Meow Mix: On the Road to Find Out with the Detroit Lions

Daniel MuthSenior Analyst IOctober 3, 2009

So on and on I go, the seconds tick the time out
There's so much left to know, and I'm on the road to find out

I doubt that Cat Stevens was considering the plight of the Detroit Lions when he penned his famous song about searching through life, but it seems to be a fairly appropriate summation of the state of a Lions fan.

Wondering if one win means anything, wondering if the front office is for real, and wondering what we'll see from the Cats this week against the Bears.

Granted, wondering generally means that a glimmer of hope is on the horizon, which is quite a bit better than despair, but at this point in the game I can't be quite sure if it's a fool's hope or not.

During my tenure as a Lions fan, most hopes have turned out as such, which is why our fanbase is probably more cautious than any other in the NFL.

Once burned twice shy right?

A thousand times burned, makes you down right jittery.

Or maybe that's the morning coffee.

Either way, now that I've come down a bit from the big win versus the Redskins, it's probably a good time to evaluate the team and think about some of the things we can build on as we head out on the road.

Well in the end I'll know, but on the way I wonder
Through descending snow, and through the frost and thunder

Hailing from the wintry state of Michigan aside, the Lions fanbase has been treated to more frost and thunder than any other, and sometimes I wonder if the glorious Barry Sanders wasn't just a celestial lollypop given to us by the almighty so he could yank it away.

But they also say that the storm is fiercest just before the break, and we found out last week that there are a number of things the Lions have going for them.

1) The defense is improving.

Opening up against New Orleans was probably not a fair evaluation of a Defense still looking to find its identity.  The Saints have hung points on everyone so far, and seem poised for a monster offensive season.

The D looked much better against the Vikings, holding them to 265 net yards while having to deal with a litany of turnovers handed to them by a struggling offense.

And last week versus Washington, they were impressive in many aspects of the game.

The Linebacking core looked as good as they've been in a long time, and this will have a trickle down effect on everyone else.  Larry Foote had a monster game against Washington, and I can't emphasize enough how stability in the middle (something we've been missing since Spielman) can help everyone else.

Louis Delmas (my favorite pick of the entire 2009 draft) has played well throughout the season and came up strong again last week, leading the secondary in tackles (third on the team) and showing the consistent ability to deliver the big hit from his safety position. 

This makes the middle of the defensive backfield (backers through safties) a tough place for opposing teams to make a living and should force opposing QB's to make more difficult throws.

Though we probably can't count on our D-line to get much pressure on the opposing quarterback, they have been fairly stout against the run in the last couple games. 

Having a good backing core helps, but if the big men in front can hold up their end of the bargain in the running game, then the Lions should be able to manufacture some pressure with various blitzes and stunts.

The D pressured Campbell a number of times last week.

2) The offense is still a work in progress, but is showing signs.

No team is going to win many games when it's quarterback is throwing interceptions in the red zone.  So give Stafford some credit.  Instead of forcing the ball into triple coverage last week, he managed the team a good deal better, resulting in field goals that eventually won the game.

Granted, when we put some good drives together, we'd rather come away with touchdowns, but I think the first stage in the maturation of a young QB is to learn how not to lose the game.

By not turning the ball over and instead turning it over to his hall-of-fame placekicker, Stafford took a big step.

His next step is to learn how to throw a fade pattern to his ultimate weapon Calvin Johnson. 

With Johnson's vertical advantage over every DB in the NFL, a great low-risk  high-reward pass in the red zone is the fade, putting some air under the ball such that only his receiver can come down with it.

When given the chance during the Skins game, Stafford threw bullets that didn't even have a chance.  Again, better than handing it over to the other team as he did in the first two games, but a throw he's going to have to learn to make if he wants to continue to improve.

Add a suddenly vital running game into the mix, and it well might be that our young quarterback has a few weapons at his disposal, and his offensive line has at least been mediocre in the early going if not great.

We'll learn much more about this unit tomorrow against the Bears.

But sometimes you have to moan when nothing seems to suit you
But nevertheless you know you're locked towards the future

The immediate future for this team is tomorrow.

The Bears are a team that is still looking to find itself too.

After a disappointing opening day loss to the Packers, during which their much ballyhooed off-season acquisition Jay Cutler threw more interceptions than Matthew Stafford, the Bears have responded strongly, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle Seahawks.

Both those wins were close, however, and both were against teams who like the Detroit Lions are now 1-2.

So while many have called for the Lions to continue to improve against the Bears, a sentiment I agree with, I would also argue that the best improvement they could make would be to walk away with a "W" on the road.

The road.

It's been a frightening place for the Lions over the last decade or so and represents the next test for Detroit in their search for legitimacy.

So on and on I go, the seconds tick the time out
There's so much left to know, and I'm on the road to find out

Go Lions.