Sunday, October 03, 2010

Maybe One Day "Close" Will Count for the Lions, Too

There's an old saying, "close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades." Maybe the Lions should be spotted a 3-6 point handicap.

I sat through a typical game today. 1 - they lost. 2 - they disappeared for about a quarter and a half, just like they did against Chicago and Philadelphia. 3- just like the three games before, they came oh-so close to pulling off another upset victory, a sure sign of a team that is better, but still not good enough.

This 0-4 team isn't like the 2008 debacle. More like the 2001 debacle. If you'll remember, that team started the season losing its first 11 games before winning an upset over the Minnesota Vikings at home. Many of those games comprised of the Lions losing the game by less than two possessions. The 2008 version had the Lions out of the game by the first or early second quarter most of the time.

They had six penalties for 57 yards in the first 20 minutes of the game. Gosder Cherilus returned to form with two penalties in the second half. Stephen Peterman maintained his streak of at least one penalty per game, making it No. 4 today. Most surprising of all, Jeff Backus didn't make the one dumb play needed to put the game out of reach for Detroit.

RB Jahvid Best failed to score a touchdown in the game for the first time in his career. His rushing numbers at least through the first six carries were respectable (26 yards), but Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan simply didn't employ the running game enough to facilitate his game plan. Whatever that was.

I saw some bright spots, however. First, the secondary, as weak as that corps is, made some HUGE interceptions. I expected Aaron Rodgers to have the kind of game where he'd throw 350 yards, 3 TDs, and 2 INTs (due to throwing the ball on every down), but the secondary gave the Lions' life after the team made so many mistakes. It would've been 3 INTs, if not for the first one being overruled on account of a defensive penalty.

Calvin Johnson played the first half. Well, the second half, too, but he amassed six catches for 86 yards, and 2 TDs in the first half. He brought the Lions back to life at the end of the 2nd quarter with his TD catch, making the score 21-14. It's only significant because Detroit got the ball back in the 3rd quarter.

But Detroit started the 2nd half the way they played through much of the first half. Lifeless. But Brandon Pettigrew amassed nine catches for 84 yards. Unfortunately, his two drops in the 2nd half proved more damaging to Detroit than his nine receptions did to Green Bay.

Still, with over six minutes left in the 4th, the Lions were, only down by 2 points after a series of turnovers and Jason Hanson field goals. All it would've taken was one drive and the Lions would have the lead, either by FG or TD. But the Lions fell 4 yards short, and opted to punt instead of kick a 54-yard FG. Hanson missed a 55-yarder at the end of the 1st half. The miss wasn't even close. But he later hit a 52-yard FG and a 49-yard FG with plenty of clearance. The kind of clearance he would've needed to make the 55-yarder.

Still, the Lions punted. Green Bay held the ball for the rest of the game, taking away any more opportunities for Detroit. The Packers fell apart, only to put it all back together with their last chance.

Shaun Hill, despite my view of him as only a game manager, again put up 300+ yards in the loss. He also threw multiple interceptions. But he did have one Denard Robinson like play, breaking loose and running up the middle for a 40-yard gain that allowed the Lions to come within two points of the Packers.

I suspect he'll start against the Rams, and that Matt Stafford will return to the lineup come Week 8 after the Bye Week. If that's the case, Shaun Hill should be given one more shot, and if he can't beat the Rams, why not take one last look at Drew Stanton before sending him off? The season's lost, and you won't get much more out of Hill than what you've already gotten.

Be that as it may, no matter how much closer the Lions have gotten to victory against three of the first four teams they played (5 points, then 3, then 2), losing is losing. Expectations change in football and the other sports I don't give a damn about. When you come into the game expected to lose by 14-17 points and come within striking distance of winning it at the very end, it shouldn't raise morale.

Yes, they should be 3-1 after four games, but they're still bottom dwellers. And that sucks.

By the way, I was kind of stoked to check my twitter account (which blows up my phone because I follow people who 'tweet' such useless crap), and saw Tom Kowalski respond to a question of mine. Check it out here.

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