Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Gods Must be Crazy

Or just plain mean anyway. How else to explain what happened today? The Lions and Packers game unfolded as one would expect, with Green Bay jumping out to a sizable lead while the Lions fumbled around and jacked off for the entire first half. Dropped passes, stumbling defensive backs, Lennie Small getting abused by Aaron Kampman, you name it and it happened in the first half. In fact, the comedy of errors was so total that I began to take a certain sort of comfort in it. Basically, I stopped caring and I told myself that at least this team didn't get my hopes up this year.

But then a funny thing happened. The Lions came out in the second half and actually overcame a 21-0 deficit to take a 25-24 lead with about seven minutes to go in the game. It was bizarre and completely unexpected and I found myself rallying to my team's side and I thought, at least for a flicker of a moment that maybe the first game and a half of the season was an abberation, that the Lions weren't so bad after all, and that if everything worked out right they might make a magical run to the playoffs, shocking everybody, including all their fans, just when they had been written off utterly and completely. Of course, this was merely the result of my native optimism, and over the course of the next five minutes, brutal reality reigned supreme once again. It was almost awe inspiring really, the way that fate toyed with my head and then laughingly crushed me in a stunning and massive display of its power, and when it was all over and the Packers had won 48-25, all that was left to say was fuck it, same old Lions, same old shit.

But exactly how did this strange and ridiculous journey unfold? Well it started as a sort of inverted version of last week's game against Atlanta. Instead of having the ball run down their throats as I suspected they would the Lions were absolutely manhandled by Aaron Rodgers. For fuck's sake, they made the dude look like John Elway and in the process no doubt sparked roughly a million different articles and blog posts this week proclaiming that the Packers are just fine with Aaron Rodgers and that Green Bay did the right thing by telling Old Man Farve to fuck off. It was devastating really. The Lions looked equally inept against the passing of Aaron Rodgers as they did against the running of Michael Turner last week, and when the two images were thrown together visions of a house of horrors of unparalleled scope began to run through my head and I began to wonder if these assholes might be as bad as the 2001 team that started 0-14.

Meanwhile the offense looked as out of sync as I have ever seen it in the Rod Marinelli era. The new commitment to the power running game remained as inept as it did last week, maybe more so, but more troubling was that the passing game seemed just as big a mess, which seems like it should be almost inconceivable given the Lions talent at receiver. But here's the thing, the Packers corners, Al Harris and Charles Woodson, might be the most physical tandem in the NFL. This wouldn't seem to be an issue because the Lions have a physically dominant pair of receivers in Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson. However, neither is really the shifty type of receiver who is capable of immediate acceleration. Once they get going they can be almost impossible to stop, but they aren't quick off the line and when they are being jammed by a physical defensive back they are even slower to get going, a real problem when Jon Kitna only has a nanosecond to throw before Aaron Kampman sends him to meet Jesus.

So when the second half started, I watched like someone would watch a car wreck. This was a catastrophe, a brutal display of human frailty and incompetence, but damn it, there was just no way that I could look away. But then a funny thing happened, and the Lions actually looked like a functional and complete football team. On defense they looked quick and aggressive, playing with passion and energy and miraculously they even looked pretty damn good against the run. They hectored Aaron Rodgers just enough to force some incompletions and gave the Lions offense a chance to get back into it. And the offense actually responded, as they began to attack the middle of the field on slants and quick cuts designed to negate the physical style of the Packers corners. And once they started doing this, Calvin Johnson further revealed what we all knew: that he is an absolute fucking beast. Twice he caught balls over the middle and then just simply ran away from the defense on his way to the endzone. It was glorious and exciting and new and I couldn't believe how lucky we were in getting a player like him in Detroit.

But it's Detroit and these are the Lions and so of course a big play by Greg Jennings followed by a field goal put the Lions in the hole once again. And then it was Jon Kitna's time to shine, and Jon Kitna came through in his own unique style, tossing two touchdowns. Unfortunately they were both for the other team and came back to back. And of course those only came after another interception which set the Packers up for the score which ultimately put the Lions away. Same old Lions, same old shit.

So, what does this weird, weird game tell us? It's simple really. Calvin Johnson is really, really good and will probably end up being fucking great and he alone might be able to get the Lions in some games. But while he might drag the Lions kicking and screaming into competitiveness, the rest of the team is fucking atrocious and will kill the Lions dead just like they have so many other times before. They can't run the ball, and can't really pass with any kind of consistency. Roy Williams looks like he is getting shittier instead of better and the offensive line is still getting Kitna murdered every week while Kitna makes the same dumb decisions and mental errors in every game. The defense can't stop either the run or the pass and what's more, the Packers return man, Will Blackmon, looked like he was ready to break one on every return. So the offense sucks, the defense sucks, and the kick coverage sucks. SOUNDS LIKE A WINNER TO ME. I wish I could say that I think they could get better, but they aren't talented enough, don't care enough, and seem like they are barely coached. It's the same old song. Same old Lions, same old shit.

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