Monday, August 17, 2009

It Doesn't Count? Well . . .

It is an embarrassing admission to make, but the truth is that when Jason Hanson's field goal sailed through the uprights at the end of the game to give the Lions the win in the first preseason game, I got a little excited. It is a ridiculous thing, given that it is essentially a meaningless game that I myself basically derided in my last post, but fuck it, that is what 0-16 will do to a man. It does strange things, embarrassing and terrible and leaves you pumping your fist like a retard on a Saturday evening in mid-August. The win doesn't mean a damn thing, as evidenced by last season's 4-0 preseason championship, which will likely be highlighted on every resume Rod Marinelli sends out from here to eternity.

"I see here you went 0-16 in 2008. Can you explain to us what happened, Rod?"

"Well, if you'll just look at the bolded red font there, I think you'll see that I guided the team to a 4-0 record in the preseason. That's right, undefeated. And you know why? Because we did it the right way. Wait . . . where are you going? Oh, I see. I'll just show myself out."

And then, in my head, some goons show up to rough him up anyway, because, well, why not?

As ridiculous as getting excited about winning one of these exaggerated scrimmages is, the alternative is even worse. When that game ended, I was just happy that I didn't have to see those poor fools shuffle off the field, humiliated once again, while Dominic Raiola flipped off the ten fans who were still left in the stands and the quarterback was hustled out of the stadium with a coat over his head like some degenerate criminal under a shower of garbage and piss. The scars of that terrible 2008 season are fresh, and they are still ugly and they will haunt us for a long time. Anything that doesn't remind us of those dark and brutal days then is naturally a good thing, and fuck it, I was happy when they won on Saturday.

As for the actual game, well, it's tough to take a lot away when the game flow is unnaturally chopped up by the mass substitutions that take place and the drives against third string defenses and so on. But there were a few things that stood out to me. First, the quarterbacks. Daunte Culpepper looked better than he's looked in a while. His scrambling seemed to be there, which has been missing ever since his knee told him to go fuck himself, and he managed to execute the offense with a semblance of competency. Still, there were a couple of plays where he looked like the Daunte Culpepper we all know and despise, and he got a couple of series in and that was it, so I'm not sure if we really know anything we didn't on Friday.

Matthew Stafford impressed me. His bazooka arm was on display. That doesn't necessarily mean he made a lot of huge, deep throws. The places where his arm really shined were on the tight throws over the middle of the field and to the sidelines, particularly a gorgeous, jaw dropping, perfect throw that Kerry Colbert caught.(Which, incidentally, was about the only thing he caught. I wouldn't be surprised if he got back to the locker room and found all his shit in a box. Oh well, hopefully he doesn't steal anyone's underwear on his way out the door.)Stafford really only made one bad throw. Unfortunately, it was a fucking terrible play, a total rookie move where, under pressure, he threw off his back foot while falling, into the flat, where it landed softly in the arms of a Falcon who ran it back for a touchdown. It was his first game though, and fuck it, I saw enough to think he should be the guy when the season starts. He had a nice touchdown throw to Derrick Williams later in the game, who, by the way, looked good at receiver for the Lions(thank you thank you thank you), and for the most part, Stafford looked like he is at least as competent and ready as Culpepper. And if those two are on roughly equal footing, why not go with the future instead of the broken down old guy? But I have been over that shit before and will not degenerate into a rant about why I think Stafford should be the man again.

But that's only two of the quarterbacks, which leaves one, the much loved Drew Stanton. As soon as that game ended, I knew that the usual clamor would begin for giving ol' Drew a chance, and, well, no. I am fully aware that I have an irrational disdain for Drew Stanton, but fuck it, it is what it is and I will not try to force myself to love the dude. I know everybody else loves him, and want to talk about how he's a gamer and not a practice player and all that shit, but what I see out there is a player whose arm isn't strong enough, who gets too rattled in the pocket, and generally seems jumpy and nervous - not the attributes you want in your quarterback. I know most people won't agree with me, and hey, that's cool. I can almost see Ty shaking his head at me right now. But I just don't see it. He always looks to me like he's on the verge of vomiting in the huddle. I know he can make some plays with his feet, but a lot of times I think that's because he freaks out way too early and just takes off. Yeah, he led the game winning drive, but, man, the dude who should get most of the credit for the Lions comeback is Aaron Brown. Stanton made some smart plays, but let's not forget that drive where he threw an awful pass - I mean just terrible - that was picked off. It was an awful read, and it made Stanton look like he was in way over his head. It wasn't even a case of a guy trying to make something out of nothing, like Stafford's. At least with Stafford, he'll learn that you don't have to be the hero and to just chuck the ball away sometimes. Stanton's was just dumb. But he got bailed out thanks to a pass interference call. Had that not happened, chances are this game looks a whole lot worse for Stanton. I will concede that he can be a decent backup, but come on, this shit about how Stanton needs to be given a chance to win the starting job needs to stop. If Drew Stanton is our starter, we are utterly and completely fucked.

Okay, enough bitching about Drew Stanton. I know I am just about the only Lions fan alive who doesn't like him, and so I will move on. I mentioned Aaron Brown earlier, and with good reason. GOOD LORD. That dude is fast. And he's smooth too. He just sort of glides down the field and when he gets some room, he's gone. He went from a guy who had to work hard to make the team to a guy who no one wants to see leave town. I think everyone fell in love with him during that game and after he did his backflip following his last touchdown, a cult hero was born. This is the dude who all the fans are going to be pulling for, and with his performance and the way Derrick Williams played, suddenly what I already thought was a good draft looks that much better. Those were probably two of the three guys I was the most worried would be busts and if Saturday's game was any indication, I think they both have a good shot at not only making the team, but tearing shit up once they do.

The running backs as a whole looked pretty good. Kevin Smith looked good in the short time he was in there and Brown looked spectacular on a couple of plays. Allan Ervin even showed up and looked like he could do some things. Aveion Cason on the other hand, well, I'm guessing that he is about to be released for roughly the four thousandth time by the Lions. We will probably see you again some time in November Aveion, but no offense, I kinda hope we don't.

Other than that, offensively the Lions looked okayish. The receivers looked like shit, but everyone who will be on the team was injured anyway, so . . . yeah, I'm not reading a whole lot into that. The good thing about that is that it makes the performance of Stafford, Culpepper, and okay, Stanton that much more impressive. Meanwhile the line did a generally adequate job of blocking in both the pass and the run. Basically, the offense actually looked functional and sprinkled in a couple of big plays, and the screen passes installed by Scott Linehan just looked gorgeous and were a real weapon. After last season, that's more than okay.

Defensively, the Lions looked better. Of course, that means absolutely nothing. I mean, the team could have been eaten by wild hyenas and I still would have said they looked better than last year. The defensive line actually managed some penetration(oooooh, dirty), with Landon Cohen in particular blowing up a couple of plays in the backfield. They were still pushed backwards too much, but again, any semblance of competence is a huge step up from the horrors of last season.

The linebackers looked okayish. The starters didn't get much time and really, much of this defense is going to rest on their ability to make plays, do a dependable job cleaning up when the line fails, and drop back and cover the middle of the field when the defensive backs wander, dazed and bleeding, from the action. The one notable thing that I took away from the game was that Ernie Sims is apparently a married man now, and that his wife understands her place in the realm of the Lizard King. Apparently she gets that his animal subjects are his true love, but since his other nicknames are Cinnabon(try to figure it out, it will be fun) and the Python King(so dubbed by our very own LB), she should be happy.

The defensive backs looked pretty good in coverage. Anthony Henry looked solid, which is a big relief because everyone is worried that he is too old and slow to hold shit down on the corner. The one player who really impressed me though was Chris Roberson, who made a few really nice tackles in the open field. He started off the game with a huge stick on special teams and then later on, he made a huge tackle on a screen play that was close to breaking for a big play in the fourth quarter with the Lions down and needing the ball back. Stuart Schweigert looked good too, as he flew into the backfield and made a couple of tackles for loss. I kinda hope both dudes make the team. As a whole though, the defensive backs missed too many tackles. Kalvin Pearson looked like shit. He is a Marinelli guy, and, well, the stink is too great on him for me to get past. When he fucks up as egregiously as he did on Saturday, that stink is fucking intolerable.

The defense as a whole did look too sloppy. Michael Turner's touchdown run was a call back to last year, a bonanza of missed tackles that had me suffering post traumatic stress and weeping silently into the cruel night. But none of that was as frustrating as the penalties. GOOD LORD. The last Falcons touchdown drive felt like a scene from Necessary Roughness. There were four Lions penalties on two plays. I half expected to see someone get flagged for karate kicking someone. It was absurd.

But, all in all, both the offense and the defense looked like they weren't overmatched. They didn't look particularly great or anything, but a reaction of WELL OKAY, SURE WHY NOT is a hell of a lot better than HEAD FOR THE HILLS ONLY THE STRONG WILL SURVIVE which is what every game last season was filled with. Again, it is completely ridiculous to get excited about what happened, given that it was the first preseason game, and game is probably a generous word there, but we have suffered so much and those who are still here are both the stupid and the strong, the heroic and the foolish. We deserve to smile, even if for a fleeting moment and even if it is completely meaningless.

One last note: I know this shit is kinda long, and a little heavy on the THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED AND THEN THIS HAPPENED which isn't usually my deal, but this was the first time I had seen these dudes play in a long time and so I got carried away a little with the analysis. Next time I will talk about werewolves on PCP, vampire apes and Hitler. I promise.


AERose said...

Zack Follett do anything worth mentioning? I'd download the game, but the only torrent available would melt my computer if I tried to play it, so I have to rely on other people to satisfy my completely unhealthy curiosity.

Neil said...

Nope. I would have been all over it if he did. I want to see him maul some fool.

AERose said...

We live in hope.