three cups deep: cold comfort

>> 9.21.2009

Yesterday, I saw the Lions lose.  The 18-game skid was didn't stop; it’s now a 19-game losing streak.  The Lions are 0-2, 0-1 in division, and all alone in the NFC North cellar once again.

I've never been a "there are no moral victories" guy. A loss is a loss, and a win is a win, but you can take positives from a game where the final score doesn't tilt your way. Lions fans can certainly take heart in Kevin Smith grinding out 83 yards against what's been the stoutest run defense of the past couple of seasons. Likewise, you can be pleased with a defense that contained Adrian Peterson to only 92 yards, and sacked Favre three times for a loss of 16 yards. You can be pleased with Matthew Stafford ‘s first touchdown connection with Calvin Johnson.  You can be pleased with Aaron Brown locking up the kick returner's role, I guess, and Jason Hanson's still perfect . . . sigh.

As frustrating and painful as this loss was, it’s much easier to find positives in this loss than in many of the previous 18.  There are a lot of folks saying that this loss was "just like last year", but those people either weren't paying attention then, weren't paying attention yesterday, or are being disingenuous.

Last year's teams would be down 21-0 at the end of the first quarter, and then spend all game trying to claw their way back into it. Then, as soon as they got a fingerhold back on the edge of the game, the other team would wake up, stomp on their fingers, and the Lions would fall back into the abyss. Many of the games where the score looked "competitive" weren't ever, really. This game was.  The Lions drew first blood, extended that lead, and then held it all the way into the locker room at halftime. 

That's probably the only truly valuable nugget you can sift out of this sand: the Lions were really competitive against the Vikings--a talented, and highly regarded, contender. Quoth their graybeard under center:

"Detroit played hard, played well, and I was worried."
Lions RT Gosder Cherlius spoke well, too:
"We took the ball from the 25-yard line and didn't throw it until we got to the end zone. That felt good. Our best beat their best . . . "
It's true. The Lions, especially early, were able to get the lead, control the ball, and hold the lead for the whole first half. Unfortunately, the Gozerian finished that sentence:
" . . .but it wasn't good enough because we didn't win the game. So it means nothing."

Yeah; pretty much. I'm finding it harder and harder to muster the energy to take the positives from losses; harder and harder to tell everyone I meet that the Lions are on the right track; harder and harder to quiet the rumbling hunger in my belly for victory.

I keep telling myself that nothing's changed, this is still a Murderer's Row of an early schedule, there's still a rookie quarterback starting under center, and a win over the Vikings would have been a monumental upset--but it was bitterly frustrating to come out of the stadium having to try to be happy, rather than actually just being happy.

Oh, don't worry, I'm still me. Late in the fourth quarter, someone sitting near me called for Daunte Culpepper, and I roared back at him to shut his mouth. I'm willing to grant that Culpepper might have thrown one fewer pick and one more TD pass, but that just makes it 20-27. Stafford is not the problem here. The turnovers he committed didn't lose the Lions the game--that honor would go to Kevin Smith's third-quarter fumble.

On the Lions' 27, Smith put the ball on the turf, and the Vikings recovered. On the first play of the ensuing Vikings position, Peterson got free for the only time that day; he ran 27 yards to the house. That was pretty much the end of that. Down by a TD, the Lions' offense started pressing to make up the difference, and ultimately lost effectiveness.

Nobody's killing Smith for that fumble. He played hard, did better than expected, and was a key part of this close-but-not-quite performance--and you could say the same for Stafford.  Stafford, I suppose, just hasn't yet earned that benefit of the doubt, that "free pass" with the media and fans. That's okay, he will. He just needs to get that first "W" to take the pressure off of him, the Lions, and all of our backs.

9 comments:

Anonymous,  September 21, 2009 at 3:25 PM  

I think it actually speaks well of Kevin Smith that no one is busting him up for that fumble. I like the idea of an every down back who's good for 80 yards against one of the NFL's magnificent run defenses, that no one notices.

Let's keep him unnoticed.

Pacer September 21, 2009 at 11:52 PM  

Ty-you sound a little down. Before I give you some quotes to help you out, let me remind you re: Stafford starting.
I know that you and others I respect, Blueingreer and Edistet as examples, advocated for Stafford to start. I think they should have started Culpepper up until the bye. I thought they had a better chance to win a game-Minnesota and the Redskins-one of the 2, with Culpepper. But in the grand scheme of things I am fine with starting Stafford from day one. They were not throwing the long ball yesterday and maybe Pep would have got them closer on Sunday or maybe even a win. Stafford's 1st interceptions hurt. Certainly, Kevin's fumble did. But will starting Stafford really make a difference in the long run-I don't think so. Not this year as Stafford needs to play. Lions fans are just going to have to think their way through this year.

Now for the good stuff.

First a fact. Even if Stafford was annointed the starter on his 1st day of training camp he would not have had the necessary time to work with his receivers-the eventual starters were all hurt in one form or another and for varying degrees of time. Sharing the reps with Pep only made the eventual situation worse. Favre with the Vikings, knowing the offensive plays as he does, still does not know the receivers individual tendencies while running their routes and has admitted that on several occassions.

Another fact-Peter King from Sports Illustrated picked the Lions in an upset as did one of the writers from Detroit-can't remember who. When was the last time you saw that?

Now for the quotes.
1) "Larry Foote played impact football for Detroit inside. What a terrific run player." Peter King.

2)"I don't necessarily concede that, because a lot of rookie mistakes are misreads or they don't know what the defense is doing.Those 2 plays were over-aggressive. Sometimes it is understanding that discretion is the better part of valour."
Jim Schwartz. My take, Stafford is probably ahead of his receivers relative to what is going on and his gunslinger mentality has to be dialed down somewhat. Second thought, he can read the defenses. Which is probably why he is starting. Sure as hell a lot or highly thought of rookie QB's never learned how to read defenses.

3)" He made a throw to Calvin right there on our sideline against a 2 deep coverage, which is nearly an impossible throw" .
Brett Favre.
I believe he is referring to the 37 yarder called back due to a penalty.

So, as mentioned, Lions fans who are on blogs, especially M-Live might want to think their way through this season as opposed to-say-spending their time trying to prove how smart they are, especially as opposed to the new Lions management or indeed other posters. Thankfully, for the most part, that is not a problem on this site.
And for you Ty-Peace. A pleasure as always.

Anonymous,  September 22, 2009 at 1:52 AM  

"So, as mentioned, Lions fans who are on blogs, especially M-Live might want to think their way through this season as opposed to-say-spending their time trying to prove how smart they are, especially as opposed to the new Lions management or indeed other posters."

What's that even mean?

Ty September 22, 2009 at 8:27 AM  

Anon 1--

Yeah, I'm definitely cool with Silent Bob going unnoticed by the media (and other teams). I was mainly talking about Lions fans, and everyone else who's talking like we're one more INT away from seeing Duante. Nobody's going out on the message boards and killing Smith for that fumble--but plenty are calling Stafford a bust.

All I'm saying is, I'll be glad once Stafford's earned the right to that same free pass.

Peace
Ty

Ty September 22, 2009 at 8:59 AM  

Pacer--

First, man, let me thank you. I really appreciate you taking the time out to help pump me up. I'm not that down, it's just . . . well, tiring to go spend $zillion and an entire day down there, spend most of the game with a legitimate chance to win, allow that optimism to swell and grow--then have it popped, yet again.

I think we all knew this was going to be a rough season, especially at the start, especially with a rookie quarterback at the helm . . . but it seems we all secretly expected to be pleasantly surprised, if that makes any sense. We were hoping the marked improvement would lead to a real live "W" sooner rather than later, and 3-13 would be okay if they'd just hurry up and get one of the 3 out of the way.

As for the quotes?

1) I Tweeted from the stands that "Larry Foote ate his damn Wheaties" today, and it's true; he played like the stud MLB we've all wanted since Spielman left.

2) I'm getting a little worried that they're trying to coach the "Matt" out of Matthew Stafford. I don't know if it was the gameplan, or if they were riding him to check down more, or what--but the overthrow to Bryant Johnson was the only time I can recall where they really tried to air it out. That's a killer, because the one thing we KNOW Stafford can already do like a top NFL quarterback is launch it deep--and we further know that Megatron can probably burn anybody deep. What quicker way to build his confidence--and put the other team back on its heels--than to connect on one or two of those?

3) see 2: Stafford's got a Juggs machine for a right arm, and an unstoppable target. Yes, you want him to cut down on his mistakes--but why draft Matt Stafford and then ask him to play like Chad Pennington?

Peace
Ty

Ty September 22, 2009 at 9:03 AM  

Anon--

I read Pacer's last paragraph to mean that the Lions' front office and coaching staff have so far seemed to be several steps ahead of the game--and the fans on blogs and message boards who think they know better than those guys should consider putting a cork in it while the season plays out, lest they be proven as ignorant as they are.

Thanks again, Pacer. I really appreciate your comment.

Peace
Ty

Pacer September 22, 2009 at 6:09 PM  

Ty-here we go again. From Don Banks at Sports Illustrated". He is one of their NFL feature writers and this was in today's SI.

"I'm going out on a short limb here and predicting this is the week the Lions finally win. I say the 19-game losing streak ends Sunday, when Detroit is home against Washington. Obviously the Redskins are offensively challenged and defensively strong. But I just get the feeling the Lions are about to get a breakout type game on offense from the likes of quarterback Matthew Stafford, receiver Calvin Johnson, tight end Brandon Pettigrew and running back Kevin Smith."

IMO-if the Lions cut down on their mistakes they have a chance but one day the Redskins are going to break loose with that offense. I hope it is not this Sunday.

Anonymous,  September 22, 2009 at 11:40 PM  

The new Lions management is pretty much the old Lions management and has no claim on being ahead of the curve on anything but losing. Millen was stupid, but at least he's got a win from the top spot. Can't think your way out of that one.

But I guess all us bloggers should just shut it and wait to bask in the glory. I'm out.

DrewsLions September 24, 2009 at 11:04 AM  

Hey Ty -

I'm pretty sure I saw you at the game on Sunday. I recognized you from the photos you posted when you and your family went to the Ford Field practice. It was at halftime and I was in line at the concessions... you were walking by. Would have liked to introduce myself, just too many people between us to get your attention.

Drew

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