three cups deep: the interceptioning

>> 11.09.2009

. . . this is why I was calling for Stafford to be the starter from OTAs forward.  If the object was for Matthew Stafford to succeed as quickly as possible, he needed reps.  Moreover, he needed all the reps with the ones.  Megatron, Pettigrew, Bryant Johnson . . . he needed reps to develop a rapport with them, to learn their habits.  He needed reps to get comfortable with the offense, to get comfortable with their habits.  They needed reps to get used to the velocity of his passes, the timing of when he delivers the ball, his preferences when plays break down.

Instead, we see Stafford—a dude with an almost unlimited arm—underthrow Megatron on a fly route.  We see receivers break outside, and Stafford throw inside.  We see receivers break inside, and Stafford throw outside.  Yes, we also see the unavoidable where-did-that-guy-come-from rookie mistakes—but these errors in timing, this confusion about what route should be run, how deep the route should be run, and where the ball should be placed?  These should have been happening and getting corrected in training camp and preseason, not in Week 9.

Matthew Stafford will be getting all the blame for this loss—and in and of itself, that’s correct.  His five picks turned what would have been a HUGE road victory into another heartbreaking loss.  However, I’m seeing a lot of this:

The knock on Matt Stafford in college was that he was inaccurate. Five interceptions today aren't going to change that concern.
Let us be clear: the knock on Matthew Stafford wasn't that he was inaccurate.  The Lions fans who didn't want to see Stafford drafted heard he had a big arm and decided he was inaccurate.  The actual knock on Stafford was that his #1 National QB Recruit status never translated into BCS Title and Heisman success—but Georgia fans will be the first to tell you that that wasn’t because Stafford was holding them back.

This cuts to the heart of the matter: what is "inaccurate"?  To me, “inaccuracy” is when the ball doesn’t go where the quarterback means to throw it.  A deep linebacker picking off a pass because the quarterback didn’t see him is not “inaccuracy”.  A ball thrown one way when the receiver breaks another is not “inaccuracy”.  Overthrows, underthrows, balls thrown behind the receiver, those are examples of inaccuracy—and while Stafford did throw several passes like that, so does every quarterback in every game.  The interceptions that cost the Lions the game were simply mistakes; mistakes that can be corrected with coaching, mistakes that can be corrected with repetition; mistakes that can be corrected with time.

Let’s not gloss over some really important positives.  At one point, Stafford was 11-of-14 for 111 yards, 2 TDs, and 0 INTs.  Brandon Pettigrew—the “bust” that everyone’s been ranting about lately—hauled in 7 balls for 70 yards, including his first TD catch.  Kevin Smith got 67 yards on 13 carries, including a crucial 31-yarder in the fourth quarter.  Mo Morris and Aaron Brown combined for 8 carries and 47 yards, upping the team rushing totals to 21 carries, 114 yards, and a 5.4 YpC average.  The defense looked great in the first quarter, coming up with a HUGE 4th-and-1 stop, where the defensive line pushed the pile considerably.  The defense also held the Seahawks to 25 points, despite being essentially unable to stop them from completing a pass.  Delmas got a pick, Dizon got a sack, the defense came up with 4 TFLs, forced 3 fumbles, and recovered one.

None of that takes the sting out of another heartbreaking loss.  None of that changes the fact that the Lions flipped the script—jumping out to a 17-0 lead with forced turnovers and offensive effectiveness—and still lost.  However, they did flip the script.  The game was in doubt in the final minute.  The Lions were competitive, on one of the hardest road trips an EST-based team can make.  Best of all, we got to see a glimpse of the team that Jim Schwartz, Gunther Cunningham, and Scott Linehan are building.  They’re nowhere near done—in fact, they’re just getting started.  But those who were saying last week that “nothing’s changed since 2008” just got woken up.  Let’s hope that next time, they can’t hit the snooze button . . .

Speaking of which, I gotta get that third cup before my head hits the keyboard.

9 comments:

BenderCU November 9, 2009 at 1:53 PM  

I think the thing that made me the most mad about this game wasn't the picks, because as u said it def looked to me like misunderstandings that are correctable with spending more time with the players. The thing that really pissed me off was the completely BS pass interference call on Williams James in the 3rd quarter that set up the seahawks go ahead TD...

I thought on the whole the defense played well and made some good goal line stands. Considering how well they passed the ball only allowing 2 TDs isn't bad really and i contest one of those TDs anyway as i mentioned above. This game to me showed where the main off season needs should be... OL and DB, our DL looks serviceable to me.

Ty November 9, 2009 at 4:15 PM  

BenderCU--

The PI was totally uncalled for. Not only was it completely uncatchable, it looked more like offensive PI than defensive. Typically, I don't like "blaming the refs", but that one (and the "neutral zone"/false start mixup) really hurt the Lions at a very bad time.

I thought the defense looked really helpless against the pass between the 20s, but did a great job of keeping the Seahawks in front of them and not getting beat deep.

I've been panicking about the secondary since I started this blog, and nothing that's happened since has caused me to relax one bit--though Delmas made a HUGE impact in both pass coverage and run stopping yesterday . . .

Peace
Ty

BenderCU November 9, 2009 at 7:38 PM  

Ty:
I liked that u mentioned that it looked more like offensive PI, i thought the EXACT same thing! I don't really like playing the blame game with refs either, but no team should have to win in-spite of the ref's bad calls and it just seems like every season they get worse and less consistent. It just shows a lack of professionalism to me and the NFL basically just takes the side of the refs and then fines anyone that questions the calls. There needs to be more accountability on the refs to make the right call, cause it seems like there is no recourse what so ever if they do make a bad call...

Delmas has been great imo most of the season and he's only going to get better, but the rest of the secondary is very scary... though i did think Phillip Buchanon looked a little better in this game than he has the rest of the season.

It looked like an awful lot of blown coverages from the LBs especially Foote, he seemed confused on a number of plays, which is wierd since he's played pretty well most of the season.

Pacer November 9, 2009 at 11:20 PM  

Ty-as you know I thought the Lions would lose against the Rams and win against the Seahawks. They should have won in Seattle but 5 intercepetions are going to kill a team like the Lions. However, you can see that they can play well when they limit their mistakes. I believe you will see them win a few more this year and continue to play better. Keep the faith.

Matt,  November 11, 2009 at 1:40 PM  

". . . this is why I was calling for Stafford to be the starter from OTAs forward. If the object was for Matthew Stafford to succeed as quickly as possible, he needed reps. Moreover, he needed all the reps with the ones. Megatron, Pettigrew, Bryant Johnson . . . he needed reps to develop a rapport with them, to learn their habits. He needed reps to get comfortable with the offense, to get comfortable with their habits. They needed reps to get used to the velocity of his passes, the timing of when he delivers the ball, his preferences when plays break down."

"These [mistakes] should have been happening and getting corrected in training camp and preseason, not in Week 9."


This is also why he shouldn't have been the starting QB Week 1. ;-)

Ty November 11, 2009 at 11:48 PM  

BenderCU-

Yes, Buchanon played much better, which is great. I maintain that he has the physical ability to be a legit #1 corner; it's about time he started playing like it. I was most worried about Deion Branch being a physical mismatch against whoever the hell was playing nickel for us, but they seemed to be intent on picking on Will James. Considering that he was a street free agent, he didn't do that badly . . .

Still, you're right about the LBs. Hasselbeck was hitting backs and receivers all day long; there were stretches where it looked as though he literally would not ever throw an incomplete pass. Let's hope that tightens up a little against Minnesota, whose TEs and RBs aren't nearly the receiving threats that Seattle's are.

Peace
Ty

Ty November 12, 2009 at 12:11 AM  

Pacer--

Completely agreed; they played more than well enough to win in one of the most hostile road environments in the NFL. The Vikings have been so impressive that I don't see how they win this week, but I think there are 2 or 3 more Ws on the schedule yet, especially if Stafford resumes his injury-interrupted upward trend.

Peace
Ty

Ty November 12, 2009 at 12:22 AM  

"This is also why he shouldn't have been the starting QB Week 1. ;-)"

Ha ha. Seriously, though, if you're GOING to make him the Week 1 starter--and I am convinced he was locked in as the Week 1 starter the second he signed his contract--then give him the best chance to succeed. Right now, he's played with Megatron for a few hours of practice a week, plus a game, for five noncontiguous weeks. He COULD have had six weeks of two-a-days, but noooooo, we had to keep up appearances w/Daunte . . .

Peace
Ty

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