Three Cups Deep: this one hurts

>> 12.14.2009

In yesterday’s gameday post, I said:

Today is either the day the Lions roar back to respectability--or the day the scavengers pick their bones clean.

Well, we have our answer.

I actually fell asleep in the second half.  What was the point?  Ray Rice was running at will, the Lions couldn’t score to save their lives, and—against all rational thought—Daunte Culpepper played until the bitter end.

It beggars belief: he completed only 16 of his 34 passes, for only 135 yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions.  It was a long, miserable day by any measure.  What doesn't show in those numbers, however, is this play:

3-4-BAL 44
(13:41) (Shotgun) 11-D.Culpepper FUMBLES (Aborted) at DET 50, and recovers at DET 50. 11-D.Culpepper to DET 50 for no gain (26-D.Landry).

That play emobdies everything I always scream about with Culpepper.  It’s the second quarter.  The Lions are down by just three points, having already missed a field goal.  After driving into Baltimore territory, two straight three-yard runs by Kevin Smith put the Lions in a 3rd-and-4 situation. 

This is what they call keeping your offense “on schedule”; giving the offense a great chance to convert on third down.  It’s what good offenses do, and it’s an ability Lions offenses have lacked since . . well, ever.  With this favorable situation, Linehan went to his “third and short” playbook, and pulled out a play from a shotgun, multi-WR set—doubtlessly looking to give Culpepper several close, easy targets.  If the Lions convert, they’re at Baltimore’s 40, or closer, with a new set of downs.  Instead,  Raiola’s shotgun snap hits Culpepper in the hands, and he drops it.

It’ll show up on the stat sheet as a fumble, yes—but not a “lost” fumble, and certainly not as a “an inexcusable f-up that absolutely killed his team’s chances to win”, which is what it was.  Culpepper’s entire career—yes, even when he was almost MVP or whatever—has been afflicted with this plague: an incredible knack for making horrible plays at the worst possible times.

After a punt, and two plays, Derrick Mason took a pair of brutal hits, ran to the end zone, and opened the floodgates.  While this was arguably the result of the Lions’ DBs going for big hits instead of tackling, I’d submit that Mason is on a two-man list of Receivers Tough Enough To Take That Hit and Keep Standing.  Really, at that point, the defense had still done remarkably well.

For all the press about '”RAVENS DESTROY LIONS IN LAUGHABLE BLOWOUT”, with three minutes left in the first half, the Lions were down by only two score.  They had the ball on their own 28, and had just begun a drive that could bring it to a 1-TD deficit.  Then . . .

Culpepper sack.

Culpepper INT.

Ravens drive and field goal.


28 unanswered points.

I hope Schwartz isn’t just blowing smoke when he called this performance was “unacceptable”, because that’s exactly what it was.  The defense simply rolled over.  After standing tall against one of the better rushing offenses in football last week, the Lions allowed 308 yards rushing on 40 attempts; 7.7 YpC.

Meanwhile, the offense kept pounding its head against the wall . . . hoping, I guess that the wall would break?  Granted, conditions were absolutely wretched out there—at one point, it appeared to be a downpour of freezing rain—but it seemed like there was an impenetrable forcefield at the Ravens’ 30-yard line.  Stafford can’t come back soon enough.

Speaking of which, is there anyone who still thinks that Daunte gives the Lions the "best chance to win"?  Even if he did, would it matter?  Drew Stanton again was robbed of any chance to prove himself—why?  We know Culpepper won’t be back here next year.  Kevin Smith blew out his ACL, and possibly ruined his 2010 campaign—why?  To what end?  What on earth were he and Daunte still doing out there?

Let’s face it: the 2009 season is now over.  There’s no point in veterans veterans over youth if said veterans aren’t part of the future plans.  Believe you me, there are some players on this team whose walking papers were filled out yesterday afternoon; I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those papers were served at some point this week.

The Lions need to move on from this loss, and this season, as quickly as possible: cut the deadwood, sign some practice squadders, and get on with the business of Maybe Next Year.


Anonymous,  December 14, 2009 at 1:46 PM  

Also don't forget the best and worst parts of this game: Kevin Smith.

He is able to get more out nothing better than 95% of running backs and he plays his heart out as well (best part). Lets hope the knee (worst part) is not hurt too bad. I would argue shutting him down for the rest of the year and saving him for next when, Lord willing, the lions actually have an offensive line that could block more than a junior college defense

BenderCU,  December 14, 2009 at 2:03 PM  

I actually thought the OL played half decent yesterday in both run and pass blocking, i mean Cpep had a lot more time to throw than any other game i can remember watching this season. I think the thing that hurt us the most as far as defense goes in the 2nd half was the absence of Delmas... can't tell u how many missed tackles i saw by Pearson and White. I mean i know Delmas wouldn't have won the game for us, but i'm willing to bet at least 2 or so of those long TD plays don't happen because he tackles better.

Another note on Cpep... I've said all season i liked that we weren't starting him and after yesterday i see no reason for him to step back on the field unless everyone else that can throw the ball at all is injured... All he did the entire game was check down or throw "deep" balls that were 5-10 yards short.

Anonymous,  December 14, 2009 at 2:29 PM  

I agree. No more Dante. Play Stanton is Stafford can't go

Anonymous,  December 14, 2009 at 5:34 PM  

Could not agree more with you. Three games left -play for the future not for today. Sign every guy on your PS and then fill it up again with other PS players. At this point playing washed up vets like D.White, Jackson, CPepp, Northcutt and Bryant Johnson is pointless - they won't be here next year and they certainly are not going to rick injury in a 2-14 season. Play guys that are still interested in earning a spot in the NFL - that is the only logical way to go.


Anonymous,  December 14, 2009 at 5:59 PM  

I'm an out of town Lions fan, so I haven't been able to go to a Lions game live. This year (at the beginning of the season), I planned a trip and bought tickets to see the Lions play in San Francisco in a couple weeks. If Stafford is still injured, and they don't give the start to Stanton, I'm going to feel hugely cheated as a fan.
It is highly unlikely that Culpepper gives the Lions a better chance to win than Stanton, but even if that is the case, as fans I think we have the right to see for ourselves.


Anonymous,  December 14, 2009 at 6:07 PM  

I've got a draft topic that I would like some discussion on. It seems pretty widely accepted that if Suh or McCoy are available, the Lions will take them.
In my opinion, the next best guy to take has to be Berry. The examples of a safety impacting a defense are all over the NFL this year. The Steelers with and without Polamalu, and just yesterday when Delmas was out it was painful watching White and Pearson bouncing off tackles.
It seems like big plays against is the biggest problem for the Lions, and a safety pairing of Delmas and Berry would be the best way to stop them from happening.
I might even rather see them draft Berry over McCoy depending on how things shake out in the off season.


Ty,  December 14, 2009 at 10:26 PM  

Anon 1--

Unfortunately, it's as bad as it looked; Smith is done for the season--and, I'd imagine, won't be full strength until late next season. Just when we were all became convinced that Smith didn't need to be replaced, now Smith needs to be replaced. Mo Morris and Aaron Brown will get extended auditions for next season . . . maybe they pick Tristan Davis back up from Miami's practice squad?

After that, with the way teams are letting 28+ RBs walk, a decent vet should be available to tide the Lions over.


Ty,  December 14, 2009 at 10:46 PM  


What's interesting is the varying takes on line play. I spent some time on Ravens forums/blogs in the upcoming week, and they seem to think they have a bad defensive line that gets no pressure . . . I thought our OL did a decent job of run blocking, if not as well as last week. If the defense could have held off the onslaught, that running game could have really been useful in the second half. Instead, they asked Culpepper to win the game, and . . . well . . .

. . . yeah.


Ty,  December 14, 2009 at 10:58 PM  

Anon 2, AS--

To me, Culpepper is a special kind of useless at this point. One thing we've learned with the '07 and '08 Lions: if you have a team full of talented but skill-less "projects" and hardworking but talentless "effort guys" and nobody who can actually play, those projects don't develop and those "effort guys" get exposed.

If Culpepper were a Kerry Collins/Kurt Warner type, a veteran who at least makes great decisions, I could see keeping him in while Aaron Brown, Derrick Williams, Dan Gronkowski, etc. learn. However, if you throw Drew out there with all those rookies around him, mistakes and chaos will be the order of the day, and nobody will learn anything, or prove anything.

However, since Culpepper really couldn't perform any worse than he is, there's no point in starting him over DS . . . unless, follow me here, Culpepper has incriminating pictures of someone on the coaching staff or in the front office.

Remember, we're talking Mr. Love Boat, here.


Anonymous,  December 15, 2009 at 3:48 PM  

Bender CU, two, maybe three weeks Schwartz was quoted (forgot the outlet) "Without Delmas, we'd be giving up 50 pts a game." I thought it was hyperbole.

gary,  December 15, 2009 at 5:22 PM  

How can Swartz still want to put in Fumblepepper, I am now starting to question his credibility as a coach. And if it not him, the what the hell is, Mayhew thinking. If Stanton does get a shot now, he should just screw the pooch and absolutely dog it out there. They obviously dont have any confidence in him so why should he care?

Anonymous,  December 15, 2009 at 10:15 PM  

Culpepper certainly didn't have a good game but I doubt Stanton or Stafford would have done better under those weather conditions and the surrounding talent. Yet everyone is clammoring for Stanton to start, which I can understand from a personnel evaluation standpoint (i.e. see what he can do now or get rid of him), but I'm sure the coaching staff knows what Stanton is capable of doing at this point and are approaching this from a long term development standpoint (i.e. he is not ready yet), even though he is supposed to be a "gamer". My guess is that Stanton is more valuable as a backup to Culpepper than as a try it and see what happens experiment. If Stanton got hurt, which is very likely given his style of play, then they're down to one healthy QB (Culpepper) without a legitimate backup -- assuming that Stafford is out for the season. If Staffford gets thrown into any of the remaining games I'd say the coaching staff has gone nuts.

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