The Lions Will Rise and Fall With Matthew Stafford

First, before diving into a brief recap of the lions game, let me take a moment to say that we should never forget those that lost their lives on 9/11/01.  I still remember sitting in the computer lab in the basement of Slauson Middle School, while two of my teachers argued over whether or not they should turn on the TV for us.  Eventually it was turned on and moments after, the second plane hit the second tower.  Truly one of the most shocking things I have ever seen on television, and I’m sure most would say the same.  Thank you to all of the NYPD, NYFD and troops that have fought and died to protect us and our freedom.

Onto a much lighter topic, the Detroit Lions.  I thought the Lions had outgrown the whole “let’s march down the field with hardly any time left and steal a win, while nearly giving Jeff a heart attack,” but apparently not.  Matt Stafford played poorly, to put it nicely, but the last drive of the game certainly made up for the three INT’s.  It was so bad at one point though, that I was beginning to question his sobriety.  Stafford was slinging the rock well and had control of the offense for full drives and one bad throw would kill it.  He was a true field general out there, which was a very positive sign, he just needs to make a few better decisions, particularly near the red zone.

But, as the former Lions beat writer Tom Kowalski said, “Quarterback’s aren’t paid for touchdowns or interceptions, they’re paid for wins.”  And that is what is most important; the offense was not at it’s best and still managed to get the Win.  I love that Stafford threw for 5,000+ yards last year, and would love for him to do it again.  But in the end, I don’t care about statistics.  As a Lions fan, you learn quickly to value wins; they’re far more important than passing yards and MVP trophies.  That being said, the Lions aren’t quite good enough of a team to overcome that many turnovers each game.  They hadn’t won a game where they had a turnover deficit of -3 or more since 1976 until Sunday.

        (Nike’s new high performance uniform’s are not sweat proof, yikes Jeff Backus)

The offense did well, I was pleased with how they moved the ball, I just hope they can capitalize more in the future when they are playing better teams.  I’m hoping the bad decisions and the underthrown balls are just from Stafford being rusty.  Calvin was a stud, as usual, so nothing to worry about there.  On a different note, the offensive line held up well, far better than I expected, and the running game was passable.  It’s too bad that Jahvid Best is as tough and concussion proof as Nick Houser, because the team could use a little bit more speed and a home run threat in the backfield.  Kevin Smith looked good, but doesn’t have any breakaway ability.  Hopefully when Leshoure gets back, he can provide a bit more of that, but the fact that he has only played two games in a year and a half means he’s gonna be completely rusty.

 (This is what I’m hoping to see from Leshoure)

While the offense didn’t quite perform as I had hoped, the defense exceeded expectations.  I figured with such a bad secondary that Sam Bradford would throw for 300 yards, but the secondary performed admirably.  Even, when Bill Bentley was knocked out of the game with a concussion, recently signed Drayton Florence stepped up and showed why he was signed.  The pass rush wasn’t always consistent, but Nick Fairley recording a sack was reassuring that he might be able to get back onto the track that made him a top 15 selection.  Suh also showed he was much improved, stopping Steven Jackson with one arm, while being blocked.  You can count on one hand the number of players in the NFL that could stop Jackson with one hand; the Lions will need Suh’s strength (and new found discipline) down the stretch.  The run defense holding Steven Jackson to 53 yards on 21 carries is an impressive feat as well.  I was also really impressed with the tackling of the defense as a whole.  In years past, the Lions blatantly miss tackles, but they wrapped up well, especially DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch.

St. Louis looked like a much improved team, which is too be expected when you are bad enough that you have a bunch of high draft picks, but the game shouldn’t have been that close.  With San Francisco and their weapons up next, it is going to be huge for the Lions to wrap up well and play stout defense.  Alex Smith may not be an elite quarterback, but the 49ers are essentially the Baltimore Ravens from 2000.  They have a rock solid defense, with a great pass rush and an elite middle linebacker (Patrick Willis).  Then they have a ton of weapons on offense, with a quarterback who is there to manage games.  If Alex Smith doesn’t turn the ball over, I fully expect the 49ers to make it to the NFC Championship game with ease.

The handshake between Jim Schwartz and Jim Harbaugh will obviously be talked about a lot on ESPN and by other reporters all week, even though both of them say that they aren’t worried about it and that they have talked about the incident since it happened.  I personally don’t think anything will happen publicly about it, but I would be willing to bet that the Lions will be fired up about the incident and the fact that they lost at home last year.  The Lions will be getting more exposure to primetime with Sunday Night Football in San Fran, and it will be time to see if the Lions are ready for an early season test.  The outcome of this game will not determine their season, one way or the other, but it would be a good way to build momentum if they get a victory.

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