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Detroit Lions – Wins At Home Must Be A Priority

So far for the 2018 season, the Detroit Lions have been, historically, what they have always been:  A team on the cusp of greatness filled with doubt and unwarranted cockiness that leaves them no better than a .500 team.

Let’s talk about the ability (or in this case, the inability) of the Lions winning at home.  There is a lot of doubt that if the Lions ever got to the playoffs and played at home, that they would actually win.  As we all know, the last time the Lions won a playoff game was in 1991, ironically, a home win over the Dallas Cowboys.  After that, Lions played 9 playoff games on the road and lost all of them.

I’ve chosen two other teams to use for comparison, both of which stress the importance of protecting the home turf.  And I’m pretty sure no one is surprised in the teams:  Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots.

I am going to use 3 spans of time, the longest being 28 years and the shortest being 5 years.  I’ve chosen from 1990 to 2017 for the longest amount of time…and no, there is no other reason other than I wanted to start in the 1990’s.

28 years – 1990 to 2017

From 1990 to 2017, the Lions posted a 117-107 record at home, a winning percentage of 0.522.  Being a .500 team at home isn’t going to get a team into the playoffs all that often.  And the 8 years they made the playoffs in that time proves that.

The Green Bay Packers posted a 161-62 home record, a winning percentage of .722.  They averaged, over the 28 years, 6-2 at home.  No wonder they have 19 playoff appearances in 28 years.

New England?  Almost as good as the Pack over that time span, putting up a 155-69 home record with a winning percentage of .692.

The crux of this is that because the Lions are just above .500 for the home games and because they are at .299 on the road, they have averaged a record of 7-9 over 28 years.  While the Packers and Patriots who win at least 5 and 6 games a year at home respectively, their records are guaranteed to be 10-6 and 11-5 overall.

10 years – 2008 to 2017

The Lions, if anything, are at least consistent.  However, over the past 10 seasons, the Lions posted a 38-42 home record.  Most of that can be attributed to the winless 2008 season as well as the 2-14 season that followed.  But again, Lions averaged a 4-4 home record and a 3-5 road record to be a 7-9 team.

Packers made the playoffs in 8 out of the 10 years because of a 59-20 home record.  They were barley above .500 on the road but that’s what you expect.  In this 10 year sample, the Packers average an 11-5 overall record…yep, that will get you into the playoffs just about every year.

As for the Patriots, it didn’t really matter if they were home or away.  Posting a 68-12 home record to go along with a 59-21 away record, they made the playoffs 10 out of 10 times due to an average record of 13-3.  But to lose only 1-2 games a year at home in 10 years shows what a premium that Bill Belichick emphasis on protecting the home turf.

5 years – 2013 to 2017

The last 5 years have been better for the Lions.  In that time period, they have averaged and overall record of 9-7, getting to the playoffs twice.  In 2014, the Lions did a great job in winning at home, posting a 7-1 record and going 4-4 on the road to accomplish an 11-5 record.  Unfortunately, the Packers went 12-4 to take the division and the Lions played in the Wildcard game at Dallas, losing 24-20.  In 2016, the Lions went 6-2 at home  but only 3-5 on the road but still snuck into the playoffs, again losing this time to the Seattle Seahawks 26-6.  But they protected the home turf well and got there which is all we can hope for, right?

The Packers have won at nearly a .700 clip over the past 5 seasons, making the playoffs 4 times.  They have been basically a .500 team on the road but doing well posting a 27-12 record.

The Patriots?  Win/Loss Record average at home:  7-1.  Win/Loss Record average away:  6-2.  It’s hard not to make the playoffs when your team goes 13-3 every year.

Both Green Bay and New England put a premium on winning at home.  And their respective successes proves that winning at home gives them a much better chance to make the playoffs on a consistent basis than going 4-4 at home every year.

Now we can sit here and bring up all of the bad drafts the Lions have had and the fact that neither Green Bay or New England ever had a bad GM as Matt Millen.  But much of the bad decisions made were as a result of the ownership hiring second rate GM’s, Head Coaches and Scouting personnel.  Both the Green Bay and New England had their seasons of crappiness.  There was a stretch from 1972 to 1992 the Pack made the playoffs only twice.  And New England had a stretch from 1971 to 1995 that was almost Lionesque with few double digit win seasons and sporadic playoff appearances.

The Packers righted the ship by hiring Mike Holmgren in 1992.  And in his 6 years, he got the Packers in the playoffs 5 times, putting them in the Super Bowl twice and winning one of them.  He and Ron Wolf made a great team.

As for the Patriots, they did make two Super Bowl appearances prior to the Belichick.  The first was in 1985 and were blown out by Mike Ditka’s Chicago Bears 46-10. Bill Parcels got the Pats to Super Bowl 31 and lost to Holmgren’s Packers 35-21 in 1996.  But in 2000, Tom Kraft brought in Bill Belichick and gave him near complete control of all football operations.  Scott Pelosi was the GM up until 2009 but all final decisions were left to Belichick.

The Lions hire Bob Quinn away from the in 2016, one of the first moves made by Martha Ford since her husband Bill Ford, Sr. passed away in 2014.  In turn, despite Jim Caldwell’s limited success in his 4 years, Quinn hired Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to his first head coaching job in the NFL.  Let’s hope that this combination brings up the talent and skill level across the organization to one that Lions fans have been so desperately wanting since the 1960’s.

Oh, and those wanting Matthew Stafford’s head on a platter?  Let’s cut the nonsense on that right now.

Stafford’s first 9 years in the league compares very favorably with Arron Rodgers first 9 as well as Tom Brady’s first 9.  And just for kicks, since he has been compared to him a lot, I included Brett Farve’s first 9 years

Passing Yards – Average per year

Rodgers – 4,055

Stafford – 3,861

Farve – 3,856

Brady – 3,426

Completion % – Average per year

Rodgers – 65.34

Brady – 63.33

Stafford – 61.4

Farve – 60.91

Touchdowns – Average per year

Rodgers – 31.22

Farve – 28.33

Brady – 25.00

Stafford – 24.00

Interceptions – Average per year

Rodgers – 7.89

Brady – 10.56

Stafford – 13.00

Farve – 16.33

Stafford is right there with all three of these “elite” quarterbacks.  What the other 3 had was consistency at head coach and the GM spots, drafting wisely and making smart free agent signings that gave Rodgers, Brady and Farve the tools they needed to win.  Yes, I know that Stafford had the great Calvin Johnson to throw to but little else.  For most of his career, Stafford didn’t have a running game that was worth a damn, leaky defenses that would give up big plays toward the end of games and just bad play designs that were predictable.

Put Stafford on the Green Bay or New England teams and I think we’d be talking about Stafford in a much different light.  Conversely, put Rodgers or Brady on those Lions teams and we’d be talking about them differently as well.

So I would take Stafford as my starting QB.  But in order to have him be as successful as Rodgers and Brady, let’s give him the same tools as they have had.  Quinn and Patricia are heading that way…I think Patricia needs another year and another draft (another road-grading guard to complement Ragnow)  And while I hate to see Golden Tate go, he was under-utilized and the Lions got a 3rd round pick in 2019 for him in the trade with the Eagles.

Hard choices have to be made…Quinn made his first one in trading Tate.

 

Detroit Lions 2017 NFL Draft – Big Running RB and D-Line Help

Here we are at yet another NFL Draft….and here we are at yet another discussion as to what the Lions need.

NFLDRaftScouts.com indicates the top 5 needs for the 2017 draft:

  • Wide Receiver – Marvin Jones and Golden Tate combined for 136 catches last year.  But the rest of the receivers, sans Anquan Boldin, only had a grand total of six.  Boldin may come back next year to give the Lions a reliable 3rd down receiver but at 36 years old, just how much will he have left in the tank?
  • Linebacker – Lions are searching for a replacement since DeAndre Levy went the free agent route.  They have signed Paul Worrilow who is solid but they could be seeking a big playmaker to step in.
  • Defensive End – Once a strength of the Lions defense, the talent has degraded over the last few years.  In 2016, the defense was tied for 30th in the league with just 26 sacks.  Part of that deficiency is related to Ziggy Anshan’s high ankle sprain.  Lions need to find a reliable number 2 pass rusher
  • Cornerback – Lions appear to be in pretty good shape in the secondary with Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson and DJ Hayden all returning.  But things can change drastically over the course of a season.  And like relief pitching in baseball, you just can’t have too deep of a bullpen.
  • Tight End – Eric Ebron has improved over the last 3 years but I get the feeling that Lions offensive coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter, just doesn’t quite trust Ebron in clutch situations.  We’ve all seen Ebron make some fantastic catches but he seems to lose concentration on the routine ones…and his blocking hasn’t really improved all that much.

I still find it fascinating that running back isn’t listed as a need for the Lions.  Yes, yes, I know that we have Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick.  But neither of those guys are going to wear down a defense.  Abdullah is 5-9 and 203 lbs. and is great in the open field.  Riddick, also at 5-9 and listed at 201 lbs. is a fantastic receiver coming out of the backfield in critical passing situations.  But I firmly believe the Lions need a big back to pound on the defense, wear em down so that in the 4th quarter, the 3-5 yard gains in the 1st quarter turn into 6-10 yard gains.

Fox Sports has the Lions with big needs at cornerback, linebacker and defensive ends.

Pride of Detroit, one of my favorite Detroit Lions sites, state that Lions needs on offense are minimal and really only need to target a 3rd wide receiver.  And also indicates that a short-yardage running back would be nice.  Most urgent needs would be on defense with just about anywhere needs help.

I agree the defense is in need of some re-tooling.  But having that big running back that can grind out yardage and take time off the clock will make the defense better.  Too many games over the last few years, I’ve seen the Lions defense at the end of the game with their hands on their knees, gasping for breath.  A rested defense is an effective defense.  These guys are the thoroughbreds of the NFL, trying to get through 300 lbs. to 330 lbs. offensive linemen to get to shifty quarterback and elusive running backs.  That takes a ton of energy so keeping your defense off the field as much as possible is a key ingredient for success.

With that in mind, I offer, to the 15 fans of Beer Thinker Sports, my 2017 Detroit Lions mock draft:

The Lions have eight draft picks this year, getting an additional 6th round pick from the New England Patriots in the Kyle Van Noy trade.

First Round, Pick 21:  D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas.  6-0, 233 lbs.

Great athleticism for a running back this size.  Smooth lateral movement and has the ability to go from one gap to the next without gearing down.  Great conversion rate on short down situations and is rarely tackled for a loss in attempts to bounce outside.  Foreman was a very productive runner for Texas in 2016 where he averaged 6.3 yards per carry for 2,028 yards with 15 touchdowns.  Not much of a receiver but is the load runner the Lions lack who can run over the opposition.

Second Round, Pick 53:  Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt.  6-3, 234 lbs.

Is a play-making machine.  Always plays downhill and is looking for blood.  He is fast to breakdown plays and respond to them.  Creates tackles for losses by shooting gaps at appropriate angles.  Football magnet with outstanding tackle production to go along with his ability to create and force turnovers.  He does well in pass coverage and has the talent to be a three-down starter in the NFL.

Third Round, Pick 85:  Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado.  6-3, 198 lbs.

I like big cornerbacks especially ones with speed.  With a 4.45 40 time, Witherspoon fits the bill.  He has an exceptional combination of size and speed, has fluid hips and fast feet.  Gets to top speed quickly with long, easy strides to chase down receivers.  Has plus athleticism for quick recovery when beaten off early release.  Witherspoon had a staggering 22 passes broken up in 2016.  There is some concern about his coach-ability and football character but teams like him off the field as well as his intelligence.

Fourth Round, Pick 128:  Gabe Marks, WR, Washington State.    5-11, 189 lbs.

Want a near -perfect 3rd wide receiver?  Gabe Marks will fill the bill in that regard.  Has the ability to create movement in defenders with his routes to leverage himself into open throwing windows.  Stafford will have no issues finding him in 3-receiver sets.  Shows good body-control when ball in in the air and works aggressively back to the throw and scrambles with his quarterback to open up.   He will have to prove that his success in college wasn’t because of WSU’s pass-happy offense and that he does have the skills to compete in the NFL.

Fifth Round, Pick 165:  Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn.  6-2, 261 lbs.

Yeah, I know.  A lot of draftnicks are going to say this is way to low to take a defensive end.  However, as I stated previously, if a big, grind it out running back is taken, then chances are, the Lions can find that diamond in the rough for a second pass rusher.  And while Lawson has had some injuries that have dropped him in many mock drafts, I think the Lions could take the chance with him in the 5th round.  He is well-built with good muscular definition with a strong upper-body.  Able to strike and release to shed tight ends quickly and fights through blocks to string outside runs to the sideline.  If Lawson can prove he can get and stay healthy, Lions would steal a good to great pass rusher taking him here.

Sixth Round, Pick 205:  Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo.  6-4, 270 lbs.

Eric Ebron isn’t going anywhere soon and the Lions need a good blocking TE.  Roberts will fill the bill in that regard.  However, a lot of teams will also need to pay attention to his receiving skills.  When he catches the ball, it matters.  Over 80% of his career catches went for first downs.  In 2016, over 35% of his catches were for touchdowns.  He is a huge target with gigantic hands and is quick to get open and find the ball on stop routes.  Very capable run-blocker as he sinks his hips to neutralize defensive ends.  Has experience block from in-line and wing spot.  Could be a great option in the red-zone where the Lions have had issues over the past few years.

Sixth Round, Pick 215 (From New England):  Josh Augusta, DT, Missouri.  6-4, 330 lbs.

A stretch pick for sure as there are some issues to his weight.  Walter Football has him listed at 360 lbs. and NFL.com lists him at 300 lbs.  I just averaged it out to 330 lbs. for the sake of argument.  He is an mountain of a man and is extra-wide to cause problems on single blocks.  He has a tendency to lock up on the player in front of him rather than search for the ball.  Good at clogging up the middle but has limited pass-rush skills.

Seventh Round, Pick 250 (From New England):  Brad Seaton, OT, Villanova.  6-8″ 325 lbs.

If Seaton is available here, the Lions should grab him.  He has big-time size and could be a sleeper prospect that could end up being a steal.  He has surprising lateral quickness and agility for such a tall player.  He is patient on the move and takes good angles on defenders on play-side zones.  Displays decent anchor on bull-rush passers.

While these are just my opinions, I just want to let Lions GM Bob Quinn know that I am available next weekend if he wants a consultant.  And I’d come cheap too….just a luxury box at Ford Field for the next 3 years.

Go Lions!

 

It Ain’t Easy Being a Detroit Lions Fan

The title of this article says it all:  It ain’t easy being a Lions fan.

After Monday night’s game, where yet the Lions snatched victory from the jaws of defeat yet again, I questioned my own sanity as to why I am so loyal this this team.

Can’t be because of the four NFL Championship games they won, they all occurred before I was a twinkle in my Daddy’s eye.

Prior to the game, I was pondering which jersey to wear.  Should I honor my hometown team and wear my number 15 Golden Tate III or should I wear my number 31 Kam Chancellor to honor the team I have watched since I moved here in 1989.

The pull was to great, I wore the Golden Tate III jersey.  Because I wanted to see my Lions come to Seattle, the league’s loudest stadium with the most loyal fans and do something great.

The Seahawks were plumb for the taking, having started out with road losses against the St. Louis Rams and the Green Bay Packers.  The game against the Chicago Bears was a great effort by the Seahawks and as much as I love the Lions is about as much as I dislike the Bears.  After the 26-0 shutout, I felt that it couldn’t have happen to a better team.

But being a Lions fan is to suffer strange losses and heartbreak.  The loss to the Seahawks wasn’t the strangest…forget the batted ball rule…Kam Chancellor made one helluva play to knock that ball lose.  And Calvin Johnson himself said that “bottom line, I have got to hang on to the ball.”

As for the no call on KJ Wright for batting the ball out of bounds, it really is a non-issue…if Johnson had hung on to the ball, the defense, which really played great in this game, would have had to stop the Hawks with 1:51 left in the game.

Now despite the Lions recovering three fumbles and sacking Seattle’s Russell Wilson 6 times, the Lions were still having a very hard time containing him.  There were scrambles that Wilson made that looked like he was coached by Twyla Tharp.

But here’s the thing:  The Detroit Lions did play a very good defensive game.  Despite the fact the Seahawks didn’t have Marshawn Lynch, they contained that offense pretty well…and to hold a team that had averaged 24 points a game over the last three games to only 13 is saying something.

But now we get to the crux of the issue, the Detroit Lions offense.  After dropping 21 points in the first half on the San Diego Chargers in the opening game of the season, the Lions became predictable.  Golden Tate came out and said that opposing teams knew what was coming.

And watching the game against the Seahawks, in the first three quarters, I was about 75% correct on what they were going to do…and I’m no expert at reading offenses.

But in the fourth quarter, the Lions offense suddenly came awake.  With 6:24 left in the game, the Lions put together a masterful 91-yard drive that could have driven the Seahawks into panic mode until the fumble in the end zone.

During that drive, the Seahawks didn’t know what hit them.  Stafford was masterful with pin-point precision, hitting four different receivers driving them to the 11 yard line, setting up the fateful play.

And it’s at this time you want to go to your best players.  Stafford drifted back, looked for the best wide receiver on the planet and connected.  And Calvin did what every bone in his body said to do:  Fight to get over the goal line…and a special play by a special player in Kam Chancellor put the Lions at 0-4.

Here’s what gets me about Matthew Stafford.  During that drive, he got what Golden Tate called “that look in his eye” that would give him the focus to put the Lions on his back and drive them to victory.  It’s one of the reasons Tate said he wanted to come to the Lions.

If there is any hope for this season, Matt Stafford has to get that “look in his eye” from the opening kick-off until the final gun.  It’s his team, he needs to own it.

And Joe Lombardi, quit being an old lady and take the shackles off.  Convince Jim Caldwell that the current ball-control offense isn’t working and start taking some chances early in the game instead of always in desperation mode.

It’s time to awaken the Lion.

Awake The Lion

Lions, Browns – Wouldn’t That Be a Cool Super Bowl?

So after witnessing the Cleveland Browns over the Cincinnati Bengals and seeing the Detroit Lions playing meaningful games in November, I have to start wondering if this is the year that all current NFL teams will have made a Super Bowl.

Both teams have a lot of history being the two dominate teams in the 1950’s.  From 1952 to 1957, the Lions and Browns faced each other 4 times for the NFL Championship with the Lions winning 3 out 4.

Since then, the Lions have been snake-bit.  They haven’t been to a championship game in 56 years.  In those years, the Lions 11 playoff appearances winning only once.  That’s about all the re-hash I’m going to do since I am trying to only look forward with these guys.

Browns fared better since 1957…They appeared in 23 playoff games winning 7 of them including their last championship in 1964.

They also had a very dark period in their franchise when Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore and renamed them the Ravens.  For three long years, Cleveland was without a football team.

But the NFL did a real smart move in rewarding a franchise to Cleveland but unfortunately, while keeping all of the Browns history, they were nothing more than an expansion team for a few years.

So here we sit with the Lions at 6-3 in first place atop the NFC North and Cleveland, also with a 6-3 record, in 2nd place in the AFC North.

I don’t know about anyone else but right now, I am conflicted.  I want both teams to be in the Super Bowl but I don’t want the Lions to be the last ones in.  The perfect scenario would be to see them in this years Super Bowl…and while I would be rooting for the Lions to win it, it really wouldn’t break my heart if the Browns took it…provided the Lions went back the following year to get theirs.

But it would be the best of everything to finally see two long suffering teams finally get their chance at the golden ring.

Sorry Browns fans…Go Lions!