Thursday, January 5, 2012

This Time, We're Bringing a Bazooka

I’ve been trying to figure out what I would talk about for this here preview since, let’s face it, this is kind of a momentous game and I figured it deserved something suitably epic. But how do I do something especially epic when my normal stuff has dragons and dead people and monkeys and semen and werewolves and escaped vampire apes and Willie Youngs and a whole menagerie of epic creatures and imagery? I don’t know. Maybe I could attach a drawing of a 40 foot tall clown devouring a baby? Or a 40 foot tall baby devouring a clown? In the face of that disturbing truth, I felt like maybe the best idea was to just discard hyperbole all together and just try to be quietly honest, a beautiful piano sonata rather than a wild loud guitar solo from hell.

And with that in mind, my initial idea was to get personal and talk about being eleven years old and watching from the upper deck of the Silver Dome as the Lions blasted the Cowboys into oblivion, but I figured that would take a maudlin turn pretty quickly and would end with me babbling about the horrors and disappointments of the last twenty years and I think we’ve all had enough of that, haven’t we?


So with that idea discarded, I toyed with the idea of linking this game, against the Saints, to the very first game of the Jim Schwartz/Matthew Stafford era, which was also against the Saints. I was intrigued by the similarities between the two games. In the first, I remember writing that I expected the Lions defense to be firebombed by the Saints and I likened it to a Wild West shootout and just hoped and prayed that our boys would show up with something more than a slingshot. They didn’t, and, well, the Lions were firebombed. Obviously, ever since it became clear that the Lions would play the Saints in their first playoff game since the Tyrannosaurus Rex administration most Lions fans have been bracing themselves for another shootout, only this time we’re pretty sure that our boys will be bringing something more akin to a bazooka than a slingshot. Obviously, the parallels are interesting, enticing even, and for a symbolism addict like me, it’s hard to turn down an opportunity to start gibbering about the Symmetry of Fate again. Plus, it’s kind of hard to turn down the image of Matthew Stafford as Doc Holliday with a fucking bazooka in his hands blowing away Drew Brees and the Clanton Brothers at the OK Corral. But even that sort of symbolism, that sort of That Was Then This Is Now sermonizing is tied too heavily to the past and I’m sick of the past. We’re in the fucking playoffs and everything else is meaningless.

So . . . what’s left? Well, thankfully, the Saints and the people and fans of New Orleans have done me a kindness and lobbed a big, fat juicy softball right over the heart of the plate. All week long, they’ve been gibbering and jabbering about who they’ll play in the second round, blatantly disrespecting the Lions and damn near taunting us. Hell, ESPN even ran a poll asking which number would be higher, Drew Brees’ interceptions or Ndamukong Suh’s personal fouls. To date, with almost 15,000 votes counted, America, by a 64-36% margin, thinks that Suh will have more personal fouls than Brees will have interceptions. On one hand, I’m almost impressed by the blatant trolling efforts of ESPN and the New Orleans Saints this week. They understand that America is stupid and eats this shit up with a spoon made of ignorance and slackjawed inanity. On the other hand, fuck all of them.

The overwhelming temptation is to turn this into an issue of respect, but to be honest, that’s what the Saints want. That shit plays right into their hands. The Lions are at their worst when they’re feeding off of emotion and punching dudes and slapping refs around because they aren’t being respected. The reality is that for the Lions to win this game, they have to ignore all of that stupid bullshit and then make it all go away by doing one simple thing: winning the goddamn game. This stuff is never going to go away until the Lions show up somewhere like New Orleans and coldly and ruthlessly shank the Saints in front of their friends and loved ones. This is not about respect. Not anymore. The Lions are in the playoffs. They don’t need your fucking respect, ESPN. They don’t need your fucking respect, New Orleans. No. This is about winning. That’s it.

The flipside to all of that, though, is that I don’t think the Saints respect the Lions. That’s fine. I don’t give a shit anymore, and I don’t give a shit for all the reasons I just said. The thing is, though, is that’s not fine for the Saints. If they don’t respect the Lions . . . well, here comes Doc Stafford with a fucking Bazooka, Drew Clanton. Best mind your manners, son.

Let them talk. Let them laugh and taunt and say all manner of stupid shit. Let them look ahead to the second round. Let them talk about the 49ers or the Giants or whoever. Good. Great. While they’re looking ahead, the Lions are focused on one thing: killing the Saints. You don’t hear any Lions players or coaches or fans or anybody really talking about the Lions second round prospects. That’s because all anyone even remotely connected to the Lions cares about is winning this game. And when the playoffs get here, the difference between winning and losing is so small, that something like focus can mean all the difference in the world.

The Saints don’t want to think so. They think that they’re worlds better than the Lions. Hell, everybody who isn’t a Lions player or coach or fan thinks so. After all, they’ve got Drew Brees, and with numbers like these – 5476 yards, 46 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions – why wouldn’t they think that no one would be able to keep up with him? He’s the fucking Ferrari of Quarterbacks right now. All they have to do is show up, rev the engine a few times, put it on cruise control and then coast to victory.

Well fuck that. The Saints’ – and all their believers’ – biggest mistake is in thinking that the Lions are showing up to the race in a fucking Minivan or something. Look at Brees’ numbers again. They’re phenomenal. Untouchable. Right? Well, here are Matthew Stafford’s numbers: 5,038 yards, 41 touchdowns and only 16 interceptions. Take your Minivan and shove it up your ass because the Lions just pulled up to the line in a fucking Lamborghini. And now, motherfuckers, we’re gonna race.

It’s amazing to me that the Saints and their fans and the media and everyone from the Pope to starving children in Africa to Hitler’s ghost could be so cavalier about this game. They all laugh and point to the Lions mistakes and personal fouls and all that shit the first time they played, but even with all that, and even with a suspended Ndamukong Suh and a bunch of other injuries, the Lions were knocking on the door in the 4th quarter, threatening to tie the game. Watch that game again. The amount of terrible penalties the Lions piled up was fucking absurd. Yeah, some were earned, but the 19 pass interference penalties called against Nate Burleson were pure bullshit and you all know it. Remember the Saints flying offsides and blocking the Lions field goal attempt at the end of the first half only for the refs to run off the field like they just witnessed a murder and were too afraid to do or say anything about it? Remember that the Saints received 100% of the breaks while the Lions were crucified by Pontius Goodell while the masses jeered and chucked rotten fruit? Remember all that? Good. Now remember Matthew Stafford smiling like he just shot down a MIG and then buzzed the tower even though all this bullshit was going on, and remember him throwing the ball downfield, again and again, and remember the Lions coming and coming and coming, like some sort of Terminator, and remember that you couldn’t stop us by yourselves. Remember that and keep overlooking the Lions. You fuckers.

I’m getting worked up and I should probably take an ice bath or dive off the roof naked into the snow, but my neighbors complained the last time I did that. Then again, I think my fury is at an appropriate level. It’s not wild or stupid, but simmering and determined, and I’m guessing that’s where the Lions are right now too. They know what happened the last time they played the Saints. They’re hungry for this game – not just for a playoff game, but for this particular playoff game against the Saints. I honestly believe that. They want everyone to see that they won’t be owned by that bullshit, by all the penalties, by all the dumb reactionary shit that drove a stake through their heart in that game. Meanwhile, the Saints are laughing and looking forward to the Conference semis. But most of all, the Lions want to win. Badly. And they want to win the damn game on the field with everyone watching. And the Saints, well, you get the sense that the Saints wish they could just fall asleep on Friday night, have a wizard or fairy sprinkle some dust on them and then wake up on Sunday with a magic victory in their back pocket. They don’t want to play this game, and therein lies the difference.

Of course, while motivation is crucially important this time of year, there is more to it than that. The Lions still have to go out and, you know, actually show that they aren’t a bunch of simple-minded ogres who will flip out like someone just touched their ears or something. They have to make plays when they’re there to be made. They have to stand in the line of fire, dodge some bullets and then unleash hell with their bazooka.

The Lions probably aren’t going to stop the Saints offense. They just aren’t. I’ve resigned myself to that. If anyone is expecting the Saints to go three and out series after series and for Drew Brees to be humiliated, well . . . you’re probably just setting yourself up for misery and despair. But they don’t have to either. Not with the way the Lions offense has been playing. Matthew Stafford has been unstoppable lately and as long as he and St. Calvin do their thing, then the defense just has to make a few key plays. The question then becomes, can they?

I think so. The Lions defense was embarrassed last week, and you can bet that there will be zero tolerance for fuckups in the secondary this week. This doesn’t mean that they will be perfect, but it does mean that they’ll step up just enough to at least slow the Saints down some. By the time it’s all over, all the Lions defense needs to do is take a couple of bullets and not collapse. If they manage that long enough, eventually Doc Stafford will set up with his Bazooka, and then, well . . . New Orleans, he’ll be your huckleberry. (If you haven’t watched Tombstone, then there are things about this post that probably seem weird and incomprehensible but fuck all that, I can’t be held responsible for your cultural illiteracy.)

After all, let’s not pretend that the Saints’ defense are a gang of world beaters themselves. Plus, I think a lot of us – myself included – are falling prey to the old “Hey, that just happened and so that’s what will happen forever” way of thinking. You know, the one that says that since the Lions looked like shit defensively last week, it means they’ll look like shit this week? Yeah, that one. After all, it was only the week before that we were all raving because finally the Lions showed up in all three phases of the game, and it wasn’t that long ago that we were thanking God or Buddha or Patrick Swayze or whoever because we had the defense there to keep us alive and sane while the offense was struggling. That defense is still in there somewhere. Especially if the Lions get Louis Delmas back. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I remember that this is a defense that is capable of domination. Remember the Monday Night Massacre of Jay Cutler and the Bears? Yeah, me too. That defense is still there and everyone would be well served to not forget that.

Anything is possible. I’ve said that a lot lately. I think the most likely scenario is that this game is a shootout, a fucking gnarly gunfight from hell, with dudes carrying machine guns and bazookas and flamethrowers and bazookas that shoot flamethrowers. If that happens, then it all comes down to the ability of the Lions defense to make just enough plays to allow Doc Stafford and Calvin Earp to bring some fucking justice to the land. But . . . I also think there’s at least a chance that the Lions defense we saw earlier in the season, that Monday Night Football defense, could rise from the dead, like pissed off vampire apes from hell, and drown Drew Brees in the River Styx. That’s the thing that nobody’s talking about, and if that happens, well . . . I’ll be writing another preview piece next week. But, on the other hand, I don’t think there’s even a slight chance that the Saints defense will dominate the Lions offense. I just don’t see it. As long as the refs aren’t simpering penises (penii?) the Lions will be able to move the ball at will. Matthew Stafford has proven that pretty conclusively.

My man UpHere had a good point when he e-mailed me telling me that he actually preferred this matchup to the hypothetical Lions/Giants playoff game that would have taken place had Matt Flynn not been possessed by the ghost of Peyton Manning. Of course, my initial instinct was to tell UpHere to quit huffing paint thinner or licking toads or drinking the blood of an Indian following a peyote binge, but when I read his reasons, I realized he was probably right – the Lions are built for a shootout right now, and the Giants defense, with its ferocious pass-rush, is probably the last thing we want to deal with. The Giants might not be a better team than the Saints, but they might actually have been a worse matchup for the Lions.

But I think there’s a larger point in there too – for as much as everyone seems to be worried about what Drew Brees can do, we need to take some fucking pride in what Matthew Stafford and our warrior kings can do. If you want to win by trying to simply outscore us, well . . . good luck with that. I’m not that scared of another team’s offense because I know that my team’s offense can answer the fucking bell. And once you establish that, then what’s left? The Saints defense doesn’t scare me. Not even a little. And while the Lions defense might not scare the Saints, that is their fatal flaw, because it should. For as much as the Lions defense made us all shiver and shake like witless junkies and cry like faithless fools last week, they’re still dangerous and they still have the best defensive player on the field – maybe the best two or three defensive players on the field – and none of us should forget that. If the Saints want to forget that, well, then that’s their problem and I’ll say a prayer for them while they’re getting pulled apart in the bowels of hell.

This game has nothing to do with the past. It has nothing to do with the future. It has nothing to do with respect. All it has to do with is here and now, with the present, with the space and opportunity that lies just in front of us. If other people want to make this game about those other things, then let them. If other people want to laugh and snigger and underestimate this Lions team because of shit that just doesn’t matter, then that’s their problem and our advantage. The only thing that matters is that on Saturday night, the Lions play the Saints, in the playoffs and whether you believe in the Lions or not is irrelevant, because the Lions have dudes named Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson on offense and warrior kings named Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch and Nick Fairley and Louis Delmas on defense, and in the face of those immutable truths, nothing else matters. Draw your guns, Drew Brees, because this time we aren’t coming with a slingshot, we’re coming with cannons shooting napalm and this ain’t the Wild West, this is Detroit Lions football and Doc Holliday is just a ghost and Matthew Stafford is very much alive and he is the truth.

Lions win.

Predicted Final Score: Lions 31, Saints 24


Big Al said...

Damn straight. Lions-Saints will not be a blowout, it will be a shootout.

Hell, the line is up to 11 points. I'll take that in a freaking heartbeat with the Lions' offense alone.

Well said about the previous game. For all the talk of it being a blowout in the MSM, I have to wonder if anyone really watched it. I still think the Lions did more to lose that game than the Saints did to win. The game should have gone down to the wire, but there was that pesky damn mental meltdown thing. I don't see that happening again.

Will the Lions win? I'm not confident they will. But do the Lions have better than a puncher's chance? Damn straight they do, and if the Saints go in overconfident...they'll be KOed by Stafford's right arm.

Neil said...

Exactly, my good man. Exactly.

Whiouxsie said...

In a pass-happy league, the team with the great pass rush is the team that can stop the other team's pass, and thus, the team that can win.

It makes the Giants dangerous for anyone, as you said (and New England fans still remember from 4 years ago). It's how the lowly Rams beat the Saints earlier this year, because sacking is the one thing they do real well.

Where are Detroit's best athletes on Defense? That's right, on the line, pass rushing.

They don't even have to get sacks per se, just jump up a lot and knock those short quick passes down, or push a guard back into Brees so he can't step forward and uncork a deep ball. Don't even have to do it all game long; just one or two more times than the Saints' D does it to Detroit's own big play pass-happy offense.

Very much a winnable game for Detroit. Doesn't mean they will, but they definitely can.

Marc said...

Good write up Neil.

I believe The Lions play better in the underdog role....underestimated and counted out.

Just so they can come out and beat the shit out of "the better team". I remember that last game against The Saints. I have seen all the pundits and so called experts with their "analysis"....* in anal that is*, and thats fine. The game I saw showed me that The Lions beat U said.

The Lions have confidence and an Identity now. And even moreso, a chip on their shoulder....if its any1 that should be leery of what is to come, its The Saints....they can sit around in the drunken euphoria of their accomplishments all they want....

The Howitzer and his Gang are comin' a callin'....and their out for a reckonin'....

*apologies Neil....Tombstone is 1 of my favorite flicks as well....*

Anonymous said...

Dudes, I think we all have the same feeling for this one.

It will be a shootout and a free-for-all gun fight (complete with barrels and cactus and - hopefully - a brothel...all wrapped into one.

That D-Line can rise to the occasion. Remember the energy in that Monday Night game vs. the Bears? I think they will bring it.

Having Delmas back is HUGE. I think he covered up a lot of stuff in the defensive backfield.

I have a weird feeling about this game. "Good" weird. I'm not sure the Lions will win, but then again...maybe we will.

Lord Anonymous

UpHere said...

36 hours to go and I'm already hyperventilating.

Ryden said...

I'm more excited for this game then Christmas and NYE rolled together.

I must have conviently blocked the memory of the 1st saints game because I totally forgot about all the BS calls in that game. The only thing that will make Saturday night more awesome is if I took shrooms beforehand and felt the hand of God when Staff/Megatron hooked up for their first TD

Bubbalouuey said...

Whats up here ? half of you "Are not sure" that we will win ? The Saints are bringing a knife to a gunfight Loved Tombstone and Flight of the Intruder..Put your mask on it's gonna be a gunfight..lets go downtown. Lets go LIONS

SandyC said...

"I’m getting worked up and I should probably take an ice bath or dive off the roof naked into the snow, but my neighbors complained the last time I did that." LOLs. Thanks as always for your perspective Neil.

My frame of mind going into this game is not to expect a win, but to expect a clean, hard-fought battle where the Lions can earn a modicum of respect from those who have only seen them play the hotheaded games on Thankgiving and the following week on national TV. I have to remind myself that this is one of the toughest stadiums (stadia?...following your question of penises / penii) to play in and an opponent that has had lots of time to gel with their schemes and their core players in place.

I find it hard to dislike the Saints for the way they carry themselves, but this has all the makings of a "trap game" for them, where they are looking past it and not having the kind of focus you talk about.

This has to be a three-phase, total team effort. Our secondary should be in much better shape for this game, and it helps that Lance Moore may not be available for the Saints. As for the D-Line, I can't help but think that they want to be defined by this game, make that redefined, and in a good way. That image of Fairley torching the O-Line while he was still in the first Saints match-up is still in my mind.

I just read Bill Barnwell's game preview on Grantland, and he seems to be a voice of reason, one of the few who acknowledges that the last game was a lot closer than the scoreboard showed. (He still has the Saints by 8 though.)

I actually think that the fact that nobody is picking the Lions means that they won't carry the weight of expectations, and will be able to just go out and execute. They are out to prove on offense that they have other big guns besides St. Calvin. I foresee Scheffler getting lots of targets and having a big game. On D, they are out to prove that Drew Brees is no Matt Flynn...well, not exactly that, but that they have SOME ability to slow down a QB. We need Tulloch to have a big game stopping the run and making Sproles one-dimensional. If Brees has to make close to 50 passing attempts, I feel like we can pick one or two off.

Final thought: Despite Al Michaels having a hard-on for the Saints,I am glad that we get the NBC broadcast team. Lions fans have suffered way too many games listening to that asshat league apologist Mike Periera, or Brennamen/Billick, or Buck/Aikman (recall that they didn't seem to know that the Lions-Cowboys game was OVER.)

We can deep six these Saints in the deep South. Win or lose, Saturday night is going to be a wild ride.

Neil said...


I knew I loved you for a reason.

Neil said...

Right on, Marc. The Saints aren't even bothering to pretend that they're into this one.

Neil said...

Lord Anonymous,

It seems like a lot of us are arriving at the same conclusions/being struck by the same "weird" feeling you describe and I can't help but believe that there's a reason for that beyond simple wide-eyed optimism and hope. In fact, a lot of the people who are on board with this seem to be amongst the more level-headed of the fanbase/those who don't usually get caught up in the advances of that sweet seductress Hope, and I'm taking this as a good sign. Then again, maybe the playoffs have driven us all crazy and shattered our sense of context and truth and maybe we're all descending into a dumb anarchy of the mind, but then again maybe not and maybe we're actually right and on Saturday night we'll all end up happy fools with nothing but love in our hearts. Let's hope.

Neil said...

"36 hours to go and I'm already hyperventilating."

I hear the only cure for that is to drown a hobo in a ditch and then eat his heart. I mean, that's just what I hear.

Neil said...


May the hand of God bless you during that fateful moment. (Oh great, now I'm giving benedictions.)

Neil said...


Hell yeah, man.

Neil said...


Yeah, I agree with a lot of that. The Saints lack of focus could mean all the difference in the world - provided that's what's actually going on here. But we can't forget that the Lions have to bring it too.

And I agree totally about being glad that we're not getting the now familiar Brennaman/Billick/Pereira three-headed hound from hell in this one.

CJ said...

You are amazing, all you guys commenting are amazing, our team and QB are amazing. Also, I kind of want to either throw up or sing our retarded theme song or both. Go Lions!

Neil said...

Sing while throwing up. Like smiling in the face of the devil.

Anonymous said...

I hate the fact that the officials are soaking the Lions right now. The NFL are under no circumstances going to allow your boys to win this game. That last drive should have ended at the 17 yard line, where it was stopped, but the zebras spotted the Saints a yard for some reason. I'm sorry man, I really am, because the same thing's gonna happen to my Falcons tomorrow.

It's not "sports", it's "sports entertainment" come playoff time.

Neil said...

Yeah . . .

Mr. Radon said...

Watching this game with a couple of my friends who are Cowboys fans but polite enough to cheer for me when their team is already irrelevant, one phrase kept coming out of their mouths. "I'm sorry."

It was a legitimate gesture to be sure, and I shook their hands solemnly and thanked them for the support when all was said and done, but no apology need be made from anybody not employed by the NFL's officiating department.

Here's why, bear with me on a terribly redundant history lesson:

2008 was darkness incarnate. That's all I'm saying about that.

2009 was like one of those epic cockteases where a girl invites you to her place after drinks at a bar, then stumbles into the door, breaks her nose, vomits on the carpet directly underneath her face, and then has her husband patiently ask you to leave and offer to pay for your cab fare.

2010 was a premise that the pieces were in place, but the circumstances were wrong. So very, very wrong. I sum this up best in the moment during the Jets game, before(if I recall) Stafford got hurt, when Jason Hanson got hurt and Suh botched the extra point like some kind of circus accident, and I and everyone else in Ford Field slowly deflated as we got taken to OT, beaten, and were suddenly without the stability we so craved from our roster.

But this year, everybody kept thumping their chests and saying "playoffs or bust." Well guess the fuck what, we made it. 10-6 is admirable for any team, not just one of those copout "not bad for the Lions" results. We got put up against a team that wins their games under the pretense that most teams get bored of scoring points against them after a while and start coloring or playing with Hot Wheels. We lost. It sucked.

But we made the playoffs, securing a wild card berth in arguably one of the toughest NFL divisions, and continue to at least get Calvin Johnson the respect and fear he deserves even if Stafford gets baffingly swept under the rug for passing over 5,000 yards the one year where that's not really a big deal, I guess.

After the game, same Cowboys fans asked me almost immediately "So what's your guys' draft plan?" And I gave it a thought, answered with my personal opinion: "Cornerbacks, Offensive linemen, maybe a late RB." And I stared out the backseat window of the car at the city, smiling at the picture in my head of the Detroit Lions - 2012 NFC North champions.

Thanks for the camaraderie, everybody. Pick yourself back up, order a stiff drink and remind yourself that what you told people when you were being "cautiously optimistic" came magically true thanks to our personal heroes in the Honolulu blue.

And for all those guys in the zebra stripes who kept us from regaining any kind of momentum, I would like to quote a man I trust and respect a great deal:

"Hey, learn the fucking rules!" -- Jim Schwartz, September 25, 2011