Monday, September 11, 2006

Black-Clad Lions Not Black-and-Blue Enough For Their Coach

Now, we KNOW that Mike Martz didn't come to Detroit to be the Lions' offensive coordinator just to pad Jason Hanson's field goal numbers. It's absurd to think that he forced the franchise to abandon the Just Toast offense so the team could practice its snap-and-hold from anything beyond extra point range. And we should also have known that the players wouldn't grasp Martz's convoluted schemes and formations and plays in 60 minutes, either.

The Lions lost a tough one yesterday, and where have you heard that before?

The other team put together a game-winning drive at the most crucial of moments, and where have you seen that before?

The offensive line couldn't hold their blocks consistently, and how foreign is that around here?

But here's what's new: a head coach who won't go into snake oil salesman mode -- and who'll refuse to sugar coat anything.

"Bad start. We're 0-1."

"I'm not interested in playing well. I'm interested in winning."

"This isn't good enough."

Pretty heady stuff, considering it was just the season's first game, and that it follows the nicey-nice blather we've been subjected to in the past. Rod Marinelli seemed inconsolable, and that equates to a good start, in my mind. He wants us to swallow this defeat straight, like a shot of bourbon. With no chaser. At least, that's what he wants his players to do, and that's OK by me.

The Lions defense was, dare I say, spectacular, so it would be tough to get on their case for allowing the game-winning drive -- despite its VERY poor timing. Yet somehow I don't think Marinelli will see it that way. He decided to punt with less than four minutes left, instead of going for a first down or attempting a 55-yard field goal, because he wanted to put the game into the hands of his defense. And, if you were paying attention at the beginning of this paragraph, you know how well the "D" played for the first 56 minutes. But he also spoke with exasperation during his postgame presser about the drive -- as if his defense had let him down. None of this "Those guys played their heart out" stuff. The results weren't there at the end, and too bad if you played great for 56 minutes. Football still is a 60-minute game.

Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck was harassed all afternoon. All-World running back Shaun Alexander wasn't even All-Game. Nor was he All-Seahawk. That distinction goes to Maurice Morris, whose back-breaking 17-yard run the play before the game-winning field goal saved the NFC Champs from playing an overtime against a fired-up, albeit offensively-challenged opponent. Alexander finished with 51 yards on 19 carries. Of course, we're used to those kinds of rushing numbers here -- but from the Lions' backs, not the opponent's.

The Lions played hard, and that was nice -- even if that won't pacify Marinelli. The offense was clearly a work in progress, and that shouldn't have been shocking. But I must admit, the desire to put Roy Williams on the side of a milk carton in the first half brought back some hideous Mooch memories. And it's not like the Bears, next week's opponent, have a defense that's chopped liver, either. I'm sure somewhere in Martz's lexicon is the simple phrase, "Block your man." If not, it's likely to be inserted this week. QB Jon Kitna was as maligned as Hasselbeck at times, and thus many passing plays either didn't develop, or were reduced to the dump-off -- another haunting image from the Mornhinweg/Mariucci years.

Kevin Jones was a beast, and his game total of 35 yards rushing ought to be investigated. It sure looked like more than that. Heck, I think for effort alone they should tack on another 35. But regardless, this kid is going to turn this town on -- book it. He's flash and bash, a brutal runner. He'll be an absolute joy to watch in the years ahead.

But the bottom line is "Bad start. We're 0-1." The coach says so. He's not selling us anything folks. He's going to let the won/loss record do that for him. Recently I wrote that the 2006 Lions shouldn't be judged on their win total -- that their success could be measured in other more esoteric ways. I was wrong. The 2006 Lions will be judged by their head coach -- a black-and-white guy in a black-and-blue division, leading a usually Honolulu Blue-clad team. Yesterday the Lions tried their hideous black jerseys. So for one day they, too, were black-and-blue. Just not black-and-blue enough. The coach says so.

1 comment:

Big Al said...

I'm going to give Marinelli some credit. It wss a loss, so there effore wasn't good enough. He's not drinking the Lions Kool-aid just because they took the NFC champs to the wire.

Unlike the local fishwrap columinists...