Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sometimes, Being Wrong Can Be Deliciously Sweet

I was wrong; I said the Lions would lose to the Chicago Bears.  Not only did they win, they are now tied for first in the NFC North at 3-1 with guess who, Chicago.

Man, talk about a difference one player makes, but Reggie Bush, good God.  This offense goes from a one-dimensional passing attack to when firing on all cylinders, it won't be fair.  With Bush, the Lions could have gone toe-to-toe with the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs two years ago.  Today was only the 9th time in his career he rushed for over 100 yards in a game (139 yards on 18 attempts with a TD).  Nine times?!?!?!?!  Go figure.

Matthew Stafford looked a little shaky early, overthrowing Calvin Johnson on a couple of throws, but once the second quarter hit, everything seemed to click.  The defense made turnovers and the offense made the Bears pay.  Stafford managed to spread the ball around, hitting six different receivers while going 23 for 35 with 242 yards, 1 TD, and 1 interception.  I'd take those kinds of numbers over last year when he'd throw for north of 350 in a loss.  The yardage was solid, the passes got more accurate as the game went on, and Stafford took a nice step forward.

Among the six different receivers, Brandon Pettigrew caught 7 passes.  Seven?!?!?!  Yes, he was only targeted twice last week, but this week he was targeted at least three times as much.  I'm not sure exactly how many targets he had, but I didn't see him drop a single pass.  He's been written off, but this might actually play well into his hands, quietly amassing more receptions and becoming the threat he was drafted to be in 2009.

Calvin Johnson was quiet today on his 28th birthday.  He caught only 4 passes for 44 yards, but did have a TD.  What with all the additional weapons Stafford has, Johnson will only become more dangerous.

The offensive line also played great, allowing only one sack on Stafford by Julius Peppers.  That one sack came off left tackle Riley Reiff, who did an otherwise commendable job protecting Stafford's blindside.  Peppers is getting up there in years, but Reiff still held his own, giving the QB the time he needed to find his receiver and throw it.

Then there's the defense.  No longer a liability, they are now a threat.  They're not great, but they can be very effective at creating turnovers and getting in the QB's head like they did with Jay Cutler today, sacking him three times, forcing three interceptions, and another turnover by fumble.

The defensive line led by Ndamukong Suh bullied and kicked around the Bears' offensive line allowing them to harass Cutler all afternoon.  Both safeties, Louis Delmas and Glover Quin had an interception (Delmas with two), but Cutler could've thrown five the way he was playing.

The score ended up being 40-32 Lions, but that's only because the Bears mounted a mini comeback after being down 24 points.  The final play of the game ended up being an onside kick recovered by Kris Durham, which sealed the victory for Detroit and put them in a first place tie with Chicago.

We're now 3-1, but that loss to Arizona feels like it's going to come back and bite us at the end of the season.  Still angry about that.

Next week will be the team's biggest test yet: can they finally win IN Green Bay?  The Packers were off with a bye this week, but enter next week's game 1-2.  The Lions haven't won at Lambeau since 1991, the last year they won a playoff game.  This streak has to end, and now it seems like they have the momentum to get yet another monkey off the team's back before doing anything like winning the division and winning a playoff game.

Judging by the Lions schedule the rest of the way, it looks a little more favorable now than when I first predicted they'd be a 9-7 team, but it's that Arizona loss that could be the difference maker in whether or not they get to the playoffs.  I'm still convinced the Wild Cards will come from the NFC West and South, but as for now, Detroit's definitely in play.

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