Another week, another loss for the Lions. It's hard to be positive when there's a Zero in the win column. It's harder to see other teams like the Rams, Chiefs, Jaguars and Seahawks get unexpected victories while Lions fans only see eggs.
Week 1 was a shocker, Week 2 was a load of missed opportunities. Week 3 was just a load of uncashed checks. Week 4 does not look any better, as we're traveling to Lambeau, a place the Lions haven't won at since I was in my freshman year of high school.
Anyone who did not see the possibility of going 0-4 to start the season was drinking some Kool-Aid. Any season that starts with three road division games plus a playoff team is a potential for disaster. The only game that seemed winnable before the season (and the one that we came closest to winning) was against a Bears team that's boasting a 3-0 record, including two wins against playoff teams from 2009.
I'm afraid too many people are jumping ship early and writing this season off before it hits the quarter mark. But are these Lions really that bad? Let's look at the Minnesota game:
Quarterback: Shaun Hill has filled in adequately for Stafford these past couple of weeks. He's not great, but he still put up nearly 250 yards of passing. The two interceptions in the endzone killed us, though, and made this loss seem bigger than it was. C-: An average day for a QB, statwise, but marked down for the untimely interceptions.
Running Backs: Around 120 yards overall, but less than 70 rushing. Best didn't seem to be able to hit the holes, and Morris isn't quite as good as Best. Of course, Minnesota's got a pretty good run defense, so I can't put this all on the backs. C: A bit pedestrian, but I've seen worse.
Receivers/Ends: Dropped passes kill, but these receivers had a pretty decent day. Scheffler and Pettigrew are showing some promise with 13 catches, 101 yards and a TD for our Tight Ends. Calvin caught a half dozen as well, much better than his previous outings (no TDs though). B-: They got the numbers, but not when it counted.
Line: Bash the line all you want, but how many years has it been since we've seen less than 2 sacks a game given up by the line? How about one sack by Minnesota? The weakness on this line is definitely the run blocking right now. The pass blocking is actually not bad this year. B-: They protected the QB pretty well, but couldn't open enough holes for the backs.
I'm giving the offense a C: Minnesota's got a tough defense, and Detroit performed admirably. If they hadn't thrown the interceptions at the end, it would be in B range, even though the stats seem low.
Defensive Line: Two sacks and an interception is a pretty nice day for a defensive line. I thought they'd have more, they seemed to be in Favre's face all day. The markdown for this unit would be the yardage given up to Adrian Peterson, but part of that should be on the linebackers as well, so I'm giving them a B+.
Linebackers: Again, we have linebackers? Well, they did double their tackle total from last week, but twice nothing is still nothing. Way too much given up to Adrian Peterson. Most of that needs to be on this unit. I'm giving them a D- again. They were better than last week, which is why they don't get an F, but this unit is one of the biggest reasons we're 0-3.
Secondary: I can't pin this all on them. It seems like we pin more than we should on these guys, and they're not doing a bad job. The TD pass on missed coverage, I saw the same coverage in the Colts game that lead to an INT. It had to be a missed assignment, and I don't know who to blame. By the way, that was the longest pass of the game for Minnesota, 24 yards. Most of Favre's damage was short passes. Playing off is a mistake, but was that on the corner or the coach? Again, I'd say B- on this unit: They're really playing a lot better than you think, don't just focus on the one or two mistakes (because that happens to every team).
Defense gets a C+: They harried Favre, but mishandled Peterson. Their mistakes were outnumbered by their good plays, I think. Minnesota's not a pushover, and the defense kept the game within reach.
One bad play on Special Teams, and that's what we'll all remember. We're not going to remember that Detroit's return yardage was twice Minnesota's, and we won't remember that Detroit's average kick return is over 5 yards better than their opponents (2 on punts), or that the opponent's longest return is only 30 yards, we're going to remember the muff that led to the Touchdown. Aside from that, I think the Detroit Special Teams have been the best we've seen in years. Grade B-: One huge mistake offsets an otherwise successful unit.
We all are still scratching our heads and second-guessing Schwartz's decision to kick the field goal. We all think Linehan's play calling is leaving something to be desired. However, after seeing us throw two interceptions in the end zone in the second half, maybe Schwartz wasn't that crazy to take the points. As for Linehan, just remember what he's up against. We've faced three of the better defenses in the NFL these past three weeks, and will face another next week. The fact that we weren't completely out of any of those games should give them a break for a bit. Coaching gets B-: Hindsight is 20/20, especially from the clarity of our cable TV.
I'm not saying there were no mistakes, but the Lions played well on the road against a division opponent. Not well enough to win, but far better than the 14 point spread indicated at the end. B- overall for the team. For a team missing its starting quarterback to compete while he's gone gives them an above average. Granted, winning without him is a different story (see Pittsburgh), but these Lions aren't rolling over, and you should realize the benefit of that.