Monday, October 05, 2009

Lions Once Again Kings of 30-Minute Football

The Lions turned in another of those 30-minute jobs yesterday in Chicago, and it cost them, big time.

A 21-21 halftime tie turned into a 48-24 laugher for the Bears, but here's what's NOT funny.

Matthew Stafford dislocated his knee cap, according to ESPN.

The thing popped back into place on the sidelines, following a sack in the fourth quarter, when Stafford was clearly seen grimacing in pain and grabbing his right leg.

No, no laughing about that.

Early reports say QB Stafford could miss a game, maybe two.

But today there will be those dreaded tests, and how many Black Mondays have their been in the NFL for teams over the years?

What is sometimes considered a minor injury has too often turned into something more, and of the season-ending variety, to boot.

Sorry to be Chicken Little here, but you never know what an MRI might reveal when it comes to a football player's knee.

Stafford took some more baby steps Sunday, in his quest to be a bona fide NFL signal caller.

He threw for nearly 300 yards, plus a touchdown. He again exhibited his arm strength. There were some missed receivers, but that now seems to be part of his M.O. At least the receivers are getting open.

See? No Chicken Little talk there.

Fox analyst Brian Billick, himself once considered one of those NFL offensive "geniuses," correctly pointed out that Stafford needs to get a little more air under some of his passes. Stafford did so on the game's first play, a 50+ yarder to Calvin Johnson, but then went back into laser mode on other throws when he should have lofted.

But like offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said last week, "We can pull back on that (overthrowing). I'd be more concerned if he couldn't get it there."

Amen, because we sure have seen enough of the latter in Detroit.

So it wasn't Stafford who cost the Lions on Sunday---not even his injury, which came when the game was pretty much decided.

The two culprits were the (sadly) usual suspects: the overall defense and the special teams' kick coverage.

The Lions covered kicks yesterday as if the return man was carrying around Swine Flu all over his jersey. It was an abysmal display, and constantly gave the Bears field position at or around midfield.

The defense was sieve-like, once again, and it's truly a wonder that the Washington Redskins could manage but 14 points against the Lions last week.

Tackling was poor. Little to no pressure on the QB---again.

Bears RB Matt Forte came into the game with a yards-per-carry average of 2.5, yet traversed the entire length of the field, almost, in just two carries, on his way to 121 yards on 11 tries.

But that's nothing new; the Lions make pedestrian runners look like Jim Brown all the time. They're like the Tigers that way, who turn nondescript pitchers into Cy Young on a regular basis.

Some positives, though, were gleaned from Soldier Field.

Don't look now, but the offense is piling up long touchdown drives with some consistency.

They did it against the Redskins and did it some more against the Bears. They're converting third downs a lot better than any Lions team in recent memory. And they did it yesterday without any real contribution from the running game, which had been productive in Weeks Two and Three.

But it's hard to win when the defense doesn't pick up the offense one iota.

The tone was set in the second half when rookie Johnny Knox---it's tempting to keep going with his name, thanks to the star of the "Jackass" franchise---took the half-opening kickoff 102 yards to paydirt. Maybe someday we'll find out why they call it "paydirt," by the way.

Anyhow, that was the harbinger of bad things to come for the Lions, which often does following intermission.

A quick word or two about the Lions' running game.

Kevin Smith is a real nice guy and means well. He's a competitor and all that.

He's just not very good.

A runner of greater ability, awareness, and vision than Smith would have turned some of the negative and short yardage plays Sunday into something positive.

Yeah, I know---I'm still blinded by what Barry Sanders did routinely for ten years.

But a runner doesn't have to be Barry to have made something of what Smith was given by his offensive line on Sunday in Chicago.

I know Smith wasn't 100%. I get that.

But he just doesn't seem to have that intangible---the ability to turn something from nothing, even just a little bit. Perhaps he'll get better in that area, but I kind of think that you either have that or you don't. It seems innate to me.

We'll see.

So it was another half of a performance from the Lions. Another reminder that the NFL means being competitive for 60 minutes, and the Lions simply don't have the horses to hang with most teams for that long.

That's not an indictment of coach Jim Schwartz. He just needs more talent, is all.

Oh, and it would be nice to hear OLB Julian Peterson's name called every now and again. That would be splendid.

Meanwhile, we await news on what is now suddenly the most famous knee in Michigan.

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