Monday, September 24, 2007

Those were the Lions we know


Anyone familiar with the Detroit Lions franchise and objective enough to curtail the celebrating after two ho-hum victories, knew what was coming Sunday.

Sure, a pair of ESPN analysts — who know football, but haven't been around Detroit for losing season after losing season — picked Detroit to beat Philadelphia Sunday and improve to 3-0. Sure, there were questions about Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb's focus heading into the game due to controversial comments he made about black quarterbacks receiving unfair criticism on HBO.

It's called false hope, people. Anyone who looks themselves in the mirror, knew what was coming Sunday.

A reality check.

Are the Lions better than the 3-13 team of a year ago? Yeah, I think so.

Will they score a lot of points this season? Yeah, probably more than half the teams in the league.

But is their defense the worst in the league? Well, no other team came close to giving up 56 points Sunday (Buffalo was closest, surrendering 38 to a pretty good New England team).

Fifty-six points, people. I don't care if your offense features the nine best receivers in the league paired with Peyton Manning. You're not going to score 40-plus points often, let alone 56 points.

Only the Lions can turn critical Philly fans into soft-bellied lovers of their home team — a feat accomplished for at least one day. Only the Lions can make Kevin Curtis into Marvin Harrison for a day (11 catches for 221 yards and three first-half touchdowns will do that).

Sunday was the start of the downward spiral for Detroit. While every win is "key" in the National Football League, beating Oakland and Minnesota (two of the league's worst) doesn't prove a thing. Now Detroit gets the angry Bears at home (loss) and an improved Washington team on the road (loss) before its bye week.

It's funny how 2-0 can — and will — become 2-3 in the wink of an eye.

The highlight of Detroit's dismal afternoon may have come when first-round draft pick Calvin Johnson made a leaping catch between two defenders with the Lions down 35-7. It was beautiful — except that Johnson had to leave the game with a lower back bruise (if he's out against the Bears, forget about it).

But to make my point, Detroit — with its pretty pass offense run by Jon Kitna, Roy Williams, Johnson & Co. — will reel off some "I can't believe he did that!" plays this year, but there's no substance to the team.

No running game (to the tune of 39 yards Sunday). Poor pass protection (to the tune of nine sacks for 53 yards).

And no pass defense (to the tune of 363 passing yards and four touchdowns by McNabb). Oh, and Detroit's run "D" didn't exactly play well either, giving up 173 yards on 34 carries.

The optimists will say Sunday was only one game that misrepresented what this team's "all about." Coaches might throw out the "we weren't prepared" excuse.

They're both wrong. What do you think the Lions coaches did all week leading up to the game, watched re-runs of "Law & Order?" No, they were preparing for the game. As were the players. These guys are professionals.

Sunday was a dose of reality for die-hard Lions fans (probably the most faithful followers in all of sports). The Eagles exposed the Lions for what they are:
— An exciting (yet predictable) offensive team, which throws long touchdowns (91 yards to Williams) and refuses to run the football (a measly 12 carries).
— A terrible defensive team when the front four is unable to get to opposing quarterbacks.

Sounds like a 5-11, 6-10 team.

Sorry, folks. I'd rather be truthful than mislead.


Sportsattitude said...

I think you've got the Lions summed up perfectly. While the Eagles were performing with precision, it was absolutely shocking how far off the defense was playing the Philly receivers, how poorly they were tackling, etc.
That Calvin Johnson catch was spectacular indeed. The Lions will put some points up on the board but man, that defense is offensive.

Jake Lloyd said...

Yup. They're fun to watch because of their offensive air attack, but even their passing attack is often ineffective when they can't protect Kitna, and the defense is a huge liability.

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