Three Cups Deep: Detroit Lions vs. Carolina Panthers

>> 11.21.2011


This season has been full of incredible moments, wonderful memories, and harbingers of success. My faith in this team, its players, its coaches, and its leaders has been converted with almost-perfect success into reality; my bold predictions and ludicrous claims have—almost without fail—come true. This team’s play has cashed nearly every check this blog has written.

The ridiculous defeat of the Panthers was the most surreal moment of my Lions fan life. Last Sunday’s debacle against the Bears was hard, but it didn’t test my faith. “All would be well,” I’d thought. “The Lions will whoop up on the Panthers, then turn around and come in hot against the Pack.”

Sitting in the stadium, staring up at a scoreboard that read “PANTHERS 24 LIONS 7,” it started to drain out of me. For the first time that season, I felt that feeling. That old familiar sensation of my stomach falling through the floor, the flood of frustration and disappointment. If the Lions lost to the Panthers, I knew, they could kiss the playoffs good-bye . . . and the Lions were about to lose to the Panthers.

Matthew Stafford, though, never wavered. His calm, confidence, and resolve were palpable. He stood confidently inside the pocket, and executed the offense to a T. He spread the ball around, found the open man, moved the chains, and never let the scoreboard change his performance or his attitude.

It's the same kind of patient execution we marvelled at in the Vikings and Cowboys games, and the lack of which we decried after the 49ers, Falcons, and Bears losses. Stafford knew he had to just keep executing, and eventually the Lions overall superiority would win the day . . . and it did. Even after the first pick, and the second (which I believe was on the receiver), his numbers were jawdroppingly good: 28-of-36 (77.8%), for 335 yards and 5 TDs; an incredible 121.9 passer effectiveness rating.

Stafford completed multiple passes to seven different Lions, and one touchdown pass to five different Lions—none of whom were Calvin Johnson. This is the Yodaesque field vision I was talking up in the preseason. This is the maturity and ability we’ve all been lauding for so long. With the season on the line and everything in doubt, Stafford Got His Groove Back.

The rest of the game was a joy. Watching Kevin Smith roll like I always thought he could, watching Stafford destroy the Panthers with surgical precision, watching the defense slowly suffocate the incredible young quarterback . . . I went from the edge of despair to the peak of elation. The Lions are well and truly back.

And not a moment too soon.


Jeremy Reisman,  November 21, 2011 at 8:16 PM  

By the way, heard a quote from Stafford today that, indeed, his second pick was a mis-communication between him and CJ. So kudos to you for catching that.

the dude,  November 22, 2011 at 4:29 AM  

Ty, (off-topic) I'm still amazed at the reluctance in the coaching staff to get Alphonso Smith onto the field. What do you think happened? I haven't been all that impressed by Aaron Berry's play this year, but he hasn't been terrible either. But, Brandon McDonald over Smith? I know the Lions' pass defense is playing great this year, but let's wait to see if we can say that after two meetings with Aaron Rogers and one with Drew Brees. I'm really starting to worry the Lions' brass is overestimating the play of their secondary with the strong pass rush they've been benefiting from this year.

I wonder how the Lions' secondary unit has been grading out in pass coverage this year at PFF. Wish I had a subscription this year, because I'm a little worried about that unit with these important games coming against better passing teams. Any thoughts?

Adam C,  November 22, 2011 at 6:14 AM  

First game I'd ever been able to make it to in person. It was refreshing to see the offense finally get back on track after the last few weeks, just in time for one of the hardest games of the year.

Flamekeeper_Ty,  November 22, 2011 at 8:42 AM  

Glad you got to see a game live! It's an experience, isn't it?

And yes--the O couldn't have woken up at any better time.

Flamekeeper_Ty,  November 22, 2011 at 11:12 AM  

I'm not sure about that, myself. It certainly looked like he was developing into a ballhawk at the slot CB position . . .

I understand being stuck behind Berry, who's been playing extremely well, and Wright. But as you say, behind stuck behind McDonald is a surprise.

PFF-wise, the Lions as a team grade out #2 in the NFL in pass coverage (not total pass defense, coverage!). Individually, Chris Houston is +5.2 (17th), Aaron Berry is +3.2 (24th), Brandon McDonald is -0.8 and Eric Wright is -3.6 (but doing awesome in run support).

The coverage as a whole is helped by Delmas, but really it's because Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy, and Bobby Carpenter all have massively positive coverage grades. Durant is strongly negative, but doing incredibly well against the run.

Basically, the back seven as a whole is covering the pass very, very well. There's no single "shutdown" guy on the outside--though Tully's got the second-best coverage grade of all middle/inside linebackers--it's just a great team effort.


Flamekeeper_Ty,  November 22, 2011 at 11:13 AM  

Any idea where you saw that?

Kennaaye,  November 22, 2011 at 5:33 PM  

It also was my first time @ Ford Field to see the Lions. When I chose this game I hoped it would be exciting and none of us 20 idiots on a "Party Bus" from West Michigan were dissapointed! What a game!.

On some point in the 3rd qtr I nudged my daughter and said "Sammi, holy crap Stafford is on a roll". It was amazing to see, what a great first experience at Ford voice is still shot!

Mahir Hossein,  November 23, 2011 at 10:03 AM  

Hi there,

Hope you are well.

I was reading your articles and thought you might be interested in this article:

Couldn't find another way to contact you.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Kind Regards,


Bob Reed,  November 23, 2011 at 12:37 PM  

Ty, I am of a like mind with you on Stafford's demeanor on the field. I like the fact that when he is struggling, like in the Chicago game, he doesn't get rattled...his body language seems the same as when he is firing on all cylinders...and his face seems almost stoic. He walks to the sideline after throwing a pick-six with a look on his face that seems to say, "Well gee wiz, that was not the intended result that I had in mind". But if you read the comments of the Lions faithful on Mlive I think it is safe to say we are in the minority. These guys are turning themselves inside out because Stafford is not "firey" enough or " doesn't bark at his team mates" to inspire them or chew them out for dropped passes or fumbles. I don't want a robot, mind you. But I like it when Stafford does his talking with his arm. I want my QB to be the picture of calm and focus when all around him the team might look panicked or lost. Keep up the good work Matthew. And you too, Ty.

Jeremy Reisman,  November 23, 2011 at 3:25 PM  

Heard it on 1150 as an intro to a segment. You can check it out on the Detroit Lion website. He addresses it in the first question: "Calvin and I got a little confused, I thought he was going to cross the guy's face and he ended up not doing it"

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