Monday, November 09, 2009

Losing Cultured Lions Have No Idea How to Handle Lead, Wither Against Seahawks

The Lions blew a game on Sunday, but you can hardly blame them. It wasn't exactly a familiar situation for them.

The Lions lost and those betting that the Seahawks would cover their 10-point donation won, as Seattle beat Detroit 32-20---the last seven points coming with less than 30 seconds to play on a "pick six" interception. Until then, the Lions had covered the spread---and the Lions don't cover things so well, normally.

Certainly not receivers. But that's another story.

The Lions found themselves with a cool 17-0 lead before the first quarter was finished. The 2-5 Seahawks came out like a 2-5 team---or the Lions---and coughed up the football on their first two plays from scrimmage. And the Lions made them pay with 14 points.

But one of the bi-products of losing so many football games in such a short period of time---the run is now 24 of the last 25 in the loss column---is not knowing what the hell to do with early success. So when the Lions zoomed out to that 17-0 lead, it had the feel of finding a lost dog that you knew, deep down, would be claimed by its rightful owner just when you start to get attached to it.

Sure enough, the Lions began coming from ahead, and worse, they did it in drip-drip fashion. And everyone knows that you need to just yank a Band-Aid off---you don't slowly peel it away.

A Seahawks touchdown made it 17-7. Then they started tacking on field goals, drawing nearer and nearer, when you knew that the Lions were powerless and would eventually surrender the lead.

17-10. 17-13. 17-16.

Drip. Drip. Drip. Peel. Peel. Peel.

The Lions don't jump out to early leads. It's not their style. They don't jump out to relatively early leads, relatively late leads, or any lead of any sort, truth be told.

So you'll excuse them for not having the slightest idea of how to handle what happened in Seattle on Sunday. They looked down, saw the Seahawks in a grave, stood above them with shovel in hand, and then lost the handle on the burial utensil. And while they scrambled to find it, the Seahawks were able to climb out of the hole.

Yes, funereal type metaphors are appropriate this morning, because the season is dead. Has been, probably, since the lie-down last week against the wretched Rams in Detroit.

The Seahawks went on a 32-3 run after the first quarter, which meant that the final 45 minutes were a far better indicator of what the Lions are than the first 15 were.

It's not that the Lions went into a shell, like a hockey team would with a lead. It's just that rookie QB Matthew Stafford got all Ty Detmer-ish and started chucking interceptions all over the field---usually on balls that were badly under thrown.

The Lions would move the ball a little bit---I love this Aaron Brown kid, by the way, who's the quickest, fastest little running back the Lions have had in quite some time---then Stafford would torpedo them with a completion to the Seahawks.

Yes, rookie quarterbacks will do that to you. They'll look wonderfully mature and together, as Stafford did in the first quarter, then they'll look like a clueless 21-year-old kid, as Stafford pretty much looked the rest of the game.

Hey---here's a suggestion that might help the kid out, and you can take it with a grain of salt if you'd like, as it's coming from someone who never played or coached the game.


I don't know, just a thought. But what the hell do I know?

Actually, what I know is that team's best players touch the ball as much as possible. In the case of wide receivers, that means damning the double teams and the game planning done by the opposition and somehow, some way, getting the ball into that star player's hands.

After three quarters, Johnson had one catch. And only a handful of footballs thrown in his direction.

It was wonderful that rookie tight end Brandon Pettigrew again showed why he's the real deal, but no offense---CJ is the "go to" guy.

He was the "go to" guy alright---the Lions told him to "go to" a spot and wait. Patiently.

I don't care how much attention Johnson is paid every Sunday by opposing secondaries. Stafford should be zinging the ball in his vicinity 12, 15 times a game. At least. You think Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin, et al played their entire careers facing single coverage?

A couple of the interceptions were the result of throwing to Johnson, but the ball never got to him. For a kid with a rocket, Stafford short-armed quite a few balls Sunday. Floated them, really.

But seriously---throw the ball to Johnson. A lot. If the Lions had a premier running back, you'd expect them to spoon feed him the ball to the tune of 20, 25 carries a game, wouldn't you? Then why not do whatever you can to let CJ do his thing?

Speaking of Johnson, there were those looks on the bench---the kind the TV cameras catch---that showed frustration and disgust with the situation. He even gave the kid QB a cold shoulder at one point, looking away from him in a blatant act of disregard.

But that stuff happens every week in the NFL. No cause for concern.

Yet it doesn't mean that the Lions shouldn't do something about it. I've been a supporter of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan all season, but he's irking me with this reluctance to throw to Johnson. It wasn't just the one catch Johnson had after three quarters; it was the long gaps between throws to him that mesmerized me.

Would the Lions have won yesterday's game had they gotten their best offensive weapon more involved?

Gosh, wouldn't it be great if that question wasn't rhetorical?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Coming from ahead."

I love it. This should be our new slogan whenever we get a lead (both times).