Tag Archives: New England Patriots

Detroit Lions – After A Promising Start, Back To What They Are

I thought the Lions, after hiccupping against the Jets and 49r’s, had righted the ship with impressive wins against the Patriots and Green Bay.  In between those wins, they played well in the loss against the Cowboys, a game they should have won.

After watching the first quarter of the Lions against the Bears, I realize the ship had a massive hole and the duct tape they used didn’t hold.

Inspiration came as well as I was watching.  Using Eric Clapton’s song “Lay Down Sally,” I re-wrote the chorus to sum up my feelings regarding my hometown team:

Lay down Lions, and be the cure for what ails teams

Don’t you think you want a shot at a Super Bowl?

Lay down Lions, no need to be done so soon

We’ve just been waiting 60 years for a Super Bowl Show

Ok, so this proves that I’m no Eric Clapton.  But don’t think us Lions fans feel that every season, at some point, the Lions just lay down.  And I’m sure that in every season, when the Lions absolutely had to have a win, they just laid down and let the other team do just about anything they wanted.

Examples?  You want examples?

Ok, let’s start with the Lions most promising season where they came within one came of going to the Super Bowl, 1991.

The Lions had a great season, going 12-4.  They followed the formula of winning all 8 games at home and going .500 on the road.  Against the NFL North teams, they had an impressive 5-1 record including a win against the Packers at Lambeau Field which snapped a 25 game losing streak.

The 12-4 record earned them home field advantage in the NFL Divisional Playoff game where they crushed the Dallas Cowboys 38-6, putting them just one game away from the Super Bowl.

That should have fired up the team, pumped them up to a frantic level going to Washington, D.C. to face the Redskins, right?

Nope, the “Lay Down Lions” showed up and Washington trounced them 41-10.

Let’s fast forward to 2011, Jim Schwartz’s third year.  Lions started out 5-0 with impressive wins over the Kansas City Chiefs (48-3) and an OT thriller on the road against the Vikings (26-23).

Lions were at 6-2 thru the first 8 games, poised to take the NFC North.  Instead, the “Lay Down Lions” showed up in the 2nd half of the season, going 4-4, blowing important games at Chicago (13-37) and losing twice to Green Bay in week 12 at home (15-27) and at Lambeau the last game of the season (41-45).  Win either one of those games, they would have been 11-5 and in the playoffs.

That last game against the Pack?  They were back on track, riding a 3 game winning streak and could not close it out.

This week 7 game against the Bears?  Lions came in at 3-5 only 2 games behind the 5-3 Bears.  They needed to win this game to close the gap in a division where no team was running away.  You’d think they’d be pretty fired up, right?  Not.

I turned the game off midway thru the 2nd quarter where the Bears were leading 26-7.  The “Lay Down Lions” had reared their collective ugly head.

I could go on and on, but no need to relive the countless heartbreak the Detroit Lions have done to Lions fans and the City of Detroit.

I look to teams that have are having great years.  Los Angles Rams, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs and of course, the New England Patriots.  Two of those teams have young quarterbacks (Rams – Goff, Chiefs – Mahomes), the other two doing it with veteran quarterbacks (Saints – Brees, 17th season/Patriots – Brady, 18th season.)

The most common denominator in the success of these teams is they protect the QB.  Brees has been sacked only 9 times this year, Mahomes 12 times, Brady has been sacked 13 times, and Goff 17 times.

Stafford?  He was pretty well protected prior to the Vikings game getting sacked only 13 times.  But then he got nailed 10 times against the Vikes for a total of 23 times.  And by the time I turned off the game against the Bears, he had already gone down 3 times!

Now, no one can totally blame the offensive line for all of the sacks…Stafford admitted he needed to help out his team by getting rid of the ball quicker or if there is nothing there, throw it away.

However, for the last decade, the Lions offensive line has been far from stellar.  Since Stafford came into the league in 2009, he’s been sacked a total of 318 times (including the six in the Bears game) for an average of just under 3 times a game and each time he’s sacked, he gives up 6 yards on average.

Talk to any coach, he’ll want those 18 yards or the extra 2 first downs and a 3rd down with only 2 yards to go.

I believe the Lions have the talent at the skill positions on the offensive side of the ball.  Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, Jr. are above average receivers.  Yes,  the trade of Golden Tate to Philadelphia did hurt the Lions offensively.  But they were more than likely have lost him to free agency anyway and Theo Riddick can fill that role very well.   They got a 3rd round pick from the Eagles who have pretty much rented Tate for the season unless they sign him to a contract.

They have also found a diamond in the rough in Kerryon Johnson.  The Lions went out and signed free agent LeGarrette Blount and he was slated as the starter.  But Johnson proved to be the best running back on the roster and has been very productive.  He has two 100 yard games and should run for 1,000 yards this year.

Right now, the Lions have 9 draft picks for 2019.  I think GM Bob Quinn is going to deal for at least 2 more but let’s go with the 9 that they have right now.

There are not really any good offensive line statistics.  But the Lions O-Line, according to Pro Football Focus, is ranked 18th.  Center Graham Glasgow, who had a rating of 71.1 last year, was thought that he was going to be premiere center or at least one as good as Dominic Raiola.  But his ranking has dropped 8 points and he really hasn’t done much to help the running game.

Now I don’t recommend taking a center in the first round.  Lions need to much help at linebacker and defensive line.  They have picked up Damon Harrison to help stuff the run but I think they need an outside pass rusher since it appear they really can’t count on Ziggy Ansah.

If they can trade up after the season, I would love to have them get Joey Bosa out of Ohio State.    He did not play this season as he went out with a core injury to his abdominal tear.  But his upside is too good to pass up.  And if Ansah stays with the Lions, with him Bosa coming from either side along with Harrison would make that line pretty formidable.

I am hoping that center Tyler Biadasz out of Wisconsin is available.  At 6’3″ and 316 lbs., he will open holes along with Frank Ragnow and TJ Lang…I would suspect both Kerryon Johnson and Matthew Stafford would feel good about that.

As for the play calling, as much of a breath of fresh air Jim Bob Cooter was when he took over from Joe Lombardi, he has fallen into predictable play calling as all Lions OC’s seem to do.

Perhaps Bob Quinn can convince Matt Lafluer to leave the Tennessee Titans.  Lafluer understands how to build a modern-era offense and he’s done some great things with Marcus Mariota.  He did wonders with Matt Ryan in 2016 making him a MVP as well has helping Sean McVay rejuvenate the 2017 Rams and working with Jarred Goff so well.

Or maybe the Lions reach into the college level and grab Texas Tech head coach Lincoln Riley.  He is one of the more innovative offensively-minded coaches in college football.  He had Texas Tech average 45 points a game…get him the O-Line outline above with the offensive weapons the Lions currently have, and you can see them averaging 24-28 points a game…wouldn’t that be a treat?

Ah well, once again, the Lions faithful will have to suffer with the “Lay Down Lions” and wait until next year.

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 – Same Old, Same Old?

I had so wanted to write something positive about the Detroit Lions.  But other than just a few moments in the game, they looked more like a team playing for the number one pick in the NFL’s 2019 draft.

That may be a bit harsh after only just one game but it really isn’t one game.  It’s more like 416 games (number of games since the Lions last made the playoffs).

Since that time, the Lions have had 10 head coaches, including Matt Patricia, former defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.  It’s kind of hard to find consistency when not one coach since Wayne Fontes (who was the last coach to have the Lions in the playoffs) stays any longer than 3 years.

The Green Bay Packers have had 16 head coaches…since 1919…and just four since 1991 and have made the playoffs 20 times since 1991, winning 2 Super Bowls.

The New England Patriots, whom the Lions are trying to emulate, have also had just four head coaches since 1991, made the playoffs 19 times and won 5 Super Bowls in 9 appearances.

What were some of the goals the Lions wanted to obtain in 2018?

  1.  Improve the running game – Last time the Lions had a 100 yard rushing game was on Thanksgiving Day against the Green Bay Packers.  Reggie Bush ran for 117 yards that day.  Coincidentally, Bush was the last to rush for over a 1,000 yards in that same year and the Lions haven’t had 100 yard rushing game nor a 1,000 yard season since.  To bolster the running attack of Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick, the Lions signed LeGarrette Blount, a 6-0, 247 lbs. running back making him one of the biggest backs the Lions have had in recent years.  In his eight year career, Blount has topped 1,000 yards twice.  I’ve given up on the Lions having 1,000 yard rusher, I just want to see the Lions average over 4 yards per carry!
  2. Keep Matthew Stafford upright – Well Monday night’s game didn’t have them going in the right direction on that goal.  Stats for Monday’s game show that Stafford didn’t get sacked but he was hit several times.  Twice he was shaken up and even taken out for a series having getting sandwiched between two Jets defenders.
  3. Keep turnovers to a minimum – Again, not going on the right direction.  Stafford threw 4 interceptions, one being run back for a Jets TD and Kenny Golladay had a fumble that he recovered.  Rookie QB Sam Darnold, despite having his first NFL pass intercepted and returned for a TD, looked far more poised than the Lions 10 -year veteran QB Stafford.
  4. Protect the Home Field – Not sure this is actually one of the stated goals but over recent years, the Lions haven’t done a very good job playing at home.  Since moving to Ford Field in 2002, the Lions have a 59-69 record at home, winning just a little over 46% of their home games.  In that same time frame, the Patriots went 107-20 winning nearly 85% of those games.  The Packers?  89-38-1 at home winning just about 70% of their games since 2002.  If the Lions could win at least 6 home games a year and go .500 on the road, that gives them a consistent 10-6 record which at least gives them a shot at the playoffs.

I don’t say that this one game is going to be an indicator at what is going to be indicative of the season.  It’s just one game and all teams have stinkers throughout the season.  Maybe it’s a good thing the Lions got it out of the way early!

The Lions are not out of it.  But the NFC North is a super-competitive division with all four teams having top-tier quarterbacks…and yes, I am including Chicago Bears QB Mitch Tribusky with Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins.  Out of the four, Tribusky is more a game manager than the rest but he more than held his own in the 24-23 loss against the Packers at Lambeau.

I just hope the Lions get their stuff together and start playing quality football.

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.

 

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.

Detroit Lions – Hot Looking Muscle Car With A 4-Cylinder Engine

Roaring Lion

I had planned on writing an article full of statistical information that would show that the Detroit Lions really aren’t as bad as their 1-3 record would indicate.

Unfortunately, the stats wouldn’t help me out.  Outside of some decent offensive stats, the rest of it shows they are really that bad, mainly the defense:

  • Lower quarter of the NFL in yards allowed
  • Lower half of total points per game and average points allowed per game
  • 31st in 3rd down efficiency, allowing opposing teams to keep the chains moving 47% of the time

Despite last year’s second half surge that once again teased us die-hard Lions fans there was hope, they have once again slipped back in to a role that is uncomfortably comfortable for them:  An underachieving NFL football team.

I look at the Lions year after year and the only metaphor I can come up with is they are a 1957 Chevy Nomad.  Each year, they come out looking good and giving us hope.  Problem is that someone long ago, replaced the Super Turbo Fire V8, 283 cubic inches of 283 horsepower of Detroit power with a Subaru 360 cc two cylinder engine with an output of 36 horses.

Granted, GM Bob Quinn needs some time to right the ship.  This is his first year and he inherits a long-term legacy of years and years of failure and heartbreak.  We can’t have expected Quinn to wave his magic Bill Belichick wand and all of a sudden the Lions become the New England Patriots of the NFC North.

I suppose we need to have a dose of reality here:  It’s going to get worse before it gets better.  And perhaps that was Quinn’s plan when he decided to keep the coaching staff in place instead of cleaning house.  Instead of once again bringing in yet another set of coaches and yet another set of offensive and defensive philosophies, he wants to evaluate just what he has.

Belichick has had only one losing season since he took over the Patriots.  They went 5-11 in 2000…since then 182-58, winning over 75% of their games.  They have been in the playoffs every year since 2001, winning the Super Bowl 4 times in 6 appearances.

The Lions?  Since 2001, the Detroit Lions have had 7 head coaches with a record of 78-62 and winning just about 32% of their games.  Two playoff appearances and in both times, never made it past the first round.

There have already been rumblings in the Lion nation calling for Quinn to get rid of current head coach Jim Caldwell and rightfully so.  I don’t believe Caldwell has the chops to bring this team from it’s decades of mediocrity and make it a perennial play-off contending team.  The Indianapolis Colts  team he took to the Super Bowl in 2009, he inherited from Tony Dungy.

I think we need to be patient with one Mr. Quinn.  I got a feeling that Caldwell, if he does last the year, will be replaced with perhaps New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels who has done wonders over the first 4 games sans Tom Brady.

McDaniels may keep Jim Bob Cooter has the offensive coordinator but one never knows when a new head coach comes in.  Cooter has a great rapport with QB Matthew Stafford and has Stafford performing at a very high and consistent level.  And their offensive philosophies a very similar.

But what of the defense?  Teryl Austin is a very good defensive coordinator.  But the failures of the defense reflects on him.  In fact, the failures of the defense reflect on what is wrong with the Lions.

Other options for head coach:

Sean McDermott – Defensive coordinator, Carolina Panthers:  Panthers defense has been rated near the top for the past 3 years.  Could be the shot in the arm the Lions need to bring them to respectability

Darrell Bevell – Offensive Coordinator, Seattle Seahawks:  Bevell has been on the short list for several head coaching spots over the last few years.  Not sure what the issue has been for teams to not pull the trigger.  One rumor is teams aren’t sure he can handle the responsibility of running an entire team.  Detroit could give him the opportunity he needs to prove that he can.

Teryl Austin – Defensive Coordinator, Detroit Lions:  Despite the current regression of his defense, Austin is ready for the top job.  If Caldwell is let go during the season, it wouldn’t be a shocker if Austin becomes the interim head coach which would allow him to prove himself he can do the job.  If the Lions do cut ties with Caldwell, I’d like to see them do sooner rather than later so Austin can get as many games as he can to prove himself.

Matt Patricia – Defensive Coordinator, New England Patriots:  Another Belichick protégé and one Quinn may consider if McDaniels withdraws his name from consideration.  However, he looks like a bit of a wild man on the sidelines and many owners want their head coaches to have a more “corporate” look when roaming the sidelines.  Lions have had their share of corporate looking head coaches, maybe a wild man is what they need.

Kyle Shanahan – Offensive Coordinator, Atlanta Falcons:  Just 36 years old, he already has 9 seasons of being an offensive coordinator and has done some great work with quarterbacks.  He has proven himself enough to step out of the shadows of his father, Mike Shanahan.

Jim Schwartz – Defensive Coordinator, Philadelphia Eagles:  A real longshot and to date, he would be the first ex – Detroit Lions head coach to get another shot.  He did some good things when he was with the Lions but I think he go shafted.  Perhaps with a better GM, like Bob Quinn, he’d get the players needed to be successful.  But I think the Lions nation would react negatively and the last thing the Lions need is bad feelings from the fans.

Pretty sad that only 4 games into a season and there is already talk of finding a new head coach.  Even if Caldwell can right the ship, I still think he’s the wrong guy for the job.  He’s too much of a technician and relies way too much on the percentages.  We need a coach who will take chances and be ruthless and keep up constant pressure on opposing teams.

Will the Lions ever have success again?  Hard to say.  But there is hope, right?  I mean the Chicago Cubs just might get to the World Series for the first time in 107 years.

Good God, I hope we don’t have to wait that long for the Lions to win a Super Bowl!

Seahawks – Critical Games for 2016 Season

Cool Seahawk Logo

With the NFL pre-season underway, I thought I would take a peek at the regular season schedule and check for 6 critical games for the Seahawks.

Week 2 – at LA Rams

No matter what record the Rams have, they always seem to give the Seahawks fits.  This will be the home opener for the Rams at the Memorial Coliseum.  Rams last played in LA in 1994 so you know they are going to be hyped up.  Jeff Fisher always has a trick or two up his sleeve so Hawks need to be prepared for that.  I think a heavy does of Christian Michael and Thomas Rawls will be on the menu as well as some play-action fakes to keep the Ram defense honest.  As always, the game will be close and a win here is critical for both teams.

Week 3 – San Francisco 49’rs

I do believe the rivalry will be re-ignited with the presence of Chip Kelly, the new head coach for San Francisco.  And I really hope the Seahawks just pound the living snot out of the 49’rs to wipe that condescending and  smarmy expression off Kelly’s face.  San Fran isn’t much of a threat to the Hawks but they still need to remain wary.  Pretty sure (about 90% sure) this will be a win for the home team.

Week 7 – at Arizona Cardinals

A lot of mutual respect between the Hawks and the Cards.  Good, hard-nosed football between 2 innovative coaches who put faith in the players to perform rather than a system.  Toss up as to who will win but it won’t be by more than a field goal.  Depending on the standings, this could decide the NFC West despite having eight games left in the season.

Week 10 – at New England

Seahawks need to control their emotions because if they use revenge as a motive to try and beat New England, that’s just what Bill Belichick wants them to do.  Master of mind games, he will use that motivation to force the Hawks into mistakes.  Hawks defensive line needs to pressure Brady as much as they can and the secondary must have an exceptional game covering those pesky receivers that Brady throws too underneath.  They need to make Brady throw before he wants to.  They may get one or two sacks but if they can pressure him, they can force him to make bad throws.  I, as much as any Seahawk fan, would love if the Hawks can steal a victory here but they have to play smart and not get caught up in getting revenge for them stealing a Super Bowl from us.

Week 13 – Carolina Panthers

You don’t think the Seahawks watched Super Bowl 50 and took notice what the Broncos did to make Newton pout like a baby?  Look for Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to pressure and contain Newton as well as Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel to come up the gut and get in his face.  I also see Frank Clark being a difference maker as he has the speed and strength to deal with Newton if he tries to take off and run.  It will come down to defense vs. defense and a last second field goal.

Week 17 – at San Francisco

One can only hope the Seahawks have secured their playoff spot by the time they get to San Francisco because you know darn well that Chip Kelly will want to end the season with a win over a division rival.  Regardless of where the Hawks are at by the end of the season, a sweep over the 49’rs is always sweet (it was sweetest when Harbaugh was there, right?) and would put a nice finish to the regular season.

Looking forward to hearing a lot of fireworks going off after every game.  The 12’s are some of the greatest fans in the NFL.

Go Hawks!

Detroit Lions Bob Quinn’s First NFL Draft as GM – Make Us Proud!

Show Us What Ya Got Bobby!
Show Us What Ya Got Bobby!

On April 28th, we Lions fans are going to see what new GM Bob Quinn is going to. Is he going to start this team on the road to consistent winning seasons and perhaps a trip to the Super Bowl within the next 3 years? Or will he flame out like so many other GM’s the Lions have had over the years.

I will say that last year, while disappointing, was perhaps one of the most interesting seasons that I could recall in a while. Not so much regarding the play on the field which started like crap but ended up with the Lions being in contention until late in the season. Not a place anyone expected them to be after a horrendous 1-8 start.

Martha Firestone Ford does not show the loyalty that her late husband, Bill Ford, Sr., did when it came to GM’s and coaches. She is loyal to them as long as they are winning…but she has a quick hook if results aren’t achieved as the firings of Mayhew and Lewand prove. I also believe that she was instrumental in part of the removal of Joe Lombardi as the offensive coordinator last year which gave Jim Bob Cooter a chance which he took great advantage of.

When Cooter took over the job on October 26th, Cooter had very little time to get his offense ready for the trip to London. I think the only thing he could do was try to survive the game. It had to be tough on the players to get used to a new offensive coordinator with only 4 days to prepare and make that long trip across the pond. And it showed in the game, a 45-10 loss to the Kansas City Chief in jolly old England.

The loss came on November 1st. Four days later, General Manager Martin Mayhew and President Tom Lewand were thanked for their services and show the door.

Both were left-overs from the scorched-earth tenure of THE most inexperienced GM that ever walked the face of the earth, otherwise known as the smarmy Matt Millen. But they made some significant contributions and after the epic 2008 0 – 16 record, Millen was fired (two years too late in my estimation), Mayhew engineered some decent trades and drafts to get the Lions into the playoffs four years later in 2011. Granted, they were overmatched in the Wild Card game against the Saints but they did improve each season since 2008. Yeah, I know, how can you not after losing every single game in 2008…and after achieving a 10-6 record in 2011, they reverted back to their losing ways in 2012 and flopped to a 4-12 season.

Enter Bob Quinn, then the New England Patriots director of pro scouting, hired by Ernie Accorsi, an excellent GM during his time with the New York Giants. The search was quick and the face-to-face interview that Accorsi had with Quinn gave light to the reasons why the Patriots just don’t win, they dominate year after year.

Accorsi spoke with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick (a former Detroit Lion receivers coach in 1977) and while the conversation they had hasn’t been made public, Accorsi respected Belichick’s opinion enough that he convinced the Lions to pull the trigger and hire Quinn.

And in yet another smart move, the Detroit Lions retained Accorsi as a special advisor which gives Quinn a very experienced person to speak with as this is Quinn’s first time as a General Manager.

In typical fashion, Quinn isn’t giving any hints on what his plans are for the upcoming draft April 28th – 30th. And so far in free agency, Quinn has made some significant moves, getting WR Marvin Jones from the Bengals after the retirement of Calvin Johnson.

He also shored up the secondary bringing in four defensive backs, CB Johnson Bademosi and Crezdon Butler as well as safeties Tavon Wilson and Rafael Bush. And perhaps the most intriguing signing was getting Buffalo Bills DT Stefan Charles on a one year contract.

Which brings us to the draft. What will Quinn do? Not sure but I suspect that it won’t be a typical, desperate Detroit Lion draft where they pin the hopes of success on one player. Quinn and the advice of Ernie Accorsi is going to be geared into building a team. A team that will have sustainability and if it just happens to follow how the New England Patriots do business, well cripes, I think all of us die-hard Lions fans can accept a 15 year run with an average of 11 wins a season, 13 trips to the playoffs, 6 Super Bowl appearances and 4 Super Bowl wins.

Granted, there is a lot of work to do…and to be honest, I don’t suspect we’ll see the Lions in the playoffs in 2016. However, the success the Lions had in the second half of 2015 is a decent foundation to build on. Jim Caldwell may not have the football acumen of a Bill Belichick but he does have 2 Super Bowl appearances, winning one of them.

I predict the draft will be a good one for the Lions. Bob Quinn and company are going to give the Ford Family and the City of Detroit something to be proud of for a long time.

NFL Crowns Detroit Lions as Champions – In 1957

FreePressLionsWin

Going into the 2016 season, it will be 59 years since the Detroit Lions have won an NFL championship.

To put things in perspective, and I know there are a lot of people in the same boat, I will be turning 58 in 2016 without ever seeing the Detroit Lions win a championship.

Want to know what the trophy looked like last time they won?  Here you go:

Ed Thorp Trophy

It was called the Ed Thorp Memorial trophy.  Who was Ed Thorp you might ask?  He was a referee, rules expert, sporting goods dealer and a good friend to the NFL owners during the early years.

You aren’t going to find this trophy in a case of any of the teams that won NFL championships from 1934 through 1969 because there was only one trophy.  It was passed each year to the teams that won, much like how the Stanley Cup is in the NHL.

There are replicas of the trophy but the original’s location is unknown.  The last recipient, the Minnesota Vikings in 1969 somehow lost it when the NFL went to the Lombardi Trophy in 1970.  It is also believed to have cursed the Vikings as they being the last winners…and they went on to appear in 4 Super Bowls and lost them all.

Since 1957, the Lions have not gotten back to the big dance.  To be honest, I’m not all sure as to why.  Yes, there were some bad general managers and presidents that ownership stayed loyal far longer than others would have.  However, the phrase “even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while” comes to mind.

I don’t write this to bash the Lions players or coaches.  I am fairly certain that each of them has a desire to win.  However, having a desire with little talent to do so, that’s something different.

Each of us Lions fans can count numerous coaches and players that while had a desire to win, had no business being in the NFL.  Marty Mornhinweg, Joey Harrington & Titus Young are just a few that come to mind.

Years ago, when I was writing for the Bleacher Report, I had speculated as to which team between the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns would get to the Super Bowl first.  Ironic that these two teams have waited in futility for decades, the Lions looking at 6 and the Browns  just a little over 5.

What holds true then and now is that these two teams are the oldest teams in the NFL to have never played in a Super Bowl.  Cleveland perhaps would have gotten there in the 1980’s were it not for the Denver Bronco’s and John Elway.

The Lions best opportunity to date was in 1991, the last year the Lions won a playoff game.  They were one game away from getting to the Super Bowl and after blowing out the Dallas Cowboys at the Pontiac Silverdome 38-6, they reverted to kittens the following week and were blown out by eventual Super Bowl winner, Washington.

No, there will be no re-hashing the ineptness of the front office for the past 5 decades, we all know what the issues are there.

What I do want to stress is that the Lions, as an organization, owe it to their fans, in Detroit and all over the world, to put together a team that must have one focus in mind…from the owner down to the ball boy, to get to the Super Bowl and win it.

The other professional teams in Detroit have done their best to mollify Detroit Sports fans, the Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons have all gone on to win World Series, Stanley Cup and NBA Championships numerous times since the Lions last won an NFL Championship:

Tigers – appeared in 4 World Series, winning 2 of them, 1968 and 1984.

Red Wings – Appeared in 9 Stanley Cups, winning 4 of them.

Detroit Pistons – Appeared in 5 NBA Championships, winning 3.

Is it too much to ask Lions ownership to get us one?  Don’t hand me that crap that the NFL is very competitive.  MLB, NHL & NBA has just as fierce of competition as the NFL does.

How do teams like New England, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Green Bay and Seattle consistently get into the playoffs and Super Bowls and win?

Detroit Lions have the same access to college players and free agents that these teams do, right?

I believe the issues is one of lack of vision…at the top.  Martha Ford may be the elixir to get the Lions pointed in the right direction.  She shook the team to the core by firing Millen left overs Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand.

She also made a smart decision by hiring Ernie Accorsi as a consultant to find a GM for the Lions.  The search won’t really begin in earnest until after the Super Bowl and there are plenty of candidates to approach.

But what will make the Lions attractive to the next general manager?  Will they have the power and authority to do what it will take to put together a Super Bowl team?

And what of the current status of players?  Will Calvin Johnson be used to accumulate draft picks?  Will Matthew Stafford be that QB that all of us hope he would be when drafted in 2009?  Will the Lions ever have a potent running attack?  An offensive line that will open holes and pass block?  Will they have a good defensive team and a good offensive team at the same time?

There are more questions than answers at this point.  And I can only watch from afar and continue to support my Lions as I have been for as long as I can remember.

Right now, I turn my attention to my second hometown team, the Seattle Seahawks and hope they can find the magic and get back to the Super Bowl for the third straight time.

Go Lions!  Go Hawks!