Three Cups Deep: Lions at Cowboys

>> 10.03.2011


Let me fill my third cup of coffee . . . ahh. Smell that? It’s Detroit Lion Supremo Victory Blend. The heat is radiating right through the thin ceramic. I hold it not by the handle, but with both hands wrapped around the outside. I bring it to my lips and bow my head. With the quiet reverence of prayer, I take a long, slow, deep sip.

The steam fills my nose as the hot liquid drains down my throat, warming my empty belly. After an exhilarating, exhausting day of excitement, anticipation, shock, dread, hope, and jubilation, I need all the rejuvenating strength of this coffee, of this Lions win, to get me going again.

The Lions are 4-0, on an NFL-best eight-game win streak, a franchise-best five-game road win streak, and are tied with the Packers atop the NFC North—and the NFL entire.

I’m elated by the tenacity the Lions have displayed in coming back from 20+ points down in consecutive games—the first time that’s ever been done, according to Elias Sports Bureau. I’m thrilled that they’ve managed to eke out wins on the road when they aren’t playing well. I’m dazzled by the performance of the Lions’ defense—who, truth be told, has been bailing out Stafford and the high-flying receiver corps all season.

I’m stoked that the Lions are 4-0 with next week’s Monday Night Football kicking off a long stretch of home games and winnable road games. Pulling out a victory in Jerryworld set the Lions up very, very, very well for the postseason.

On the Fireside Chat last night I told you to “savor this moment in time,” to drink in the national praise and hold the sweet taste of 4-0 on your tongue for as long as you can. I believe greater things are in store for the Lions this year, but this is a wonderfully special, wholly unique time to be a Lions fan. It can get better, but not much.

As in coffee, there’s bitterness in this cup of Lions victory. The Lions have not yet played a full sixty minutes of their best football. I’m the first to say this is the Great Lie of football fandom: that “Fans of That Other Team never have to deal with this!” No matter how good the team, how perennially successful the franchise, fans are always left with something to gripe about. However, the Lions can not keep spotting opponents the first half of football; it will catch up with them sooner rather than later. As Commenter Matt said, “While the Lions have ‘finishing’ down cold, now they have to learn how to ‘start’.”

This is where the TV camera angle leaves us cold: we couldn’t see where the breakdown in the Lions’ passing offense was. Were the Cowboys back seven just that good in coverage? Were the Lions receivers just failing to get open? Was Scott Linehan schooled by Rex Ryan in the gameplan department? Was Matthew Stafford just a beat slow on getting rid of the ball? Without the coaching-film “All 22” angle, it’s difficult to tell.

The upshot is, Stafford got the ball where it needed to go when it needed to go there most, and the defense made plays when it needed to make plays the most. People will tell you “the Lions didn’t come back, Tony Romo brought the Lions back” but that's nonsense.

Look at Chris Houston’s pick-six: he outfought Laurent Robinson for the well-thrown pass, intercepted it one-handed, put on a beautiful spin move and—despite the entire Cowboys team having the angle on him, he raced past them all to the end zone. Go set your Juggs machine on "Tony Romo" and try to catch its passes one-handed while somebody a few inches taller than you pushes you in the chest. You'll be there all day.

Yes, the defense bailed the Lions’ offense out—but they’ll return to Ford Field next Monday, where they have yet to play anything less than dominant, lights-out football this pre- and regular season. They’ll welcome the 2-2 Bears into their den, where us Lions fans will be rocking, rolling, and ready to help lift the Lions to 5-0.


randomguy313,  October 3, 2011 at 1:44 PM  

It was definitely difficult to tell what factors contribute to these slow starts, but I think there were different elements with every game:

TB: The offense started moved from 20 to 20 but got 3s instead of 7s in the red zone.

KC: Did pretty much anything they wanted

MIN: Pass Rush and crowd noise made things extra difficult to exploit MIN cover 2.

DAL: It seemed the schemes Rob Ryan employed mixed in with some Stafford Jitters made things difficult.

The initial drive was particularly telling for Stafford. He made a great read on the slant to Titus but missed him badly. He made a poor read and throw trying to fit it in to Calvin when he had Nate coming across wide open, resulting in a pick for Sensabaugh.

The one theme that I have maintained is that this team is built to come from behind and will have difficulties killing the clock with a woeful run game.

Dilfer made this same sentiment and applied it league wide and I am of similar opinion. Very good to great teams have the ability to win games with this pass first mentality, but in the playoffs you have to be able to run out the clock or else you test fate by putting the ball up.

The Lions have supplemented their run games with swing passes, hitches, screens and dump passes to Pettigrew.

But what Dallas and Minnesota have shown is that without a conventional run game, the Lions will need Stafford to execute the aforementioned short passes consistently to avoid these slow starts

Will H,  October 3, 2011 at 3:54 PM  

Was Scott Linehan schooled by Rex Ryan in the gameplan department?

I think you mean Rob Ryan

Wheelz,  October 3, 2011 at 9:27 PM  

I don't think it's fair to say that the defense bailed the offense out. Didn't they bail themselves out? Dallas did anything and everything it wanted in the first half + first couple minutes of the second (with the notable exception of scoring on 4th and goal from they 2 inch line). The offense was by no means the only unit that needed bailing out.

P.S. Everyone's talking about Calvin's awesomeness (as well they should be...even Cris Carter), but no one is talking about how absolutely perfect those throws were to him. Precise. No one could touch it other than him, but still not so high that he couldn't reach them. Both of those throws were at least as brilliant as their catch.

Alvin2112,  October 4, 2011 at 12:52 AM  

"Go set your Juggs machine on "Tony Romo" and try to catch its passes one-handed while somebody a few inches taller than you pushes you in the chest. You'll be there all day."

lol, that's an awesome line. It's also true.


Dennis,  October 4, 2011 at 3:03 PM  

Nice!! Let me stretch my virtual feet out

Flamekeeper_Ty,  October 5, 2011 at 4:02 PM  

Thanks! I was pretty proud of that one myself.

Flamekeeper_Ty,  October 5, 2011 at 4:02 PM  

Yeah, that's a great point. I think the jumpball was still a jumpball, as well-thrown as it might have been . . . but yes, when Stafford's in the zone he's nearly flawless.

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