Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Well, That Happened

I have been humbled. I apologize, oh noble Nostradamus. Please forgive me. I should have never spoke out of turn.

It is getting harder and harder to do these prediction posts, mainly because it is just so damn depressing to have to go back and take a look at what happened when all I want to do is run, run, run away from the insipid bullshit of yet another ugly, shameful loss. I guess the Thanksgiving loss wasn’t so shameful – at least on one level, a level which saw the Lions lead for the majority of the game and which saw them tied heading into the 4th quarter against one of the best teams in the league. Then again, the Lions ended up losing by a billion points and after the game, we jumped into the time machine with The Great Willie Young and Doc Brown and found ourselves in the Lions locker room in . . . oh, hell, pick any year from about 2001 on, where the players bitched each other out and Ernie Sims’ monkey went berserk and began furiously jacking off and throwing poop at terrified reporters. Yes, it’s back to those halcyon days of yore, when I was forced to amuse myself with the made up antics of possibly apocryphal simians while the world of the Detroit Lions burned, burned, burned. Oh well. I suppose we should just get on with the rest of this terrible, terrible post. Okay? Okay.

PREDICTION THE FIRST: Shaun Hill will throw and throw and throw, completing 31 of 52 passes for 355 yards, with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: Hill completed 27 of 46 passes for 285 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions.

To be honest, although the final numbers do indeed indicate that Hill threw and threw and threw, it didn’t really feel that way. I think the numbers ended up where they were because the Lions were forced to throw during the garbage time of the 4th quarter, when the game was already over and they had to throw if only to satisfy the requirement that teams vainly attempt to at least appear to still have hope that they can come back. Before then, the Lions actually ran the ball more than I thought that they would, which depressed Hill’s attempts slightly.

I thought that Hill played well in the first half. He played largely mistake free football and he managed to move the team down the field even though he has a water pistol for an arm. Seriously, his touchdown pass to St. Calvin looked like it was thrown by a nine year old. But St. Calvin caught the ball, and really, that’s Shaun Hill in a nutshell right there: shitty arm, wobbly balls (and I’m not talking about his passes . . . HIYOOOOOO!!! Just kidding, I actually am talking about his passes and not his testicles, which I’m sure are not excessively wobbly.), and yet, the dude makes plays.

I know, I know, that verges dangerously close to Grit Merchant territory, but fuck it, it’s true. It’s what we’ve come to expect from Hill and in the first half he delivered.

In the second half, though . . .

Yeah. The turning point in the game seemed to be the moment the ball left Shaun Hill’s hand while the Lions were driving early in the third quarter and landed in the hands of a Patriots defender. Only a few plays later, the Patriots scored to tie the game and from that moment on, it kinda felt like the Lions were fighting not only the Patriots but the weight of time and the immensity of their own tortured history. Sure, the Lions answered back, but it was clear that we were on a precipice and it would take only a subtle breeze to push us off and send us plummeting to our death far, far below. The Lions probably still could have survived that, but the problem they faced – the problem they always face – is that they just didn’t have anybody strong enough to hold them all up there on that cliff when that breeze started to blow.

I think Hill is a capable quarterback. He’s proven that much at least. But the biggest difference between him and Stafford, aside from the fact that one has an arm engineered by NASA while the other has an arm built by a retarded six year old using only construction paper and rubber cement, is that Stafford is capable of putting the team on his shoulders (well, his metaphorical shoulders anyway. His actual shoulders couldn’t handle the weight of a fruit fly right now.), and holding them steady when that breeze starts to blow. Hill simply doesn’t have that force of will or the talent necessary to keep everything from falling straight to hell.

And that’s fine. It really is. Hill is the backup quarterback and not the starter for a reason, and well, there you go. I think the Lions can win with Hill if everything else is going right. He’s not a liability. But the Lions aren’t good enough right now to win like that. They need their quarterback to be a legitimate asset. Simply not being a liability isn’t enough. There is too much fragility right now. The breeze is blowing and dudes are tumbling off that cliff faster and faster every day and Shaun Hill can do nothing but stand there and watch. None of this is his fault. He’s like a mediocre king, a caretaker, during a time when the kingdom is threatened by a billion different things from a billion different places. Only a great king can hold it together. (Note: I almost went on a tangent that compared Hill to James Buchanan and Stafford to Abraham Lincoln, but I figured that would be excessively nerdy and ridiculous even for me. Yes, really. It would have gotten way out of hand and you know it.)

PREDICTION THE SECOND: Jahvid Best will play, but he won’t be anywhere close to effective, running the ball only 8 times for 15 yards. Maurice Morris will receive the bulk of the carries, but he’ll still only run for 35 yards on 10 carries as the Lions will largely abandon the run game in favor of the pass.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: I think I recall seeing Best line up at slot receiver early in the game, but maybe not. It’s possible – hell, exceedingly likely even – that I was just seeing things. As you know, my mind can, uh, see some things that aren’t there from time to time. Frankly, it’s amazing that I’ve never freaked out and claimed that Hitler rode across the field on a purple horse singing show tunes during a game. I mean, we all know that only happens at halftime or during timeouts.

Ahem. Anyway, whether or not Best actually played is kind of a technicality because stat wise he didn’t do a damn thing. Nope. Not one carry or one catch. And you know what? It was for the, uh, best. (Fucking puns. That wasn’t intentional, I swear. )

Indeed. Everyone talks about how good Jahvid Best is, how he’s a home run hitter and how he adds an extra dimension to our offense and all of that is true. When he’s healthy. The problem is, is that Best hasn’t been healthy since sometime in the Eagles game, which was way back in Week 2. Since then, his toes have become possessed by Failure Demons and we have been forced to watch him try to gut it out week after week, robbed of his home run hitting ability, which, uh, is kind of an important thing to lose considering that is the one reason why he is in the lineup each and every week.

So, really, it was about time the coaches yanked him off the field. It’s not his fault. I commend him for showing up every week and trying to make it work. It just wasn’t happening. It wasn’t doing anyone any good to watch him stutter step and then get dragged down for a one yard loss every time he touched the ball. Seriously, the dude is only one more lousy carry away from seeing his per carry average dip below 3.0. That’s absurdly awful for a number one running back.

Maurice Morris, meanwhile, was more effective than I thought he would be, as he picked up 55 yards on 9 carries and actually gave the Lions a real, live functional rushing attack for the first time all season. I was pleasantly surprised. And not by Morris, who I thought was the Lions best running back last season and who always shows up and surprises people when he gets his shot, but by the fact that the running attack was even a little effective. I had long given up on the Lions being able to run the ball against anyone for the rest of the year. This is mostly because I had utterly damned the offensive line to hell, especially after the fiasco against Buffalo, but maybe, just maybe, the Lions inability to run the ball was more of a product of Best’s ruined toes than we thought. I mean, sure, I think we all knew that his health was playing a big factor, but I think most of us also assumed that it was a secondary issue, and that the primary problem lay with the five clods who make up the offensive line. This is still probably true, but probably not to the extent that we thought it was, you know? Maybe before, the ratio would have been 80/20 shitty O-Line/Jahvid Best’s traitorous toes, but now it’s probably more like 60/40.

Oddly, even though Morris was effective running the ball, the bulk of the carries actually went to Aaron Brown, who carried the ball 13 times for 36 yards. Aaron Brown? Yeah. Remember him? The dude who did that awesome backflip after scoring in the preseason last year? Yeah. Him. Brown had a couple of decent runs, but for the most part he didn’t look as good as Morris. I’m not sure why the coaches seem so hesitant to use Morris, who, like I said, always looks better than people expect him to when he’s given a chance, but it seems clear that Linehan and Schwartz are looking for something else in the backfield. Brown getting more carries than anyone else tells me that they want a guy back there who is capable of hitting the home run on any play, even if it means that he won’t be the type who gets them 4 or 5 yards consistently, which is closer to what Morris offers. Brown is essentially a poor man’s Best. He’s fast, he’s electric, he can catch the ball out of the backfield, but he goes down if a defender breathes on him. It makes sense from a certain point of view that the coaches would just try to plug in a version of Best in his absence, but from another point of view, it seems mildly insane. After all, it’s not like Best had been tearing it up. Maybe the best thing would be to change it up a bit and rely on the guy who gives you 4 or 5 yards a carry rather than the home run dude. It makes sense to me. I mean, before his thumb told him to go fuck himself, Kevin Smith was running the ball more effectively than Best. Perhaps there is something stylistic going on here. Perhaps the plodders like Smith and Morris are capable of more success behind this particular line in this particular offense than home run hitters like Best and Brown. I don’t know. I’m just sort of rambling and thinking aloud here. It’s more of a throwaway thought than any sort of well thought out theory. For the season, Smith was averaging 3.9 yards per carry while Morris is averaging only 3.2. Meanwhile, Best is averaging 3.0 and Brown is averaging 3.4, which, uh . . . tells us nothing, really. Well, it does, but what it tells us is that really no one has been able to run the ball very effectively this season, which I guess brings us back to blaming the offensive line. Then again, sample size is an issue here. I mean, Morris has only gotten 30 carries, Brown’s gotten 17, and . . . ugh. Fuck it. Who knows? All I know is that Morris looked good against the Patriots, but it’s probably idiotic to take anything away from that. The situation is a mess. That is likely the only thing that we can say for sure and we won’t know more until Best returns fully healthy. Unfortunately, that might not happen until next year.

PREDICTION THE THIRD: St. Calvin will catch 7 passes for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: St. Calvin caught 4 passes for 81 yards and 1 touchdown, which . . . okay. I mean, what is there really to say here? We probably put way too much pressure on St. Calvin to have monster game after monster game, but hey, there’s a reason I have dubbed him St. Calvin, you know? And that’s because the dude is 8 feet tall with a 10 foot vertical leap and 74 inch hands and he runs the 40 in 2.6 seconds. Those are only slight exaggerations.

When you actually step back from it, though, you realize that St. Calvin has had an extraordinary season. Through 11 games, he has 59 catches for 806 yards and 11 touchdowns. For the season that projects to 86 catches for 1172 yards and 16 touchdowns, which are Pro Bowl caliber numbers. And he has done that even though he’s battled through some injuries and he has had to catch passes from dudes not named Matthew Stafford for most of the season. That last little factoid probably explains his 13.7 yards per catch, which is the lowest of his career. You could probably bump that up a couple of yards and add several more catches if Stafford was healthy and playing every week.

And really, that was kind of the story for St. Calvin in the game against the Patriots too. He did what he could playing with a limited quarterback and his numbers reflect that. Further, the one touchdown he caught happened because he made a terrific play on a shitty ball, showing the body control to break back and go down and scoop that shitball out of the dirt (well, artificial turf, but whatever). He’s a singularly talented player – as evidenced by the avalanche of touchdowns, almost all of which have been a direct result of him being amazing and just flat out better than the dudes attempting to cover him – playing with quarterbacks who are obviously limited. If anything, objectively speaking, we should be thrilled with what he’s done so far this season. Actually, fuck, he has been better than the numbers show. I mean, let’s not forget, the dude actually has 12 touchdowns because, well . . . you know. Fuck the Bears and fuck Mike Pereira. Never forget!

PREDICTION THE FOURTH: Tom Brady will complete 25 of 38 passes for 270 yards and 2 touchdowns.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: Sigh. Brady completed 21 of 27 passes for 341 yards and 4 touchdowns to go with 0 interceptions.


That kinda sums it up, doesn’t it? The Lions secondary is obviously regressing and I’m not sure why. Poor Alphonso Smith has probably woken up every night since Thursday with night terrors and visions of Deion Branch or Wes Welker or Paul Revere or Sam Adams running away from him and then dancing in the endzone while he looks on helplessly and the nation laughs at him. Jesus. The Carlton feels like it was a million years ago, doesn’t it?

I’m guessing it’s a confidence issue more than anything else at this point. I mean, when the Lions secondary were making plays earlier in the season, it was obvious that they were playing with ridiculous amounts of swagger. Swagger, of course, is the older, cooler cousin of Pluck and Grit, the one who regularly gets laid and once beat the fuck out of the clerk at the 7-11 because the dude had the audacity to card him when he was trying to buy a 40 of King Cobra. Pluck and Grit worship him and they even once got a sip of beer from him that one time when they were hanging out while he was working on his Trans-Am and Grit even told Pluck that he saw Swagger fucking that waitress from the Waffle House, the one who was Homecoming Queen a decade ago, and Pluck told Grit that Swagger could blow smoke rings that look like a dragon and even though Pluck and Grit’s mom says that Swagger’s no good and that he’s a fuck up and that all he does is sit around all day collecting disability for a bullshit back injury, drinking, smoking, fighting and fucking, that shit all sounds pretty cool to Pluck and Grit and when they’re sitting at school, stuck with that lame-ass Drew Stanton, they just daydream and draw pictures of Swagger riding his dirtbike and fighting cobras while a bunch of hot chicks poledance in the background. Anyway, Swagger was driving Chris Houston and Alphonso Smith to greatness – or at least mediocrity – but it appears that Swagger must have knocked up the Waffle House waitress and had to blow town because that fucker’s gone.

PREDICTION THE FIFTH: No one Patriot will have a huge game. Instead, the Lions will be slowly picked apart by a variety of weapons, from Wes Welker to Danny Woodhead. The Lions will actually do an admirable job defending the Patriots attack, but Tom Brady will sniff out the weakest point of defense enough times to make the difference.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: Well, the Patriots leading rusher was BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who rushed for 59 yards on 12 carries and scored 2 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Danny Woodhead ran for 32 yards on 8 carries. Deion Branch caught 3 passes for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns, Wes Welker caught 8 passes for 90 yards and 2 touchdowns, Rob Gronkowski caught 5 passes for 65 yards, and . . . well, hopefully, my point has been made. The Patriots and Brady spread the ball around and the Lions were indeed slowly picked apart until finally the portal to hell burst open in the 4th quarter and Failure Demons swarmed Ford Field. More than any of the other predictions, I feel like I got this one right.



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