I sure hope this doesn't end up as 2001 all over again. Remember that year? The Lions were coming off a winning season, but then came Millen. The 2001 Lions lost their first 12 games, prompting Jim Rome to express disappointment when they didn't "seal the deal" by dropping the rest.
In the end, they lost nine games by eight points or less. Does that sound a little familiar? Receivers not getting out of bounds as time runs out, critical turnovers, flags galore?
The 2010 Lions are falling just short, and so many of the mistakes are self-inflicted that you just want to scream. Not to mention how often they tease us by "staying in there", but then bust out the ice-pick.
Yesterday's game was a hard one for the Lions, with two major injuries and frustrating penalties. Once again, a quarterback is injured in the first half, leaving us with the third-stringer. One of the "underdog" players we tend to be fond of also went down in devastating fashion. I'm glad it's not another Utley, but it definitely changed the game.
This loss leaves the Lions in a pretty big hole. They're sitting a game-and-a-half behind Minnesota, two behind Green Bay and three behind Chicago. Granted, they're doing about what we expected, but that's big ground to catch up to avoid the cellar.
Stafford should be back for their next game against Washington. This will provide a nice boost on the offense and might let up some of the pressure on the backs. As good as Washington has played this season, they've also had a few bad games. I think it's a good matchup for the Lions, though.
Hill started out a bit flat. Perhaps some of that was because of the Lions' attempts to run early. He was knocked out early, and we had to deal with Stanton. Stanton was okay. They opened up the offense after he came in, and he was the recipient of a really bad coverage on the Johnson play. Of course, this is Stanton. He does just enough to get the green-bloods calling for his promotion, then proves to us that he's still Stanton.
QBs get a B-: 333 yards passing, 2 TDs, 1 INT is a good line. Stanton also led the team in rushing (which is a bad sign in itself), but he needs to have better control; that Pettigrew pass was too high.
What a horrible day for the backs. Forty-one yards rushing for the entire unit? Less than two per carry for Best? I'm not sure whether it was good defense by the Giants, awful run blocking by the line, awful running by the backs or awful calls by the coaches, but this unit gets a D- today. The only thing that saved them from an F is Best's receiving.
Calvin Johnson was amazing. That run was pure speed—there was nobody that could catch him. Once again, the Lions spread the ball around, with four receivers (including Best) making five or more catches. There were a couple of dropped balls, and Burleson's fumble was just weird. Pettigrew is growing into a leading tight end, but his youth is still showing in his reception-to-target ratio. I'm forgiving him the last one, though. Johnson is probably the only one who could jump high enough to get that one.
Receivers get a B for this one. They're really keeping the Lions alive this year.
Anybody remember when Backus was a great run blocker but a bad pass blocker? Where is the run blocking? Are the Giants' defenders that good? The pass blocking is still doing well, with two sacks given up on 50+ pass plays. The Lions are still under two per game.
O-Line gets a C-: Better pass protection than we've seen in six years, but there are no holes for Best to run through.
The Lions had another productive day on offense, at least yardage-wise. They need to turn good drives into touchdowns, though. Flat C for the offense: The running was atrocious, but the passing was great except for two small mistakes.
Suh is turning into a sack beast. He could end up with double-digit sacks, a number that's considered amazing for an interior lineman. The line really did well in the pass rush, but I'm very concerned about the run defense for this unit. They also had far too many stupid penalties: Suh's hands to the face, Avril's late hit and "excessive" jostling (although I thought the Giants lineman was just as guilty).
D-Line gets a C+: They're still getting in the QB's face, but they've got to hold the RBs back. They also need to stop the stupid penalties.
Ashlee Palmer had a good game with nine tackles. However, they still found themselves out of position on too many run plays. Bradshaw looked like Emmitt Smith yesterday, and while he's good, he's not that great. Linebackers get a D+: Finally a linebacker leads the team in tackles, but they're still the weakest unit on this team.
The defensive backs had a pretty good day. Okay, yeah, they allowed a 33-yard touchdown pass, but watch that one again: Wade was less than a step behind him, and the ball was perfectly placed just out of his reach. It was more an amazing play by Manningham and Manning than a mistake by the Lions. They also held Nicks to his lowest yardage of the year, and Manning to his second-lowest. Even the pass interference was more an assumption by the refs than an actual call. I didn't see any contact, but it's almost always called when a defender gets an arm over like that.
DBs get a B+: I really liked their play yesterday. Manning seemed to have his accuracy up for the game, but they didn't give him much room to work with.
The Lions defense gets a C- for the day: They really are playing the pass better each week—this is the third straight week they held a team under 200 yards passing—but the run defense is atrocious.
It would be tough for the special teams to match the play they had last week, but they still played well. Hanson showed he still has some leg left, booming two 50-yard field goals. The coverage teams did not play as well as they have in other games this year, but they are still far superior to anything we had last year. Logan got the Knox treatment much of the game, with the Giants kicking short on a couple of kickoffs, but still broke a 58-yard return. He also had a fumble, but the Lions recovered.
Special Teams get a B+: They're really one of the biggest changes you can see in the Lions.
C: The Lions are looking like an average team right now. While you can blame a lot of this on injuries, most of the blame is on the mistakes. I'm not talking about big plays like the Manningham touchdown; I'm talking about the penalties, missed tackles, and bad blocking. The penalties are mostly coming from over-zealous players who are taking it just a bit too far. While I love the intensity, I also hope they learn some control as they gain experience. Missed tackles turn inside runs into 40+ yard plays. Bad blocking causes our QB to be our leading rusher for the second time this year (and unlike Michigan, it's not on purpose).
We have a week off, followed by a game with Washington, a team that has a few wins but is beatable. Look for Stafford's return to increase the quality of the passing game, which is already sixth in the league. Maybe the coaches will finally start calling passes to set up the run, not the other way around. The next two games are at home, which will be quite a break for the players, who have had to travel each week so far this year.