensive line is what will determine how well they will do in the playoffs.  And since we don’t know which O-Line will show up, us Seahawk fans are going to be sitting on pins and needles when the playoffs start.

It was evident what the Cardinals wanted to do with Russell Wilson.  Keep him in the pocket and do not allow him to extend plays.  You could see the Cardinal defense swing out wide when rushing the QB, daring him to run up the middle.  On most of Wilson’s sacks, at least two of the offensive linemen had blown their assignments.

I understand that Seattle GM John Schneider had to make a decision when building this team that somewhere on this team, money just could not be spent.  As of right now, the Seahawks have the lowest salary cap for the offensive line at $6, 259,177.  That’s nearly $7 million dollars less than the next lowest team, the New York Giants.

Tom Cable may be just about the best offensive line coach in the NFL.  But as with any profession, you are only as good as the ingredients you are given.

Let’s start with left tackle George Fant.  Amazing potential and has indeed come a long way this year.  But understand you are protecting your most valuable asset with a guy that didn’t start in a football game since his 8th grade elementary season.  He focused on basketball in his high-school days and had a decent collegiate season for Western Kentucky.  He was finally convinced to try football as he had a wife and child to consider.  He was either going to play basketball in Poland or hopefully play in the NFL.  He had no tape, barley any game footage but during a workout with the Seahawks, Cable saw him as a “long-armed athlete” and was convinced he would be a great prospect.

I am amazed at Fant’s production and improvement and I think he will be an excellent left-tackle.  What I fear is that with all that Cable is teaching him, when it comes time for a new contract, he’ll be gone since the Hawks won’t want to spend the money.

Center Justin Britt seems to have found a place that he can succeed at.  He was drafted by the Hawks in the 6th round of the 2014 draft.  He was a starter the last two years at Missouri playing  both left and right tackle.  Seahawks love versatility and saw Britt as a possible right tackle and was the starter there for the Hawks in 2014.  Despite being ranked as one of the worst rookie pass blocking tackles, Britt started all 16 games at right tackle and the divisional playoff game against the Carolina Panthers before suffering an injury.

After a poor showing in the 2015 season at right tackle, Hawks moved him to left guard.  Britt improved a bit, starting all 16 games at left guard but still was ranked as one of the least effective pass blockers in the NFL.  In 2016, Britt was moved to center and his game improved dramatically…so much that he was elected as a Pro-Bowl alternate for 2016.  Pete Carroll stated that center is what they had in mind for Britt when they drafted him 2 years prior.  My question is why the heck did they want so damn long?  Max Unger was at center in 2014, Britt’s first year.  Why didn’t they have him back up Unger the first year, get him to learn all the tricks of the trade from him and then have him start at center in 2015 and just leave him there?

The Seahawk offensive line is young with an average age of 24.2 years old.  I don’t have issues with the age factor but I do have an issue with the talent level.  Seahawks have been known to find some gold at other positions.  Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Richard Sherman and Tyler Lockett are proof of that.

They need to find the same gold for the offensive line coming up in next years draft.  I’m willing to keep Fant as left tackle as I believe he will become one of the best in the game.  I also will concede the center spot to Britt.  Anyone who can improve to Pro-Bowl caliber is just fine in my book.  But that leaves the 2 guard spots and the right tackle.  Starter left guard Mark Glowinski, starter right guard German Ifedie with back up at both spots of Rees Odhiambo don’t give me a feeling of security, especially when playing against huge defensive lines such as the Cardinals.  Right tackle starter Bradley Sowell and back-up Garry Gilliam are at best a couple of back-ups on other teams.

Release or trade guards Glowinski and Ifedie as well as right tackle Sowell and keep Odhiambo and Gilliam for back-up spots on the line.

Then I would go after these players in the draft:

For right tackle:  Julie’n Davenport, Bucknell.  Another player with a background in basketball, Davenport is 6-7 and 315 lbs.  He has the tools to be a solid left tackle and would be able to develop his skills on the right side.  Good versatility as both he and Fant could play either tackle spot.

Left guard:  Kareem Are, Florida State.  This is a big man.  Listed at 6-6 and 334 pounds, Are would be just the road grader needed to jump start the Hawks running game.  He is an excellent power blocker at the point of attack and with Cable coaching, he will only improve on his pass blocking.

Right guard:  Taylor Moton, Central Michigan.  Another big presence inside.  Coming in at 6-5 and 326 pounds, he would help solidify the inside running game the Hawks so desperately need.  He is versatile enough to be able to play right tackle as well.

Remember the three things needed to be a successful NFL team:  O-Line, O-Line, O-Line!

Detroit Lions – Getting Hosed By National Media

running-lion

The Detroit Lions are in first place in the NFC North and are currently the third seed in the playoffs.

How come the national sports media seems to brush these facts aside?

No, it’s still about the Cowboys, the Packers, the Seahawks and the Saints.  Not that I have anything against these teams (with the exception of the Cowboys and Packers) but regardless the record of these teams, they still get more nationally televised games than just about any other team in the NFC.

Go to NFL.com and do you see anything about the Lions?  Nope, it’s got headlines about the Cowboys avenging the lone loss against the New York Giants.  It’s got an article about the Kansas City Chiefs taking control in the AFC West.  I peruse NFL.com a lot but rarely do I see anything about my beloved Detroit Lions.

Take the Cowboys.  They are having a great season this year.  But regardless of what type of season they have, Cowboys get a lot of national press.

Take last year for instance when they ended up with a record of 4-12.  How many articles were written by national media about the Cowboys and how can they get back to winning?  How many times did we see on ESPN or Fox on what’s wrong with the Cowboys or is Tony Romo done?  Countless times on both.

Pretty good coverage for a team that went barley over .500 for the past decade (not including this season).

And how about the Packers?  Seems to me that the national media is reasoning the only way the Lions are in first place is because the Packers are having a bad season.  Now I will grant you the Pack has been very good over the past 10 years.  A .650 winning percentage over that time period proves that as well as a Super Bowl win in 2011.

But this year has been a difficult one.  The Packers have aged quickly and lost a lot of players to free agency.  And Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have a decent O-line to protect him and he hasn’t had a lot of time to throw.  When he does, his receivers are not in synch with him.  Still, they are a dangerous team and one to watch.

But this down season by the Packers isn’t the sole reason the Lions are in first place in the NFC North.

Let’s talk about the fact the Lions have played, especially in the 4th quarter.  Up until the New Orleans Saints game, the Lions have trailed entering the 4th quarter in every game.  And in seven of the eight wins the Lions have, they came back and won with Matthew Stafford tying the Manning brothers record (Peyton in 2009 and Eli in 2011) of seven comeback wins in a season.

That’s something that many great quarterbacks have not done.  Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Dan Marino, John Elway, Dan Fouts…none of these guys have had as many comebacks in a season as Stafford and the Manning brothers.  And with 4 games left in the season, Stafford has the chance to own the record outright.

Look, I’m saying these teams don’t deserve the recognition they are getting (except the Cowboys…we’ve been deluged with Cowboy drama for over 25 years now…shut up about the Cowboys…nobody outside of Texas gives a darn).  But how about some recognition of how well the Detroit Lions are doing?

Yes, I know that from 2006 to 2015, the Lions have a 57-103 record including the wonderful 0-16 record of 2008.  National media has no problems pointing out all that is wrong with the Lions.

But this is 2016, the Lions are 8-4 with a 2 game lead in the NFC North with four games to go.  The Lions are currently 3rd in the playoff picture, a mere 1/2 game behind the Seattle Seahawks and if by some miracle, could sneak into second place and get a bye in the first round and host a playoff game in Detroit.

At some point, the Lions luck has to turn…but I don’t see this year as being lucky.  I see this team working hard, playing good defense and Stafford putting his team in position to win.  I know, as well as everyone does, we bemoan that we don’t have a running game.  We only have 947 yards rushing on the year.  But we do rank 15th in passing and since the NFL is turning into a pass-happy offense, I’d say we are in good shape.

Still, imagine if we had Barry Sanders with this personnel.  To be honest, I don’t think the record would be any better since we’d still give the ball to Barry too much.  However, the Lions could draft a good running back in the 2017 draft.  Perhaps Christian McCaffery out of Stanford or Alvin Kamara from Tennessee?

GM Bob Quinn knows what’s needed for the Lions and a running game could put the Lions in a very sweet spot for the next 5 years or so.  I know we haven’t really had a decent running back since Barry but that had a lot to do with the front office evaluations instead of talent.

I suppose we need to earn the respect of the national media by making a strong showing in the playoffs.  I’d like to shut them all up with a Super Bowl win but the Lions aren’t there yet.  But they are a helluva lot closer than they have been in years…

All I’m sayin to the national media, how about some love for the Lions?

 

Detroit Lions – These Guys Are For Real & In First Place!

Stafford:  One of the best QB's in the NFL!
Stafford: One of the best QB’s in the NFL!

The Detroit Lions are relevant in December.  In fact, they are in first place in the NFC North, have a 2 game lead over the Minnesota Vikings and hold the tie-breaker as they swept the Vikings this year.

Green Bay could make a run but face an uphill battle as they move into a tie for second place with the Vikings.

And for the first time this year, the Lions decided to win in a much more traditional fashion rather than wait until the 4th quarter, beating the New Orleans Saints 28-13.  Granted, I am proud of that 7-1 record when trailing in the final quarter.  But I felt much better the Lions got the lead in the first and never gave it up.

A great day for Stafford, the true leader of this team.  30 for 42 with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions.  The offense was methodical and time consuming, limiting the New Orleans Saints to only 23:08 while holding on to the ball for 36:52.

Golden Tate had a great day with 8 catches for 145 yards which included a sweet 66 yard touchdown catch on a critical drive in the fourth quarter to pretty much seal the game.

The running game, often the most criticized part of the Lions offense, gained a combined 85 yards with Zach Zenner leading the way with 44 yards.  It was effective enough to keep the Saints defense honest.

And how about that defense!  Intercepted Drew Brees 3 times while sacking him once.  And pretty much made WR Willie Snead a non-factor while holding the Saints to a collective 51 yards rushing.

Let’s take a look at the Lions, Vikings and Packers games over the next four weeks.  I’ll give my predictions for the record during that time.  I do believe the Lions will get a home playoff game for the first time since 1991.

Detroit Lions – Could go 3-1 but most likely will go 2-2.

12/11 – Home against the Bears.  This is going to be the easiest of the next four games and the Lions should have no trouble.  The Bears are simply a mess.  No offense since Cutler is yet again injured as well as WR Eddie Royal, both of whom appear to be out the rest of the year.  I doubt that Cutler will be back as the QB of the Bears next year as they are going to be rebuilding.

12/18 – At New York Giants.  This game is a toss-up.  Giants are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now winning their last six games.  But if the improving Lions defense can get to Eli, they can force him into mistakes.  Lions have played well on the road this year and if they can stay close to the Giants into the fourth quarter, perhaps Stafford can do his thing and pull this one out.

12/26 – At Dallas Cowboys.  If the Cowboys have the NFC East wrapped up, they may rest the starters.  Cowboys have a heck of a defense and we Lions fans can be envious of their offensive line.  Granted, the Lions do have a tendency to play the Cowboys tough as the Lions have an 11-12 all time record against the Cowboys.  But this is a very tough Cowboy team and most likely, Jason Garrett will play his starters until the game is in hand.

1/1/17 – Home against the Packers.  A statement game.  Packers have broken the Lions fans hearts several times.  I mean who could forget that Thursday night game with the hail-Mary with no time left on the clock last year.  I want to see the Lions get out fast and just pour on the points and blow out the Packers.  The Packers D is getting old and suspect and with the weapons the Lions have, it should be doable.

Minnesota Vikings – Vikings probably have the easiest schedule of the three teams but with the way they have been playing lately, I can’t see them doing any better than 2-2 even if Adrian Peterson comes back

12/11 – At Jacksonville Jaguars – Even this being a road game, the Vikings should be able to win this game.  Jags are a pretty self destructive team and QB Blake Bortles leads all NFL quarterbacks with 15 interceptions.  Vikings secondary is an opportunistic one and should get at least 2 picks.  Vikings are third in the NFL with 12 interceptions on the year.

12/18 – Home against the Indianapolis Colts.  Depends on which Colts team shows up as they are trying to stay alive in the AFC South.  They are only a game back of the Texans and with a win Monday night against Jets, they are fighting for their playoff lives.  So are the Vikings and both teams need wins.

12/24 – At Green Bay Packers.  This is still Lambeau Field and while both teams are considered “cold weather” teams, I have to give the edge here to the Pack.  Packers always seem to make a late season push.  A win by either team doesn’t do much for the Lions but perhaps if both teams beat each other up enough, the Vikings could run the gas out of the Packers when they visit Ford Field the following week.

1/1/17 – Home against the Chicago Bears.  Bears have nothing but pride to play for.  And they would love nothing better than beat a division rival to keep them out of the playoffs.  Vikings have a history of not closing the deal toward the end of the year.  A win here by the Bears helps the Lions.

Green Bay Packers – Packers have a brutal schedule down the stretch and most likely will end up 1-3 but no better than 2-2.

12/11 – At Seattle Seahawks.  These two teams have had some great games in recent years.  However, I don’t see Green Bay winning in Seattle.  Seahawks defense is getting healthier each week and the offense is starting to come around.

12/18 – At Chicago Bears.  As with the Vikings, the Bears would like nothing better than to beat a division rival and keep them out of the playoffs.  Bears have a better shot of achieving at home than opposed on the road against the Vikings.  Hard as it will be, we have to be Bears fans for a couple of weeks.  Don’t worry, there is plenty of Jamison’s to wash the bad taste out of our mouths,

12/24 – At home against the Vikings.  Perhaps the only win the Packers get over the last 4 games.  Packers will have a lot on the line and more often than not, come thru on big games.

1/1/17 – At Detroit Lions.  As stated looking at the Lions schedule, this is a redemption game for the Lions.  This is a statement game for Detroit and this time, the Green Bay Packers won’t be able to stop them.

Go Lions!

 

Detroit Lions – There Is Hope For A Super Bowl

Roaring Lion

History was made when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last week, ending 108 year drought.  No longer can we call the Cubbies the loveable losers.  After an epic game 7, they have earned the title “World Champions.”  Congratulations Cub fans!

Witnessing this event, something that has now only happened once since I was born, gives me hope that another event may occur before my time ends on this earth:  The Detroit Lions are crowned as Super Bowl champions.

All  die-hard Lions fans (and I count myself proudly as one of them) know of all the epic failures we have had to endure…from Marty Mornhinweg taking the wind in 2002 against the Chicago Bears to the eight year travesty of Matt Millen running the Detroit Lions into the ground.

But let us not focus on the negative but instead, look toward the future and the hopes the Lions can get a Super Bowl victory that the City of Detroit so richly deserves.

With a bonafide GM in Bob Quinn, that I feel we can state is one of the best the Detroit Lions have ever had since the 1950’s, we can see events in motion that just might have the Lions pointing in that direction.

Now I know that this is Quinn’s first full year as GM.  I believe the reason he didn’t make any changes to the coaching staff is because he wanted to see what he had and to perhaps keep any additional turmoil that could have occurred.

I feel strongly that Jim Caldwell isn’t going to be the coach that takes the Lions to the Super Bowl.  I’m not sure that Matthew Stafford is going to be the quarterback either.  It’s his eighth year in the league and he has some good things for the Lions.  But if we are looking at a 3-5 year plan, will Stafford have enough to lead the Lions?

We have to give Bob Quinn the same leeway Chicago Cubs fans gave Theo Epstein and be patient.  Changes are going to happen within the coaching ranks of the Lions and if not this year, next year Caldwell will be gone.

I don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future especially when we are talking about the Lions.  What I can predict is that changes will come.  We aren’t going to like a lot of them but us Lions fans have to understand that what we’ve been doing for the past 58 years hasn’t been working.

Yes, you’ve read that correctly:  The Lions haven’t won a championship in 58 years, soon to be 59 as I don’t see them getting there this year either.

Lions are relatively young on the offensive side of the ball…decent running backs with Theo Riddick and Zack Zenner.  And the defense is serviceable.

I think Quinn needs to keep Stafford for at least two more years and draft a QB and RB in 2017

If Luke Falk out of Washington State decides to enter the draft this year, I’d like to see the Lions snap him up and let him soak up watching Stafford and what he does.  They could get him in the 3rd or 4th round.  But if he does play his senior year, he’ll go higher in the draft, a low first round or high second round.

As for the running game, we could take Alvin Kamara from Tennessee.  He is a lot like Jamal Charles in that he is a fast slasher and can run with power.

So we could sew up the future with these two guys and then Quinn can draft smartly to beef up both the O-Line and D-Line as well as shoring up the secondary over the next two years.

Lions are in a good position to make a big push to make the playoffs next year, go even deeper 2018 and perhaps in 2019, get to the big dance.

Hey, a guy can dream can’t he?

Go Lions!

Seattle Seahawks – Against Atlanta, They Got Lucky & They Know It

luck-seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks beat the Atlanta Falcons 26-24 yesterday…and they were darn lucky to walk away with that win.

Tried as they did to give it away, it was the will of Richard Sherman who appeared very angry at one point in the second half.  And there was good reason for him to be so ticked off after the Legion of Boom allowed Julio Jones to break free for a 36-yard touchdown.

It was a lack of communication.  Those happen a lot in the NFL and in this case, safety Kelcie McCray, subbing for injured Kam Chancellor, blew the assignment and allowed Jones to break free for the score.

This proves how much of a leader that Richard Sherman is.  He expects a lot of himself and expects a lot of his teammates.  I don’t blame him one bit for getting as upset as he did.  The Legion of Boom is way better than they played yesterday.

But not all of the fault can be placed on the defense.  The offense has issues they need to correct.

First and foremost, Russell Wilson needs to go back to doing what he does best…when the situation calls for it.  I agree, from a health standpoint, that being more of a pocket-passer will mitigate injury issues.  But there were at least five instances where his running abilities would have put pressure on the Atlanta defense to stop him.

One instance that stands out was in the 4th quarter.  Seahawks were on the Atlanta 10 yard line with a 3rd and goal.  Wilson stepped up in the pocket when he felt pressure behind him no one was in front of him.  He had a clear path to the end zone.  Instead, a stopped and attempted a pass to Jerome Kearse that was incomplete.

To put more salt on the wound, the normally reliable Steven Hauschka missed a 29 -yard field goal that went left.

I get the fact they want to protect Wilson but he is a weapon that needs to be utilized.

Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell needs to start becoming more imaginative with his play calling.  He doesn’t have the luxury of calling Marshawn Lynch plays anymore and needs to trust Wilson and the Seahawk receiving corps and take more shots downfield.  The 15-20 yard throws work when you have Beast Mode but he’s gone now.  And Christine Michael, while doing an admirable job, is no Marshawn Lynch.

Defenses have figured out Bevell’s offense and see that Wilson is reluctant to run.  So they stack the box because they have no fear of Wilson going deep and they throw more bodies at the running game.

The use of Jimmy Graham is ludicrous.  Yes, he had six catches for 89 yards.  But during crunch time, they went away from Graham.  For crying out loud, the man is 6-7, has an 82″ wingspan and can run the 40 yard dash in 4.5 seconds.

The Seahawks need to look at all the tape when Graham was with the New Orleans Saints and see how Drew Brees used Graham…up high, triple-covered and as an outside receiver.  C’mon man, line up a 6-7, 265 lbs. receiver against a 5-11, 193 lbs. cornerback (the average height and weight of an NFL cornerback.)  I’ll take that match-up all day!

Am I being too critical?  Darn right I am.  The Seahawks had no business winning this game.  And the last pass attempt by Matt Ryan, the officials gave the game to the Seahawks because that was pass interference.  I’ve seen a lot less contact and the flag was thrown.

The next three games are going to be critical for the Hawks.  The travel to Arizona to play the Cardinals.  Carson Palmer has been cleared to play and will tune-up against the New York Jets tonight.  Cardinals with Palmer have played the Seahawks very tough.

Next-up is the resurgent New Orleans Saints.  Drew Brees lit up the Carolina Panthers for 465 yards and 4 touchdowns and built a 31-17 lead in the third quarter.  They won the game 41-38 despite allowing the Panthers to score 21 points in the 4th quarter.

After that comes the surprising Buffalo Bills.  This isn’t going to be the team the Seahawks played in 2012 when they lit them up in Buffalo for 50 points.  This version of the Bills have a very strong running game with LeSean McCoy who lit up the San Francisco 49rs with 140 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns.  This team also shut out the New England Patriots.  Yes, I know, they didn’t have Tom Brady but the Pats are still a formidable team without him and weren’t able to score against the Bills defense.

Speaking of New England, that is the Seahawks opponent after the Bills.  And they have Brady back who in the last two games has thrown for 782 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions.

So the road back to the Super Bowl is going to be a tough one.  And if they played like they did against the Atlanta Falcons, they aren’t going to make it.

Teams will score.  It’s what the NFL wants to keep fans interested.  But the Seahawks need to become more imaginative on offense and corral the other teams big-name players and limit the amount of scoring.

Let’s hope the Falcon game serves as a wake-up call and gets these Hawks back on the right track.