Lost in the euphoria of the Lions victory on Sunday were lots of little things that were either sublime or profoundly stupid, worthy of praise or ripe to be mocked.
When the Lizard King aka the Python King aka Cinnabon aka Ernie Sims' traitorous shoulder sold him out to the British(I'm not sure what it means either. I think there's a Benedict Arnold reference in there somewhere.), I was devastated. It's no secret that along with St. Calvin, my man with the monkey is one of the few players that I pretty much unconditionally revere. I have been excited as all hell to see him run wild in Gunther Cunningham's defense and while thus far he hasn't done a whole hell of a lot, I still hold out hope that he will break through and maul ball carriers, perhaps with secret moves picked up from his monkey. And so it sucked that he wasn't going to play in the game against the Redskins. So why is this labeled Pleasant Surprise?(By the way, now that I look at that, it sounds vaguely like a feminine hygiene product. What is the surprise? I don't know, but apparently it's pleasant. I am dangerously close to speculating, which I am afraid would horrify and offend even my most hardened readers. And by hardened, I mean . . . ah, forget it.) Anyway, this is labeled Pleasant Surprise because his replacement, DeAndre Levy looked pretty damn good.
When Levy was drafted in the third round, no one liked the pick. I pretty much shit on it, figuring that the Lions needed a middle linebacker, not some stiff who had only played the outside in college. But it turns out that, uh, I may have been mistaken. Levy looked like a playmaker against the Redskins, particularly coming up big on Washington's 4th and goal on their first possession, which completely swung the momentum of the game in the Lions favor, creating a wave that they rode all the way until halftime. Now the question becomes what do the Lions do when Sims comes back? I don't even want to think about the possibility of King Ernie being dethroned. This is supposed to be a happy thing, and it is threatening to make me sad and so we will move on.
PLEASANT SURPRISE PART DOS
Everyone knows about St. Calvin by now. He's an otherwordly animal. You can't look right at him without burning out your retinas. If you make eye contact with him your face will melt like at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Unfortunately, because everyone knows this, opponent's do everything they can short of sticking a dude with a sniper rifle in the rafters to stop him. So it was imperative that the Lions find a secondary receiver, someone who they can go to when the opposition decides to attempt to chain the unchainable Calvin Johnson, and someone who can draw a little attention of his own so that St. Calvin can run free. Unfortunately, up until the game against the Redskins that hadn't happened. Enter Bryant Johnson.
Bryant Johnson, or Johnson the Lesser as he is known around here, was himself a former first round pick. Unfortunately, he was never more than the third receiver in Arizona, which isn't bad considering the presence of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, but still is not exactly what you expect out of a former first round pick. Thankfully, against the Redskins, Johnson the Lesser did his job and did it well, making a handful of tough catches and serving in many instances as Matthew Stafford's go to guy. His final numbers weren't overly impressive, only 4 catches for 73 yards, but that averages out to over 18 yards per catch, and it seemed like all of them were important catches, coming when the Lions needed them the most. And, of course, not included in those numbers is the deep ball late in the fourth quarter where BJ(giggle)drew a critical pass interference penalty, setting the Lions up on the doorstep for their final touchdown, which proved to be the game winner. Well done, Bryant Johnson. Well done.
A STRANGE FEELING
It is weird to feel sorry for a fan of another team. I am so used to getting a pat on the back and a sad "There, there" from opposing fans that I'm not sure how to process it when I feel bad for another fan. But during the game against the Redskins, I couldn't help but think of poor Raven Mack. I knew that this shit was killing my boy. I mean, I didn't feel bad enough that I actually wanted his shitheads to, you know, win or anything. But still, you know? Anyway, throughout the game I just kept remembering everything he has written about both Dan Snyder and Jim Zorn, and let me tell you dudes, Raven Mack knows what he is talking about. That shit is straight up depressing. It was so bad that I wonder if the Redskins management sent a bunch of volunteers or something into the locker room just before the game ended to make sure there were no sharp objects lying around. They probably had to confiscate Zorn's shoelaces, or take his belt away like my man Ty tweeted on Sunday. Just a terrible situation, awful really, and I feel for Raven Mack. And coming from me, you know that shit means something.
BITCHING AND MOANING
Okay, okay, so it isn't all candy and blowjobs. The Lions won, but that doesn't mean there weren't some things that pissed me off during the game. In particular, the Lions clock management at the ends of both halves bothered me. In the first, they clearly had enough time to comfortably make their way down the field and get a touchdown to make it 17-0. But, it was obvious almost from the beginning of the drive that they were playing for a field goal. They let the clock wind down and didn't seem in any sort of particular hurry to get down the field. All of that culminated in them having only one real shot at the end zone, a shot that was taken in the form of a little swing pass that didn't go anywhere. It was a glaring example of a team playing to minimize mistakes instead of playing to maximize opportunities, and it all harkened back to the ranting and raving I did last week about them not allowing Stafford to actually play. Look, I know he's young and I know he's made some mistakes so far, but the Lions simply aren't talented enough to tighten up like that during those types of drives. They have to take advantage of all the opportunities they get. They can't hope to play conservatively and simply out execute the opponent like they are Michigan or Ohio St. playing against Bumfuck University in the 1970's. If they keep doing that, it will cost them. (By the way, Bumfuck University is a fine school, renowned for it's Political Science Department. They simply have an unfortunate name. But I guess that's what happens when you are founded by George Bumfuck.)
Anyway, that is all a minor quibble when compared to their strategy at the end of the game, which was to retreat into a prevent, up by 12 with more than five minutes left to play. Of course, predictably, the Redskins marched right down the field and scored in only a couple of minutes, forcing the Lions to try to kill the clock with A.) their starting running back out for the remainder of the game, B.)the Redskins having all three of their timeouts, and C.)the two minute warning effectively acting as a fourth timeout. Admirably, they did try one pass play, which got them a first down and allowed them to burn some more time, but they then completely retreated into a shell, getting stuffed quickly and forcing them to hand the ball back to Washington with plenty of time still on the clock.
Okay, again, I can understand the desire to prevent big plays from happening, but by going to the prevent so early, they took the game out of their own hands. Rather than winning the game, they put the ball quite literally in the hands of Jason Campbell and the Redskins and gave them the opportunity to win it. I hate hate HATE when coaches do this. I used to watch Lloyd Carr do this shit all the time at Michigan and it drove me nuts. It also caused me to watch Michigan lose several games just like this one, where they had a two score lead in the fourth quarter, only to tighten up and blow it.
I have liked a lot of what Jim Schwartz has done so far. Like everyone, I am a big fan. But the tendency to be too conservative has bugged me more and more as the season has worn on. Perhaps this is on the coordinators more than Schwartz. Fine. Regardless, I am a little worried about this.
But still, we won, which is something that hasn't happened in a very, very long time and so I kind of feel like an ass for bitching about anything at all. It drove me nuts during the game, just like it drove me nuts last week when they didn't let Stafford do much of anything. But I will choose to believe that it will get better from here, that as Stafford matures and grows as a quarterback, so will the confidence of Jim Schwartz in his abilities, and this will all be a dead issue. Optimism is the word of the day. It just isn't blind, that's all.