Three Cups Deep: Lions at Buccaneers

>> 9.12.2011

I was getting The Fear.

The Lions had clearly established themselves as the better team, put it in cruise control in the third quarter, and inspired rapturous feelings of confidence in me and Lions fans everywhere. But the Lions had surrendered a long drive  to the Bucs for the first time all day—saved by a huge fourth-down stop—and answered with a three-and-out. The Bucs the finally breeched the Lions’ defensive wall; suddenly the forgone conclusion was gone. It was a one-score game.

We’d seen this movie before. Many times before. I took heart, though; surely the Lions’ offense would take matters into their own hands. Jahvid Best had been effective running out the clock all day, and Stafford was completing over 70% of his passes. We’d seen some truly creative playcalling from Linehan today, so maybe . . .

Jerome Harrison. Jerome Harrison. Jerome Harrison. Net gain: four yards. Oh, and then Gosder Cherilus committed an obvious and idiotic penalty to hand the timeoutless Buccaneers a free clock stoppage.

After a mercifully huge Ryan Donahue punt, the suddenly-awake Buccaneers offense now had 1:07 to go 80 yards. If you’ve been a Lions fan for more than five weeks, you know in your heart how this story ends: with the Buccaneers finding a way to make it happen, likely with some assistance from the Lions.

Neil at Armchair Linebacker has written many times about The Fear. It’s the horrible burden Lions fans bear, the shellshocked memories of all the traumatic losses we’ve seen. It’s the psychological reaction to having it come out for the worst time after time after time. We get that sinking, shaking fear in our bellies and we just can’t bear to watch as it all, surely, slips away again, victory just out of reach, another week of wouldas, couldas, and shouldas our only comfort . . . .

Only, this year really is different. This team really is something special. The 2011 Lions are a good team. As in, better than most other teams. The ending didn’t follow that same old script, and the Bucs reduced themselves to ridiculousness trying to do that Stanford many-lateral thing as time expired. Time expired. The Lions WON.

With that, the Lions went to 1-0, starting their season off on the right foot for the first time since 2007. They extended their road winning streak to three games, and overall streak to five. They return home this week to face the battered Kansas City Chiefs, then they travel to Minnesota . . . and suddenly, it looks as though Monday Night Football will be played with a lot more than bragging rights at stake.

8 comments:

MrMomWorld September 12, 2011 at 7:56 PM  

There were a lot of positives on this game and only a very few negatives. I do think the Lions got too conservative too early trying to protect the lead. Stay with what's working. Go Lions.

randomguy313 September 12, 2011 at 9:54 PM  

Get used to this folks. When the Lions have the lead it will be hard to close out teams because the 4 minute offense is going to be spotty this season.

With that being said I am ok with Linehan putting the air out of the ball and putting the onus on the defense. The one thing that Lions fans fear is Stafford getting hurt. If we get to see 30 to 35 attempts from Stafford I think the Lions will be in good position and not putting undue risk with their QB.

NorthLeft12 September 13, 2011 at 7:46 AM  

I think you will see a change in this strategy over the course of the season. As Schwartz and Linehan become more confident with Stafford and the O Line, I think they will keep the foot on the gas......longer.

Especially against other opponents that have more capable offences.

This is a learning process, for the coaches as well as the players. I really like where we are headed with this. The response of the players and coaches to the win was just what we want to see. Not satisfied with the performance and eager to improve.

randomguy313 September 13, 2011 at 9:23 AM  

@NorthLeft12 I think that the staff has the utmost confidence with..um..Staff (couldn't help myself). I don't think the playcalling in the second half reflected lack of confidence in Stafford.

#O-Line: I see the play calling as challenging the offensive line to create space for the RBs.

#Strategy changing during the season: I agree that the strategy will change but more so on a game by game basis. You had humid temps and the Lions had the ball for a significant amount of time in the first half. If I were on Offensive Coordinator my thinking would be that the offensive line should be able to get a push in the second half. It did not work exceptionally well but the run game was effective enough to kill the clock in the second half.

The game was close to me because of the opportunities that the Lions did not take advantage of in the first half. Getting 7 in the red zone instead of 3 would have made this game lobsided not the second half emphasis on the run game.

Ty September 14, 2011 at 8:41 AM  

MrMomWorld--

"I do think the Lions got too conservative too early trying to protect the lead."

Yeah, there was an element of that . . . and I'm just not sold on Jerome Harrison. Everyone wants to pretend he's a bruiser with speed and moves--the total package--but I haven't seen him run between with any success yet. Giving it to him three times in a row was folly.

Peace
Ty

Ty September 14, 2011 at 8:43 AM  

randomguy313--

"With that being said I am ok with Linehan putting the air out of the ball and putting the onus on the defense."

Yeah, exactly. I'm a lot happier putting the ball in Matthew Stafford's hands than Jerome Harrsion's.

Peace
Ty

Ty September 14, 2011 at 8:45 AM  

NorthLeft12--

"I really like where we are headed with this. The response of the players and coaches to the win was just what we want to see. Not satisfied with the performance and eager to improve."

Completely agreed with this. They know they can play better than they did and they're mad they didn't. They won't be taking curtain calls after wins anymore!

Peace
Ty

randomguy313 September 14, 2011 at 11:36 AM  

@Ty I think you misunderstood my meaning; when referring to taking the air out the ball I was thinking in a deflating sense. So I was ok with Linehan running the ball, yes..even with Harrison for the 4th quarter.

Hopefully Keiland gets up to speed so we can get a look at him, but I thought Jerome showed a little given he was running against 9 men.

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