Monday, September 21, 2009

New Coaches And Players, But Lions Still Getting "INC" Grade Every Sunday

The Detroit Lions have been Kings of the incompletion.

Not talking about passing here; talking about overall performance.

On select Sundays, the Lions will play perhaps 15, 20 minutes of decent football. On special occasions, they might squeeze out 30 minutes. Things could even get dicey and they might tease you with 45 minutes, just to mess with your mind.

Two years ago, the Lions were also Kings of the incomplete season.

They sprinted out to a 6-2 start and folks who should know better started to talk about the playoffs.

Their hideous won/loss record in the 21st century has been pocked with weekly displays of incomplete football games.

Maybe they'll fall behind in monstrous fashion---often in the opening few minutes---only to put together 15, 20 minutes of acceptable football before collapsing again into a heap.

The Lions have many other variations of this theme; but they switch it up, though---you have to give them that.

Sunday at Ford Field, in the home opener, the Lions gave us a rather simple, meat-and-potatoes version of their incomplete performance displays.

This version against the Minnesota Vikings wasn't very creative, but it was no less an example of the Lions' propensity to not put it all together.

The version was this: play 30 "not bad" minutes of football, then slide into oblivion for the second 30.

It was another example of halftime vexing the Lions and reviving their opponents. New coach Jim Schwartz and his crack staff have proven to be just as feeble as their predecessors in matching wits with their counterparts during intermission.

The Lions jogged into the locker room at the half, holding a precarious yet well-earned 10-7 lead. The seven points by the Vikings weren't gotten until the waning moments of the second quarter. The Lions had established a bit of a running game, and were keeping Brett Favre and his offense in check.

Matthew Stafford had thrown his first career NFL TD pass. The Vikings looked out of sorts.

Fast forward to the final few minutes of the fourth quarter, and there were the all-too-familiar, telltale signs of another Lions game.

The other team on the sidelines, laughing, joking, relaxed. Relieved even. A safe 27-13 lead in their vest pockets as the clock ticks away.

The Lions hanging and shaking their heads on the bench, and wearing that look of defeat. It may as well be their official look, like how The Joker's garish white makeup with the blood-red and green accents is synonymous with him.

Defeat isn't just makeup on the Lions' faces, though---it's now embedded into their skin, like tattoos.

The Vikings played with their dinner for the first 30 minutes of Sunday's game, then returned from another of those infusing halftimes and started devouring hungrily.

Lions rookie QB Matthew Stafford was sacked right out of the gate in the third quarter, and the route was on---despite the scoreboard showing the Lions with a three-point lead.

The Vikings made those adjustments that every NFL team supposedly makes at the break, and the Lions were ill-prepared for them. Again.

Turnovers---those guaranteed haunters---did the Lions in. They made three of them, which the Vikings turned into 14 points.

Fourteen points also happened to be the Vikes' margin of victory. Fancy that.

About Stafford: the kid is hellbent on learning the hard way, which all kid QBs do. Matthew's favorite seems to be the forced pass that turns into an easy interception. That mistake du jour might as well be on the rookie QB's "Greatest Hits" album.

In the fourth quarter, the Lions were down just ten, 20-10, and were beginning to twitch. They made a couple first downs. The crowd was being reintroduced into the game.

Then Stafford struck again---throwing a groaner of a pick that Favre and company turned into a touchdown and an insurmountable 27-10 advantage.

So that's 19 losses in a row, if you're scoring at home. The last time the Lions won a game was two Christmases and two Pistons coaches ago. Hillary Clinton was the front runner to be the Democratic nominee for president. No one had heard of Susan Boyle, Jon and Kate Gosselin, or Twitter. Everyone still used MySpace instead of Facebook.

But the Lions were playing incomplete football games back then, and beyond. And very much so, today.

Nice to know that there are still things in this world on which you can count, isn't it?

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