Thursday, October 15, 2009
The last time the Lions beat the Packers in Green Bay, I was still in elementary school. So, yeah, it's been a long time. I am a little older, a little wiser, and I probably swear slightly less than I did back then, and so I'm sure I will appreciate a win over the Packers in Green Bay now a hell of a lot more than I did then. The thing is, is that I just don't see that happening this year.
The Packers have struggled so far this season. They are 2-2, and Aaron Rodgers has gotten the shit beaten out of him. You remember what happened to Daunte Culpepper against the Steelers, right? Well, that shit has been happening to Rodgers every game. This has caused a few folks to be optimistic about the Lions chances this weekend, including my man Ty. But while I appreciate the optimism and the enthusiasm, I just can't quite get behind it.
All I have to do is picture that frozen hell known as Lambeau Field, and images of fat dudes with foam cheese on their heads and dudes flying into the stands rushes through my head while Todd Rundgren yelping about banging on the drum all day rings in my ears and I start to shiver and shake like a junkie. It's an awful thing. And then I remember all those game when Barry Sanders would end up with -2 yards rushing for the game while icicles formed on his ass and I begin to weep tears of blood and scream unholy gibberish that causes birds to fly away in mortal terror and the neighborhood pets to howl mournfully at the moon. You can understand the hesitance that I feel here.
The Lions have looked better this year. That is true. But we have to be both honest and realistic. To say they have looked better is the same as saying that a dude with severe brain damage looks better following a couple of months of physical therapy. Sure, that dude can smile like a goober with minimal drool while shuffling along an inch at a time with the help of a rail and a horde of concerned nurses, but you can't expect that sorry bastard to run the hundred yard dash while doing trigonometry and reciting Elizabethan poetry. It's a happy time, but there are still miles and miles to go before the horrors of the past become just another memory. Those ghosts of Lions' failures past are still hanging around, and one of the biggest of those is the specter of Lambeau Field and that son of a bitch isn't going to go down without a fight.
Matthew Stafford has looked good this season. The future for him is bright, especially since he has St. Calvin to throw to and Kevin Smith to run the ball. They are our own personal Ghostbusters. Stafford can even be Peter Venkman, making wise cracks and fucking Sigourney Weaver while he fights those terrible demon beasts. That might be a little weird since Sigourney Weaver is old enough to conceivably be his grandmother, but what the hell, these are strange times and all of our heroes are flawed. But the thing is, is that right now Peter Venkman is iffy ever since that one ghost haunted his kneecap and Ray Stanz keeps getting hurt and all that leaves is Egon and we all know that motherfucker isn't getting the job done all by himself. Maybe someone will step up like Winston and take some of the heat off of our boys, but it still won't be enough, especially when that terrible ghost that has beaten our asses whenever the Lions have made the trip across Lake Michigan is waiting on the horizon.
Okay, that was kind of a weird metaphor and it was getting so tortured that I'm pretty sure someone would have thrown the Geneva Convention in my face at any moment in order to put a stop to that shit, but I am an American and as we all know, that means I do not torture and so I will stop all that nonsense. The point is that winning at Lambeau is an extraordinarily difficult task for the Lions. It has been for years, and even though the Lions will break through eventually, it's probably not going to happen this year, no matter how badly we want it to. The conditions just aren't right for it.
Ah, but what about the Packers struggles this season? Don't their own problems leave them ripe for a loss here? Well, uh . . . no. Perhaps the Packers biggest issue this season has been pass protection, which I mentioned earlier. Their offensive line has been both terrible and decimated by injuries. Unfortunately for us, they get Chad Clifton back at left tackle this week, which will allow them to move Daryn Colledge back over to left guard and slide Jason Spitz back to center from left guard, giving them the offensive line that they wanted all along. Plus, Mark Tauscher looks like he's on the way back at right tackle, and even though he probably won't start against the Lions, there is a significant chance that the Packers offensive line will be worlds better than it has been all season long. Well, hooray for us.
Even if the offensive line isn't 100%, it's not like our defensive line has made itself a name by rushing the quarterback this season. The Lions aren't exactly the team to take advantage of an ailing offensive line, and that's even with a healthy Cliff Avril, who, among others on the line, is banged up. It's not really a favorable match up no matter how much we might want it to be.
The Packers haven't run the ball very effectively this season, but again, that's probably thanks in large part to the chaos on the offensive line. Ryan Grant is a decent back, capable of methodically moving his team down the field, and even though he's under four yards per carry for the season, I wouldn't be quick to condemn him. Again, the lack of any consistency or decency along the offensive line so far this season makes anything that has happened thus far almost meaningless. With the line finally healthy and ready to go, both Grant and Rodgers should see their numbers - and the Packers fortunes - improve throughout the rest of the season.
If Rodgers has enough time to throw - which I think he will for the first time this season - he has capable and dangerous targets ready and willing to abuse the Lions secondary. Greg Jennings has struggled along with the rest of the team this season, and Donald Driver seems like he is 168 years old, but - and I know I am driving this point into the ground - again, it all goes back to the offensive line. If they are healthy, it should create a sort of ripple effect which extends to the entire offense. Grant will be able to run the ball, which should keep some of the heat off of Rodgers, and combined with the likely much improved pass blocking, that should open up the passing game.
Rodgers is a very good quarterback, capable of putting up some big numbers, and Jennings and Driver are both terrific receivers. The Lions, meanwhile, are allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete a ridiculous 73.3% of their passes. So far this season, teams have averaged 3 touchdowns per game through the air against the Lions and have a passer rating of 119.7. That shit is just ridiculous. That means that every quarterback the Lions have faced, whether it was Brett Favre or Jason Campbell, has looked like they were dreaming of Canton. Rodgers is a 4,000 yard passer who can rack big numbers up in a hurry and what does all this point do? Say, where did I put that drain cleaner . . .
Offensively, I don't really know how to call this one. Both Stafford and St. Calvin are kind of toss-ups right now. If everyone plays then I think this game should at least be entertaining. The Lions can score if everybody is healthy and I think they will against the Packers. But everyone is not healthy, and if Culpepper plays and CJ sits on the sidelines, well, I just don't see the Lions being able to keep up with the Packers.
It's a long and torturous path we're on, this terrible road to redemption, but it's the only one left for us to take. We want to just be able to sprint down it, but that's hard when you have a million ghosts and demons hanging on your back and grabbing at your legs. Those bastards won't let go without a fight. This weekend, one of the most vile of those fuckers could be knocked out and left behind us. It would be a huge moment, worthy of much celebration. Unfortunately, I don't think now is the time for that particular demon to be exorcized. We will win a lot of little battles this year, and then next year we can start to confront the more vicious and terrible ghosts of our past with the strength that we have gained from those small victories. I would love it if we could somehow brutalize one of those shitheads right here and right now, but I just don't see it happening.
1. Stafford starts and has a nice game, throwing for 260 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also throws an interception which is taken to the house by Charles Woodson.
2. Calvin Johnson doesn't play. Bryant Johnson has a decent game, catching 6 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown. After the game, St. Calvin mystifies a horde of reporters by reciting a monologue from Hamlet. There is a rush by many to claim that this is proof that St. Calvin is somehow depressed, a notion which is dispelled when it is revealed that he is actually the man who wrote all of Shakespeare's plays and he is just showing off. There will be much confusion as to how this all happened, until it is revealed that St. Calvin exists outside of the space time continuum and moves at will through the universe and it's various ages. One dumb reporter tries to compare it to Back to the Future, but St. Calvin verbally smacks him down, saying "Do I look like some geeky ass white boy on a skate board to you?" Someone else makes a Doc Brown crack, causing St. Calvin to say "The last time we had some white haired crazy motherfucker running shit here, y'all ran his ass out of town and then we went 0-16." The next day, Mike Martz buys himself a DeLorean. He spends a full day just sitting behind the wheel and weeping.
3. Kevin Smith runs the ball 25 times for 91 yards and a touchdown. He wears a patch on his uniform in support of Ernie Sims' monkey, who is still hiding from the authorities.
4. Aaron Rodgers throws for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns. He is only sacked once, and after the game he prank calls Brett Favre, who just smiles and admires his Wranglers because he is just havin' fun out there.
5. Ryan Grant is held somewhat in check. He goes for 80 yards on only 17 carries. He scores a touchdown. After the game it is revealed that St. Calvin, using his Godlike powers, has managed to put some sort of bizarre force field into play which causes opposing running games to falter. When asked why he doesn't just keep them from gaining any yards at all, St. Calvin grows exasperated, saying "What the fuck do you want from me? Have you seen the shitheads on our defensive line? There is only so much even I can do." One intrepid reporter keeps digging into the story until it is scandalously revealed that Calvin Johnson was the inspiration for Dr. Manhattan. When it is questioned how this is possible, St. Calvin just laughs and once again breaks out the "Lord, what fools these mortals be."