Sifting through embers: offense vs. Atlanta

>> 9.02.2009

I'm aware that this is more than a little bit late. I've had the charting done for quite a while, but I'm playing with both the formatting and style in an attempt to wrest control of the fonts, sizes, etc. back from my template's CSS. However, I realized that I needed to get this bad boy out there before it loses all relevance--so let's get right to the good stuff:

L421-10I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3RunTrap R+7
Both WR are split left, TE right.  Loper pulls right; Peterman and Cherilus block left.  Raiola is responsible for filling the gap left by Loper, and while he's initially beaten, he pushes the DT just wide at the last second.  Smith seems to briefly look outside, but instead takes the intended path up the middle for a nice gain.  Loper, oddly, never ends up blocking anyone despite rambling well downfield. 
L492-3I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3RunTrap L+4
Almost the same play, to the weak- instead of strong- side this time.  Peterman pulls left, Raiola seals off the tackle on the backside, Smith hits the hole hard.  Falcons do a better job of tackling at the second level--also no TE on this side.
F481-10Offset I 2 WRBase 4-3PassShort R (Smith)+11
 The offensive line gets great protection here.  Colbert is held downfield by Falcons CB Brent Grimes (called, declined), and Culpepper swings it out to Smith, who's wide open in the flat.  It hits him in stride, and he takes off for 11.
F371-10Offset I 2 WRBase 4-3RunTrap R?+1
Felton motions to offset at the last second.  Loper again pulls right, Cherilus and Peterman block left. DE Babineaux overwhelms the TE (Heller?), pushing Smith inside. He dives for, and gets, Smith's ankles.
F362-9I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3Passinc (Williams), penalty+7
The Falcons send the Sam and Mike between Peterman and Cherilus.  OL does a good job, and and Smith picks up one blitzer, but Felton helps Peterman on the DT instead of blocking the other.  Culpepper deftly sidesteps him, then lauches a gorgeous deep ball out the back of the end zone.  Williams had a step on his man.  Harry Douglas is called for holding, +5 yards and a first down.
F301-10Single 2-TEBase 4-3RunCounter R+1
This looks like a simple dive between Loper and Backus--but both TEs are lined up to the right.  After a step left, Smith counters to run behind the TEs. OLB Mike Peterson ushers Gronkowski past him like a matador, then stuffs Avieon Cason.  Why Caseon?  WHY?
F292-9I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3PassScramble+3
Falcons again blitz two.  Good initial pickup.  Culpepper looks right, scans left, seems to look deep left, then MLB Curtis Lofton takes Felton to the ground right next to him.  No threat since Lofton fell down, too, but he clearly didn't see much.  Looking very quick, he tucks an runs for the sideline.
F273-7Single 3-WR? (gun)Base 4-3PassScreen R (Smith)+16
Guessing this is a 3-WR look, but can only find 2 WR, 1 TE, and 1 RB on this 720p feed.  Even if they only had ten out there, the play works.  The Falcons pick a bad time to send everyone; Smith slips behind the rush and 'Pepper flips it to him.  Smith turns upfield with an escort (Raiola), whose inability to destroy the safety is the only thing that prevents a TD.  Smith out.
F111-10Single 3-WRBase NickelRunDive Left+1
Simple dive, looks to be intended to go left.  John Abraham vs. Will Heller's a mismatch; Abraham pushes Heller back into Cason's path.  Cason bounces off Heller, and by the time he recovers, Babineaux gets off of Gosder and brings Cason down.  A waste of a GREAT push up front by the guards; lots of daylight.
F102-9Single 3-WRBase NickelPassScramble (play action)+7
There's a play action; the OL does an iffy job of selling it.  Loper pulls right while Cherilus and Peterman block down, but Backus is clearly ready to pass block--not very well, as Abraham pushes him back pretty far.  Loper holds Babineaux off, but Daunte tucks and runs--before any of the routes develop.  Cpep nearly scores.
F23-2Offset I-Form 3 TEGoal linePassSack (play action)-7
Cripes.  The Lions call a play action, but DT Thomas Johnson happens to crash a gap in between Raiola and Loper, who are downblocking left to sell the run, when Culpepper is about to fake and roll right.  That works on the 20 but not on the 2; you have to know the DTs are going to bullrush here. Johnson blasts through the line and manages to snag Culpepper's ankles.  Loss of seven.
F104-9Field Goal  Field Goal 
First drive: 12 plays, 48 yards, Field Goal, Lions 3-0.  Great field position, great drive, miserable to get just three here.  I blame Linehan's playcall as much as any of the players for their execution.
L301-10Single 3-WRBase NickelRunTrap? R+4
Lions do a good job of showing pass against the nickel.  Peterman pulls right while the TE and Cherilus block left.  DE Chauncey Davis gets good penetration, forcing Cason to take a step outside and then cut back in.  Peterman drills his man downfield, and Cason picks up an easy four-ish yards.
Hey, did you know Michael Turner is good, and the Falcons beat the Lions last year?  Just checking, because NFLN wants to make sure you didn't forget.
L342-6I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3RunDive R+4
I can't tell which gap this was intended for, because DE Chauncey Davis splits Peterman and Cherilus and disrupts the run.  DT Peria Jerry is blown several yards back by Raiola, but Raiola releases and goes to the next level; Jerry is free to trip Cason up.  I think the move to avoid Davis disrupted the timing here.
L383-2Offset I 2 WRBase 4-3PassShort M (Felton)+6
Colbert motions inside, next to Heller. At the snap, they cross, and Heller goes deep while Colbert runs a drag across the middle.  Felton runs a quick curl, and Cason flares out to the flat.  Good protection.  Culpepper hits Felton for the first down; end of first quarter.
TV feed came back after a Cason 4-yard run had just finished.  Thanks.
L492-6Single 2 TEBase 4-3PassShort R (PA, Colbert)inc.
Falcons show blitz with Sam and Mike, then blitz Mike and Will.  Interior linemen to a great job of picking it up, partly thanks to max protect on outside.  After half-hearted play action, Culpepper throws to Colbert, high and over wrong shoulder.  Easily defended by Grimes.
L493-62 RB 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPassScramble+1
Falcons do a delayed blitz with both 'backers.  Abraham beats Backus inside; while Backus reengages and pushes him wide, Culpepper tucks and runs.  Iffy blocking upfield keeps him from converting.  IMO he had the time and target pull the trigger if he was willing to get hit; starting to think he's got happy feet.
Second drive: 6 plays, 21 yards, Punt.  Falcons blitzing more; protection inconsistent.  Culpepper looks fast, but is either dumping off or scrambing on every play.  Could be chalked up to the scout-team WR corps not getting open.
L341-10I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3RunTrap R-1
Falcons twos in on D.  Loper pulls right, fullback goes right, Cason runs up the middle, into the teeth of a stunt.  The DE coming inside stuffs him, then wraps and drags him down. 
L332-11I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3PassShort M (T. Smith)+3
No blitz, great protection; Culpepper has all day.  He zips through all his reads and hits Terelle Smith for 3 yards.  Cute.  Oh, generous spot, make it four.
L213-232 RB 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPassShort M (Somebody)+4
TONY GONZALEZ IS SO INTERESTING!  Lions were apparently flagged at some point for something.  It's now third and 23; Culpepper dumps it off to the somebody for a few.  Thanks, Duante.
Third drive: 3 plays, -13 yards.  Ankle-biting is not going to get us anywhere against the Falcons.  Sooner or later, the Lions will have to score.
L311-10Single 2 TEBase 4-3PassDeep L (Colbert)inc.
Stafford in at QB.  Max protect keeps Stafford clean.  He has Keary Colbert open at midfield . . . Off Colbert's hands.  Incomplete.
L312-10Single 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPasstimeout 
Stafford doesn't like what he sees; calls time at the line.  Let's try this again.
L312-10Single 4 WR (gun)Base Dime (?)PassMiddle L (Williams) 
 It's tough to tell alignments for sure thanks to the inset interview with Stafford, but he hits Derrick Williams on a quick in route; Williams turns it up for the first.
L411-10Single 3 WRBase 4-3RunOff-tackle (Cason)+1
Raiola blows his guy, DT Trey Lewis, several yards back, but then Lewis releases and runs over to make the play.  Loper got stood up a bit, forcing Cason to adjust; that may have slowed him just enough for Lewis.
L422-9I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3PassScreen-ish R (Cason)+5
What looks like a basic dropback ends up looking like a screen, as the Falcons blitz two, and Stafford lofts one over the rush to Cason.  Cason just needs to beat the CB for a big gain; the corner wraps through Cason's stiff arm & brings him down.
L473-4 Single 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPassShort M (Colbert)inc.
TE goes out, RB stays in to block.  No blitz.  Backus is beaten to the outside, but Stafford already found Colbert across the middle.  Stafford steps up and fires--it hits Colbert in the hands and he stone cold dirty drops it.  CRUCIAL.  Ugh.
Fourth drive: 6 plays, 22 yards, Punt.  Stafford flashing both a gun and some touch on his first drive; Colbert had two critical and infuriating drops. 
L151-10Single 3 WRBase 4-3PassNaked Bootleg (Heller)+3
Very well-executed naked bootleg.  The line convincingly run-blocks left, Cason and Stafford sell the play-action, and then Stafford rolls right and hits Heller cleanly for a few.  Heller's hit by 2 Falcons simultaneously, but well done, Lions.
L182-8Single 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPassDeep R (Colbert)+29
THERE we go.  This reminds me of some of the Georgia highlights.  From the gun, perfect protection, Stafford looks deep left and then resets deep right, hits Colbert in stride in between the corner and closing safety.  Colbert hangs on.
L471-10Single 3 WRBase NickelRunTrap R (Cason)+8
Raiola pulls between Peterman and Cherilus and stuffs the run-blitzing Coy Wire.  Peterman seals the DT well, giving Cason a great seam.  Cason bursts ahead for 8.
F452-2Single 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPassDeep R (Colbert)inc.
Similar to two downs ago, Stafford looks great here.  The OL again gives him a perfect pocket, and again he has Colbert wide open downfield.  Stafford ZIPS it, but it's slightly high and behind.  Stil, it's definitely catchable; Colbert makes a nice adjustment, but it hits him square in the hands and bounces off.  ROAR.  Falcons broadcast replays Backus neutralizing DE Kroy Biermann for some reason.
F453-2Single 3 WRBase NickelPassDeep R (Colbert)inc.
Falcons flash blitz; Stafford audibles at the line. Not sure what he changes, but both DTs get double-teamed; Cason is left to block the DE solo.  Cason cuts him, and slows him down enough for Stafford to let it fly again.  Colbert might be able to 'make a play' to bring it down, but CB Chris Owens has great position.
Fifth drive: 5 plays, 30 yards.  Stafford looking very sharp with his reads and execution.  Colbert is absolutely killing him . . . and the Lions . . . and me.
L351-10Single 3 WRBase NickelRunTrap L (Brown)0
Twos in on offense.  Line downblocks left; center & RT pull left.  RG releases to the second level, which is interesting, but the LG (Salaam) is driven backwards into the running lane.  Brown counters, spins out of a tackle, and then is swarmed at the original LoS.
L352-10Single 3 WR (gun)Base NickelRunDraw R (Brown)+4
Falcons do a little zone blitz here, showing blitz from the Sam, then he backs off and the Mike and nickel back come instead.  Fortunately it's a draw away from the blitz; Salaam pulls and helps Brown pick up solid yardage.
L393-6Single 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPass Int., TD (Gronkowski)INT
 . . . and this is the rookie part.  Falcons again show one blitz but run another, with the Sam coming, the Mike, Tony Gilbert, backing off, then Gilbert picking up the TE.  Off the play action, Stafford sees Gronkowski on an out route, but the previously-blitzing Gilbert reads Matt's eyes and breaks on the ball.  Pick six.  Ouch.
Sixth drive: 3 plays, 4 yards, INT-TD, 3-16 ATL.  Ow.
L201-10Offset I 2 WRBase 4-3RunIso R (Brown)+4
At the snap, the gap opens up between the RT and TE, but the fullback (Smith?) tries to a nonexistent gap between the RG and RT.  Brown veers left looking for daylight, finds none, but spins out of a tackle and fights for two more yards.
L242-6I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3PassMiddle L (Williams)inc.
Great protection up front.  FB runs a flare to the right, Brown stays in to block.  Stafford looks right, then left, and fires to the sideline.  The reciever (#10? Not on roster) is locked up with the CB.  Either WR's route was disrupted, or Stafford leads him too much.  TV feed doesn't show it, but may have been (uncalled) PI.
L243-6Single 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPassScreen (Ervin)+22
Offense sells the pass here very well, initial protection looks good, and Stafford "goes through his reads".  Suddenly all the Falcons "beat their man" at the same time, and Stafford floats one to Allen Irvin, in stride.  With a 3-man convoy, Irvin follows/sets up his blocking well, and bursts to the 46.  Great execution by the Lions.
L461-10I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3PENPenalty (False Start)-5
False start, Derrick Williams.
L411-15I-Form 3 WRBase 4-3PassPA Rollout Deep R (Fowler)+31
WR are split wide right, the weak side.  The line blocks right, and Stafford half-heartedly fakes the give to Ervin.  He rolls right; great protection.  He draws back and fires a rocket to Fowler on the 40.  Soft handed catch by Fowler; he hits and drags the CB for a few more.
F371-10I-Form 3 WRBase NickelRunReverse (Jennings)+8
WR are split far right (ball on right hash, slot on left numbers).  RB seems a step deep; slot WR (Jennings) motions inside.  Before he sets again, ball is snapped, and he sprints backwards as Stafford fakes the handoff.  Jennings takes it, and bursts for 8.
F292-1Offset I 2 WRBase 4-3RunTrap R? (Ervin)-1
RG pulls to the right, but the Falcons run blitz that gap.  Salaam forgets to block the adjacent DE (literally), and the DE comes unblocked.  The Falcons have done a good job of plugging the intended hole, but it doesn’t matter anyway; the DE gets there.
F302-2Single Trips RBase 4-3PassScramble+6
Hard not to smile here.  No blitz; initial protection sets up well.  Nobody open.  Stafford steps up, still sees nothing, and takes off.  As the DTs release and try to grab him, he slips one, outruns the other, and finally ends up underneath 3 Falcons, grinning like an idiot and trying signal the first while flat on his back.  Awesome.
F261-10I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3Pass Deep R (Fowler)inc.
Good play action.  Line blocks right, LG pulls.  Stafford sells the play action.  Good protection; he sets up and throws over a double-covered Fowler's head. 
F262-10I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3PassDeep L (Williams)TD
Lions fake an Iso play to the right, with the fullback charging the right guard-tackle gap, and a good play fake.  Stafford sets up, looks to the left, quickly resets right, and fires.  The blitzing safety, who ran right past Salaam, drills Stafford a moment after release.  The pass is gorgeous, right over the shoulder of Williams, just out of reach of the lunging corner (who had great position), and is caught beautifully for a picture-perfect touchdown.  It is this play that I point to when talking about Stafford; in this one play he does everything an NFL quarterback is asked to do, at the speed he needs to do it, with flawless execution.  Perfect!
Seventh drive: 9 plays, 80 yards, TD Lions, 10-16.  Salaam looks wretched; he seems like he has no idea who he is supposed to block.  Other than him, protection was great on this drive.  Williams shows up for a bit, a big relief, and Stafford rebounds from that pick with a truly well-executed drive.  Very, very nice.
L201-10Offset I 2 TEBase 4-3RunDive R (Irvin)+2
Stanton in.  Dive play up the middle, Brown slides around looking for daylight, but there isnt any. 2-yard push up front by the OL, but nothing doing after that.
L222-8I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3PassFlare R (Stanton)+12
Stanton has plenty of time.  He looks over his first three options, and swings it over to Ervin, who does a great job of slipping the CBs tackle, and sprints to the 35.  Ridiculous fumble call quickly reversed.
L341-10Single 3 WRBase 4-3PassInt 
Initially an I-form set, Ervin motions out wide to make it a single-back (FB), 3 WR set.  No blitz, protection is good, coverage is good--too good.  Stanton fires into the slot, and an LB, Jamie Winborn was right there to jump the route.  Stanton gets a HUGE break when the Falcons are flagged for PI away from the play.  Terelle Smith picks up a personal foul, too, though, so the play is nullified.
L341-10I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3RunIso R (Brown)+5
Lions go to the ground instead, and with a great lead block by Smith, Brown gains 5.
L392-5I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3RunTrap R (Brown)-1
Aaron Brown (I think?  They're rotating and spotting isn't always easy) on the trap; though the RG pulls to help clear the way, the Falcons run blitz overwhelms the line.  Nothing Brown can do.  Loss of what looks like two.
L373-5Single 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPassScramble+9
Stanton drops back, doesn't see anything open.  Salaam cuts his man's legs (?), and the right guard is beaten inside.  Stanton sees a linebacker coming free and runs.  The center gets free and seals the linebacker off to the left, creating a nice running lane.  Stanton gets nine yards, and judiciously slides--something he's rarely done well.
L481-10Single 3 WR (gun)Base NickelRunTrap R (Ervin)+14
From the gun, Stanton gives to Ervin.  The pulling RG helps open a nice seam, and again Ervin shows great burst in zipping up the middle for a first down.  Manny Ramirez COMPLETELY manhandles Peria Jerry on this play.
F381-10Single 3 WRBase NickelRunSweep R (Brown+2
Center (Gerberry) pulls, but can't get to his man in time.  Brown has to bounce it back after trying to turn upwards, then makes a beeline for the sideline.  Once there, he turns it back up and gets a nice gain.
F322-4I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3Run Iso R (Brown)TD
Brown takes the handoff, fullback hits the gap between right guard and tackle.  The TE kicks his man out way wide, looks like there's some daylight--but Brown cuts left, hard, and explodes past the defense to the left sideline.  Catching the CB flat-footed, he races, untouched, to the end zone. Touchdown.
Eighth drive: 12 plays, 80 yards, TD.  17-23 Lions.
L261-10Single 3 WRBase NickelRunDraw M (Brown)-3
Rookie DT Vance Walker explodes up the middle; Ramirez got overwhelmed after the initial attack.  Brown bounces off Walker and keeps fighting, but is swarmed.
L232-13I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3PassScramble+27
Stanton does a little half-hearted play fake and looks downfield.  OL picks up the stunt on the right side, and Ervin stuffs the stunting DE on the left.  However, the stunting DT on the left pushes the guard near Stanton's blindside, and he takes off slicing through the D for a huge gain.  I'm not convinced the pressure was all that bad, but he made a better play running here than he would have throwing.
501-10Single 2 TEBase 4-3RunDive R (Ervin)+1
Ervin runs to the right, gets stuffed.
F492-9Single 3 WRBase NickelRunOff-tackle (Brown)+5
Brown takes it right, and the OL gets great push.  He cuts back one gap and finds a seam.  Nice little gain on a long second down.
F423-3Single 3 WRBase 4-3RunDive R (Brown)0
Run to the right, nice job by the OL vs. the DL, but the MLB gets there before Brown can get through the hole.  No gain.  Punt.
Ninth drive: 5 plays, 16 yards.  The Lions were rolling up yards on the ground, 168 at this point.  Stanton making plays like a playmaker.
L201-10I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3PassNaed Bootleg (Gronowsi)+3
Nice play fake on the rollout by Stanton.  He hits Gronkowsi in stride, but Gronko bobbles it long enough for a defender to get there and prevent any YAC.
L242-6I-Form 2 WRBase 4-3RunDive (Brown)-1
Simple run up the middle.  Nothing much came of it.
L253-7Single 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPassPenalty (Int. Grounding) 
Drew intentinonally grounds it, trying to get away from the rush.  Bad plan.
Tenth drive: 3 plays, -5 yards.  Nothing much here; the penalty forces a 3-and-out.
L161-10Single 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPassMiddle M (Boldin)+9
Great protection; Stanton has all day.  Nobody's open downfield, so he hits Boldin underneath.  Decent pickup.
L252-1Single 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPassScramble+5
Stafford has good protection up front, but again can't find anybody open.  Brown appears to be an option, but Stanton sees a linebacker closing, and opts to run for the sideline; he gets it (and the first down) easily.
L311-10Single 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPassDeep M (Smith?)+34
No blitz; no pressure.  Stanton fakes the handoff (a play action draw?), then pulls back and fires down the right hash to Smith for a big gainer across midfield.  Quick read, great decision, decent (slightly behind) throw.
F351-102 RB 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPass Short R (Brown)TD
Falcons send both LBs; Brown sorta helps the RT with the LE for a second, then releases into the empty flat.  Stanton has time, checks his deep options, then flips it to Brown just as the blitzers get free of their blocks.  The pass hits Brown in stride and he explodes upfield, putting a sick juken on CB Eric Brock, then getting a HUGE block from D.J. Boldin.  Brown races to the end zone and does a 10-even-from-the-Russian-judge roundoff-backflip.  Falcons homer announcer calls both the jawdropping play and the backflip with the same excitement as he would while calling me buying a gallon of milk. Touchdown.
Eleventh drive: 4 plays, 75 yards.  Superb blocking, both in the run game and pass protection. Stanton and Brown are both killing it.
L271-102 RB 3 WR (gun)Base Dime (?)PassScramble, Short L (Holt)+7
Drew drops back, a nice pocket sets up at first, but then the RE gets free.  He steps up, checks again, still no options, so he takes off for the sideline.  Halfway there, he sees Glenn Holt, pulls up, and fires. A little low, but Holt goes and gets it. Looks like five yards, they seem to spot it for seven, and the scorer says it's 2nd-and-2.  I'll take it.
L352-2Single 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPassScramble, Short R (Brown)inc.
Another initial nice pocket, but again the RE starts to get push.  Stanton runs to his right, and throws at Brown's feet (?).  Not sure if this was a misfire or intentional.
L353-2Single 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPassShort R (Brown)+
Good protection; Stanton whips through his reads and sees Brown all alone in the flat.  He swings it out to him, hits him in stride, and Brown gets out-of-bounds after a six-yard pickup.
L411-10Single 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPENoffsides+5
Atlanta helps us out by jumping offsides.
L461-5Single 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPassMiddle R (Boldin)+7
Great dropback and pass; Drew drops, sets, and fires to Boldin in the slot.  Good throw and catch for the first down.
L471-10Single 3 WR (gun)Base Nickelspike inc.
Spike to stop the clock.  Camera keeps cutting to Hanson, who's warming up.
F472-10Single 3 WR (gun)Base DimePassDeep R (McMullen)inc.
Lots of urgency here, only :45 left on the clock and no timeouts.  Drew drops back, has time, fires deep for McMullen; it's high and bounces off his hands.
F473-10Single 3 WR (gun)Base NickelPassScramble+25
I can't tell if this is a planned run or not, but Drew drops back, bounces once, and then sprints between the tackles.  With nobody anywhere near the middle of the field but the umpire, Drew makes a beeline for the 30-yard line.  A good block from Boldin ensures his unimpeded travel into Field Goal Range, where he slides.
L321-10Single 3 WR (gun)Base Nickelspike inc.
The Lions wait for the clock to hit :03 before spiking the ball to stop it.
L321-10Field Goal   FG
Betting on Jason Hanson is always a smart bet.  Field Goal, Lions win 27-24.
Twelfth drive: 12 plays, 57 yards, FG.  Stanton bailed every time he felt pressure (and he was pretty sensitive).  Still, he absolutely made several great plays; you couldn't ask for anything more.  Lions come from behind, clutch up, and win.  YES.

So what have we learned? First, the speed and burst that Aaron Brown displayed throughout training camp and the open practice is for real; the kid is a legitimate playmaker. If Avieon Cason makes the team and he doesn't, it will be an egregious crime. I understand that he has a long way to go in terms of blitz pickup, blocking assignments, and the like--but he's absolutely got the potential be a real weapon.

Second, Daunte Culpepper has proven that he can execute the offense like a veteran. As much as I've relentlessly derided his knack for turning the ball over, he's exhibited calm, poise, and managed the game very well--perhaps too well; he's not throwing downfield, even when the situation demands it. Also, I know it wasn't all his fault, but guess who got sacked on 3rd-and-goal to turn a TD into a field goal? You guessed it.

That brings us to another point: Linehan seems to be focusing on selling the play action.  I noticed a lot of the passes were play action; moreover, I noticed that the Lions almost always blocked the play actions the same way they blocked actual running plays.  I know this is, to an extent, standard practice.  But in this game, the Lions were taking it to the extent of pulling guards the same way, and having the fullbacks and tailbacks hit the hole the same way as they did on the actual traps and isos they ran.  I’ve always thought that “doing the opposite”--running when the defense expects pass and vice versa—is one of the keys to offensive success, knowing that this is a point of emphasis for Linehan is encouraging.

Thirdly, I’ve said it plenty and I’ll say it again, Matt Stafford is at least a decent NFL quarterback.  He may or may not ever establish himself as an elite stud, but just with the things he did in this game, he proved that he belongs with the big boys—right now.  As a corollary, we were treated to some good old-fashioned Drew Stanton Gunslinging Clutch Gamership; the Lions won the game at least partly thanks to his playmaking skills.

Fourthly, if the offensive line is going to be much better this year, it won’t be because of the many veterans signed to be versatile backups.  Salaam was a total liability out there, and Jansen was unremarkable.  The Lions’ offensive linemen are going to have to improve mostly through, well, improvement.  However, a lot of the pressure on the OL can be relieved  through a combination of Linehan’s scheming, the quarterbacks’ decision-making speed, and Kevin Smith’s running ability.

Finally, I apologize again for the lateness of this SFE.  I’m trying to develop a more efficient system for doing the breakdowns, because I will be doing these throughout the regular season.  As my friend and regular commenter Jim said to me, “It’s the preseason for everybody.”  As always, I deeply appreciate your time and patience.


Anonymous,  September 3, 2009 at 12:57 PM  

That must have taken hours and hours. Good breakdown, appreciated.

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