Before the season began, a friend of mine offered me a pair of his season tickets to whatever game I wanted to see. I chose the game against the Rams, since in my opinion, I figured it was the game least likely to result in a depressing drive back home to Lansing. Apparently, I miscalculated.
The Lions generously served up a plate of suck to the win-hungry Rams yesterday that not only allowed them to escape the fate of a winless season (and based on the Rams’ remaining schedule, this was the best chance they had), but also to remove them from the longest current losing streak list. Who says Detroit doesn’t have great hospitality?
There was only one part of the game in which Detroit did not look terrible, and that was the offensive ground attack. The Lions amassed 128 rushing yards and a respectable yard per carry average. The passing game, conversely, was dismal. Stafford was 14 for 33 for 168 yards and an interception. If he wasn’t wildly off target, the receivers were dropping the ball. Kevin Smith was the leading receiver with 4 catches for 49 yards. When your running back is your leading pass catcher, you have a problem on offense.
I am eager to see Anthony Kuehn’s take on Stafford’s performance, since he is better at breaking down quarterback mechanics and decision making than I. However, I cannot be the only one who saw ghosts of quarterbacks past in Stafford’s showing yesterday. And no, I’m not talking about Greg Landry.
Defensively, Detroit did as well as could be expected against a great running back like Stephen Jackson. They held Jackson in check for most of the game, but began to break down toward the end culminating in a 26 yard touchdown scamper to seal the loss. On paper, the pass defense looks respectable, but one has to wonder how bad it could have been if St. Louis had been able to field any decent receivers. The Detroit defense came up with zero sacks, zero forced fumbles, and one interception on an amazing play by defensive end Dwayne White. It should be noted that Cliff Avril was able to bat a couple balls down at the line of scrimmage, but aside from that, there was little bite to the Lions D.
Special teams? I think Anthony handled that already, but I’ll add a note in the spirit of Governor Schwarzenegger’s veto messages:
Frankly, it is hard to see how any team
In the NFL could fail to quickly
Replace a special teams coach who is
Entirely deficient in output.
Kindly owners notwithstanding,
When will management hold
A poor coach accountable for
Numerous failures in performance?
Because the Lions could use it, I’ll end this piece on a positive note. Louis Delmas looked great and is a huge reason the Lions run defense is improving. DeAndre Levy showed that he can do well against the run and the pass. Zack Follett put one of the nastiest hits I’ve seen all year on a hapless Rams kick returner. Aaron Brown may be the best pure runner the Lions have, and if he can master other aspects of the position, can be a great asset in the backfield. Gosder Cherilus and Kevin Smith, though not rookies, are up and coming young players. Calvin Johnson didn’t play yesterday, but the mere fact that so many pundits are saying he alone could have brought about a Detroit victory (not sure I agree with that, by the way) shows how impressive a player he is.
The Lions are thin on talent, no question, but I cannot remember the last time I felt this good about a draft class from top to bottom. Obviously, Stafford needs to get better at throwing and Pettigrew needs to get better at catching. Overall, though, this draft class is in the “good, perhaps great” column, which is far better than the “bad, perhaps awful” drafts Detroit has had this century. Add that to a few building blocks left from the Millen era, and one can make an argument that the team is only a year or two away from coming out of the wilderness.
It’s not much, but at least it’s something!