Lions-Saints: Finding Some Positives

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Lions-Saints: Finding Some Positives
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

We lost big time to a certain playoff team in the New Orleans Saints.  I like seeing that the coach puts up a front of "everybody sucked", but is it really that bad? 

Sure, we gave up the most passing TDs (tied) in Saints QB history, we let up a 14-point lead early, and our rookie QB has a rating of 27.4 after a 3 INT-0 TD performance, but there ARE some positives that show this won't be another 0-16 season.

For that matter, it will be far from it.

Anybody who was expecting an upset Sunday had their heads in the clouds (or a pitcher of BEvERage).  New Orleans had the best ranked offense in 2008 and didn't lose much from that team. 

Our pass defense was ranked 27th, and didn't beef up enough to warrant any problems for the New Orleans passing attack. 

I fully expected a loss to come from this, but I was pleasantly surprised at the Lions team that played yesterday.  I saw bright spots that I didn't see last year. 

I saw possibilities of repeating last year's mistakes that didn't blossom.  I saw a Lions team that is no longer the worst team in the NFL.

27 points: The Detroit Lions scored more points in this game than they did in any game last year.  Yes, it is true that some of that was scored by the defense, but points are points.  The most Detroit scored last year was 25, when they took the lead against Green Bay in Week 3.  They were up 25-24 then promptly threw the towel as they ended up getting blown away 48-25.  The Saints defense isn't great, but I would have given anything to see the Lions score 27 points last year.

Repeating last year's mistakes: The Lions were down 14-0 very early in the game.  They had just given up excellent starting position to the Saints twice, which the Saints gobbled up like breakfast. 

After the Lions kicked a field goal to bring it to 14-3, they did not give up the third touchdown to the NFL's top-ranked offense.  Their defense stepped up, I don't know how, and stymied the Saints for two consecutive drives.

Good special teams play: After the second 3-and-out by the Saints, Northcutt returns the punt 43 yards to put the Lions into scoring position.  This leads the Lions to their closest margin at 14-10. 

After New Orleans widens the margin by another two TDs, the Lions don't give up.  They recover a muffed punt by Reggie Bush to give the Lions another chance to bring it within two scores. 

They also block a field goal right at the end of the half to keep the margin where it was.

One sack on Stafford: That's right, one.  For a Lions team that has averaged around three a game for the last couple years, that's huge. 

The Offensive Line has stepped up their game.  For as much as the Saints were calling for "fresh meat" and "blood" in this opener, they really didn't get to Stafford as much as they wanted. 

Stafford didn't look great, but when a team's down 14, the defense is looking for the pass.  He'll get hit and hurried much more next week against the Williams sist..err Tackles. 

Zero turnover differential: They intercepted Brees on what should have been a touchdown throw.  I was fearful when I saw that flea-flicker until they panned downfield and I saw that the Lions didn't bite. 

Last year, there would have been no blue shirts around, but we actually broke up a trick play and stole the ball.  We matched last year's interception total for the defensive secondary, and I believe that we'll pass it next week.

Defense showed signs of life: Nice hits by Delmas, an interception on Brees, a fumble recovery for a touchdown. 

While we gave up a fantasy player's dream, we did show signs that weren't around last year.  Our defense is better.  Still bottom half, but not the worst anymore. 

Stafford faced the worst situation a QB ever wants to start with: Down seven points off the bat, Stafford was battling from behind the entire game.  Their first drive, where the offense was trying to establish its image, was a bust. 

The next drive, they were now down by fourteen, looking downfield from their own 20.  Stafford did not choke, and led the team down the field to get their first score of the season. He went 3-of-4 for 37 yards, which was not bad for the drive. 

Unfortunately, they could not convert on a third-and-1 and had to kick the FG.  He left that drive 4-of-6 with 41 yards, and no INTs.  Not bad for a start. 

After the Lions gave up another two scores, he had another great chance.  It was a bad call, probably not only for him but the coaches as well.  With 39 seconds to go and within field goal range, the Lions should have been more conservative. 

They needed any points they could have gotten, and they got none.  Personally, I thought they should have thrown a Hail Mary with the last play.  What's the worst that could happen?

While the second half counts, it should be noted that the Lions were down by three scores.  They made a valiant effort in the third quarter, but in a shootout between a rookie and a Pro-Bowl Quarterback, the veteran's going to win every time.  It doesn't matter if the rookie is Matt Stafford or Peyton Manning.

Overall, the Lions played well, considering the opponent and the situation.  If you compare the play yesterday to the play against the Falcons last season, you'll see the difference. 

They will probably see this situation twice more this year: against the Steelers, whose passing offense is better than ever, and the Cardinals.  They will definitely lose to the Steelers, whose defense is better than the Saints, but they might show a similar tenacity against the Cardinals.

Next week, we see the Vikings in the Silv..err Ford Field.  Last year we lost by two.  At the time Orlovsky ran out of the end zone, I was just glad they didn't get sacked for a TD (or Orlovsky get hurt).

Little did I realize that it would be a defensive struggle with that being the deciding score.  I don't think the Vikings improved that much over last year.  The defense is still solid as ever; can't improve much there. 

The offense picked up a geriatric Farve, who will give enough to keep Jackson on the pine.  I actually see a similar score this year, but no Stafford Safety.  It could be a 13-10 game in favor of the Lions. 

Sure our defensive line isn't great, but I think our linebackers will help holding Peterson to an average game.  I put more money on our linebackers stopping a great run game than I do the best passing game in the NFL.

Next week's line will probably be 12 points, the same as the line for this weeks game.  Detroit will cover that, mark my words. 

I'm not guaranteeing a win, but I think this is a great chance for us to shake off last year's 0-16 record and prove we're not the worst anymore.

On an additional note: Will St. Louis be the worst?  I actually went through their schedule.  Aside from the Lions, they have Green Bay, San Francisco and Jacksonville as the only sub-500 teams they play this year. 

They might be 0-15 coming home to play San Francisco.  Will they blow it and win a game, or will the Lions' 2008 season be matched (or exceeded in point differential?)

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