Brandon Pettigrew Detroit Lions Mini-Helmet Giveaway: Legends Sports & Games/The Lions in Winter

>> 12.09.2011



On Tuesday, December 13th, Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew is coming to Legends Sports & Games at the Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids. He’ll be there from 6:00 to 7:30 pm signing autographs, and I’ll be there, too—though I won’t be signing autographs. Well, I mean, I will sign if anyone asks . . .

Now this is the cool part: Legends is hooking me up with a Detroit Lions mini-helmet to give away. I still have a custom Lions DirecTV remote to give away, too, so, this’ll be a two-part deal.



One (1) Detroit Lions mini-helmet (similar to above), immediately autographable by Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Winner must be present at Legends Sports & Games, Woodland Mall, Grand Rapids on Tuesday December 13 between 6:00 pm & 7:30 pm.



One (1) custom Detroit Lions DirecTV remote (as shown above). Winner can be anywhere the USPS is willing to ship.


Just comment on this post with why you’re proud to be a Lions fan! Make sure you include your email or Twitter handle (or sign in to Disqus with same) so I can contact you, and whether you’ll be available to come to the signing or not (so I can enter you for the helmet or remote).

I’ll pick the winner at random LIVE on this week’s Fireside Chat, which broadcasts around 10:00 pm Sunday Night.


The Watchtower: Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings

>> 12.08.2011


The last time the Vikings played at Ford Field, they were the home team. Now, they couldn’t be less welcome guests. After the Week 3 contest that teetered on the brink of disaster, Jared Allen & Co. are coming to Detroit, dead set on finishing what they started. The Lions and Vikings are headed in opposite directions: the Lions started 5-0 but are 2-5 since; the Vikings are 2-10 but have found their quarterback in rookie Christian Ponder, and might be getting Lion tamer Adrian Peterson back.

As before, this game is a must-win for the Lions. The Lions are favored by as much as 11.5 points as of this writing; surely the heaviest they’ll be favored by for the remainder of the year. Moreover, as a division opponent (and common opponent with the Falcons and Saints), the Lions’ record against the Vikings strongly affects the Lions playoff tiebreakers.

Bill Musgrave vs. Gunther Cunningham

Mus Gun Ornk PgG YpA YpC Drnk PpG DYpA DYpC PTS PTSΔ YpA YpAΔ YpC YpCΔ
MIN DET 22nd 20.5 6.28 4.92 21st 23.1 6.06 4.81 23 12.1% 5.86 -6.7% 5.74 16.7%

In the previous Watchtower, I found that Bill Musgrave had never faced off against Gunther Cunningham as a signal caller—and though he boasts strong Bill Walsh offense credentials, he has a diverse resumé and does not run a Childress-style WCO in Minnesota.

In the first meeting, the Vikings managed to score 23 points. That’s almost a field goal above their season average—fitting, because the Lions’ defense is currently ranked 21st, just below the middle. The Vikings are averaging a decent 6.28 YpA through the air, and a monster 4.92 YpC on the ground.

Of course, the Lions aren't facing the Vikings they faced last time. Donovan McNabb started at quarterback in that game, and he's since been supplanted by first-round rookie Christian Ponder. To the surprise of many observers, though, Ponder hasn’t been able to shake a supposedly-minor hip injury; he did not practice on Thursday. If he can’t play on Sunday, last year’s sixth-round pick Joe Webb will get the start.

The Vikings got some very good news when Adrian Peterson had limited participation in Thursday’s practice and was able to cut without pain. If Joe Webb is under center and All Day isn’t lining up behind him, the Vikings are going to get their doors blown off.

There's no evidence of a systemic advantage or disadvantage here, but if Ponder, Peterson, or both are not 100% the Vikings will be in trouble. If Ponder and Peterson can go, I’d still expect the Vikings to fall just short of expectations, scoring 17-20 points, passing for 6.00-6.50 YpA and rushing for 5.00-5.25 YpA. If either Ponder or Peterson cannot start, those figures fall to 13-17 points, 5.50-6.00 YpA, and 4.50-4.75 YpC. With little historical info, I have low-to-medium confidence in this projection.

Mitigating/Aggravating Factors

Well, I pretty much laid them out for you up there: if Ponder and AD go at 100%, the Vikings should be good for roughly their season average. If either cannot start, or if one or both are significantly limited, the Vikes are going to be very hard-pressed to move the ball. Banged-up secondary or no, the Lions defense should be going for the juglar from the opening snap. An early turnover or barrage of sacks could get the Lions up quickly—and put it in cruise control. I don’t see a scenario where the Vikings score more than three touchdowns.

Scott Linehan vs. Leslie Frazier

Lin Fra Ornk PgG YpA YpC Drnk PpG DYpA DYpC PTS PTSΔ YpA YpAΔ YpC YpCΔ
MIN TBB 8th 24.4 6.60 5.3 1st 12.2 4.88 3.79 24 1.6% 7.78 17.9% 7.52 41.9%
MIN IND 6th 25.3 7.16 4.71 19th 21.9 7.15 4.43 28 9.7% 8.89 24.2% 5.75 22.1%
MIA TBB 16th 19.9 5.94 3.69 8th 17.1 6.15 3.46 13 -44.7% 6.21 5.5% 3.56 -3.6%
DET MIN 27th 16.4 5.27 3.92 10th 19.5 6.89 4.14 13 -26.1% 5.07 -3.8% 3.79 -3.3%
DET MIN 27th 16.4 5.27 3.92 10th 19.5 6.89 4.14 10 -64% 4.39 -16.7% 4.23 0.2%
DET MIN 14th 22.8 5.99 3.99 16th 21.9 6.36 3.92 10 -66.2% 5.51 -8.1% 3.32 -16.8%
DET MIN 14th 22.8 5.99 3.99 16th 21.9 6.36 3.92 20 -14% 6.62 10.5% 3.96 -0.8%
DET MIN 4th 27.8 6.89 4.44 31st 27.5 7.53 3.76 26 -3.6% 8.22 19.3% 0.95 -78.7%
DET MIN 4th 27.8 6.89 4.44 31st 27.5 7.53 3.76            

From the last Watchtower:

In Watchtowers past, I’ve found there is a mild systemic advantage for Scott Linehan offenses against Leslie Frazier defenses. However, in each of the last two games, critical red zone turnovers have short-circuited that advantage, and the Lions’ offense has underperformed expectations. Today, Matthew Stafford will leading the offense, instead of Shaun Hill—and I’ll presume the Lions’ systemic advantages remain intact.

What happened was not quite what I expected. The Watchtower review explains:

The story of the game was the one I worried about: the Vikings playing their brains out, the crowd noise and the pass rush handing the Vikings the momentum, and the Lions finding themselves having to scrap their way out of a hole, as opposed to putting it in the cooler.

This is why I was so grumpy about the probably-enhanced crowd noise: it made an enormous difference in the way the game played out. The lesson to take away from this game, and this Watchtower, is that the Lions are clearly much better than the Vikings. The Lions took Minnesota’s best shot—and staggered—but leaned on the ropes long enough for their talent and skill to win the day.

So what we have here is the 4th-highest-scoring offense that squared off against what has been the 31st-best (2nd-worst) scoring defense and didn’t, quite, meet its season scoring average. This continues a trend we’ve seen with Frazier and Linehan that’s kicked in just since Linehan took over the Lions offense: turnovers (and dirty cheating fake Viking crowd noise) are severely depressing the Lions’ scoring, even as passing effectiveness is boosted.

Obviously, the crowd noise won’t be slowing the Lions down on Sunday, but this is too strong of a trend to ignore. I’m going to say Leslie Frazier defenses disproportionately disrupt Scott Linehan offenses with sacks and turnovers, even while allowing greater per-attempt passing effectiveness. Since the Lions have been especially turnovery lately, I project the Lions to significantly underperform expectations. However, expectations would be that the Lions, facing the second-worst defense in the league, would exceed their scoring averages by 10-14 points. So, the Lions should score 33-35 points, pass for 8.00-8.50 YpA, and rush for 4.00-4.25 YpC.

Mitigating/Aggravating Factors

Or, the Lions crowd could give it to the Vikings almost as good as the Metrodome sound reinforcement system gave it to the Lions, and for the fourth time this year the Lions get back on track after a shaky game by hanging forty points on somebody.


I’m hoping this game mirrors the Broncos game: where the Lions work out a few weeks of frustrations by completely dominating an inferior opponent. The crowd will be on their side. The injuries to the Vikings’ stud running back, only serviceable quarterback, and half their defense should help swing momentum their way too.

But things haven’t gone too rosy for my Watchtower projections as of late, because the Lions keep drawing ridiculous penalties, shooting themselves in the foot, getting field goals blocked and other such nonsense. They’re moving the ball just like they have been all season, but it hasn’t translated into points. That this seems to be the Vikings’ particular mojo vs. the Lions scares me, too. So, I project that the most likely outcome of the game is a 35-20 Lions win. This presumes that Ponder and All Day make their starts and are significant fractions of healthy. If not, well . . . it’s time for that #BEATEMDOWN.


Jim Schwartz, Good Parenting, and Discipline

>> 12.07.2011

jim_schwartz_disciplinePeople are social animals. We’re hardwired to help acclimate and acculture each other into serving the greater good. We compliment those who embody our collective virtues, and we damn those who embody our cultural vices. As children, we tease and gossip and bully each other until we (mostly) conform, rounding off each other’s sharper corners so as to better get along. As adults, we do all the same things, usually via “helpful advice” or passive-aggressive notes.
     Charlie Capen of How to Be a Dad, having suffered through a doozy of a parenting critique, vented on the Good Men Project:

This past week someone close to us told us that my son evidently has a “discipline problem.” This information was delivered first to my wife (who almost lost it), after which I called Captain Commentary to see if I could clear up the misunderstanding. The critic launched into a solid hour of armchair quarterbacking. I paraphrase:

“Your son, maliciously and premeditatedly, hurled a sippy cup at your wife’s head. On purpose. Following that, he went over to a younger cousin and hit him. Twice. On purpose. He is undisciplined and the sole cause of stress in your life.”

This, after only 40 minutes of observation. He was barely 18 months old at the time. My son, not the critic.

Parenting is the most sensitive topic I know of. Politics, religion, and even the BCS don’t raise more hackles than parenting choices. As a parent, you get all kinds of unsolicited advice on how to raise your child—and once you get past a certain point you start to feel very strongly that others could benefit from your own wisdom. Of course, every child is different and every parent is different; there’s never a “one size fits all” solution.

The Detroit Lions have a discipline problem, and everybody is all eager to tell Jim Schwartz what he needs to do. He needs to fine his players. He needs to pull them out of games. He needs to not pull them out of games. He needs to bench them. He needs to publicly denounce their acts. He needs to keep it all in house. He needs to stop playing favorites, and punish all offenders the same . . .

It just doesn’t work that way. Everyone is motivated differently. Everyone has different goals. Everyone has different fears. Reinforcement can be positive or negative, and the “carrot” and the “stick” are different for everyone. My middle child absolutely cannot stand being told to go to his room. Being alone with nothing to do is abhorrent to him; it’s a powerful punishment. Sending my eldest to her room results in her shrugging her shoulders and planting her nose in a book; it’s hardly a punishment at all.

Of course, the Detroit Lions aren’t children; they’re grown men. But some are long-married parents of multiple kids, and some are just a year or two removed from frat parties. Some are already set for life, and some are going to be selling insurance in a few years. Some are brilliant, multi-faceted people who could have felt fulfilled in any number of careers. Some were born to play football. You can’t apply the same standards of discipline to them all and expect the same results.

Moreover, just like the all the unsolicited parenting advisors, we know practically nothing about these men and their situations. We know nothing about their relationship with the coaches. We know nothing about about what’s said or done in private. We know nothing about what’s been demanded, what’s been promised, what the internal rules are or when they’ve been broken or how many times or by whom.

Publicly, we’ve seen a loss of self-control on the field, and it’s killing the team’s ability to win games. That has to stop and that is on Jim Schwartz. But we shouldn’t be armchair-coaching each and every individual incident. That’s not going to do anybody any good. Schwartz and the players have acknowledged there’s a problem, and they’re going to address it. Let’s give them a chance to teach and learn and correct the problems before we start lecturing a guy who might be the best Lions coach of the last fifty years on how to do his job.


Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints Retrospective

>> 12.06.2011

Talking about justice
Hush this
We’re not supposed to discuss this
We gotta hide it in a song
We gotta keep things quiet
They don’t want us to riot
Gotta make like nothings wrong
Cause when you talk about politics you gotta talk about all of it
you can’t leave nothin’ out
We need to walk up to the front door
tell em we ain’t takin it no more
Whats it all about
About Justice

-Victor Wooten, “Justice”

I have a thing about justice.

I want things to be right. I want things to be fair. I want the playing field to be level. I want people to get what they deserve. When I hear about a story or a news event without a clear right or wrong, I consume all the information about it I can; I have to know what I think is right.

Yesterday I sat down with my third cup of coffee (more or less (more)) and put my hands on the keyboard. My thoughts weren’t ready yet. Perhaps it was the short turnaround from Sunday Night Football to Monday morning, but the events of the Saints game had yet to percolate through my mind. With nothing but the title typed, I stopped “writing.”

Last night I didn’t go near the computer. I didn’t write a word. I let my thoughts brew slowly. I let frustration and disappointment dilute in the liquid heat of my id while I played some FIFA and ate pancakes. Eventually, I found the words to “Justice” on my lips. This morning, I went to the coffee pot and found that overnight my post had brewed.

DISCLAIMER: I am not equating NFL football with institutionalized racism, race/class conflict, or police brutality. To paraphrase Bill Watterson, I’d hope the juxtaposition is ludicrous enough that no one would take it seriously—but people take everything seriously. So. In this case, please don’t.

The way fans talk about football with each other is a shadow of the way players talk smack on the field. As I said last week in response to a post on Cheesehead TV, it’s part of the illusion of fandom. We brand ourselves with their brand, we wrap our identity up in theirs, we take their successes and failures to heart, and others project their successes and failures onto us.

Complaining about the refs is for losers. It’s what happens when loser fans watch their loser teams lose. Winners know the better team usually wins. Why do you think Vegas sets a betting line? In the NFL, any fan can pick straight winners far more often than not. When upsets happen, it’s because the “worse” team showed up and played better on that day.

The Saints are better than the Lions; there’s no doubt about it. They’re undefeated at home. They went up to Lambeau in Week 1 and were a yard and/or bad playcall from taking the Packers to overtime. By SRS, they’re the second-best team in the NFC, and fourth-best team in the NFL. As the Watchtower showed, they’re scoring a little more, and allowing a little less, than the Lions.

The game’s stats reflect that exactly. The Lions gained 408 yards passing on 44 attempts; that’s an awesome 9.27 YpA. The Saints, though, threw for 342 on 36 attempts, a slightly-better 9.50. The Lions did okay on the ground, getting 87 yards on 22 carries (3.95 YpC). The Saints were a little better; 100 on 23 (4.35 YpC). The Lions were sacked 3 times for The Lions turned it over once, but only after the game was all but in the books. As I said in the Watchtower:

The Saints are like the mini-Packers, and the Lions are like the mini-Saints. These two teams hold up a mirror to one another, and the Saints are a little bit better in every phase of the game—except the Lions play much, much better pass defense. I could see this going either way.

So what turned my projected 30-28 Lions win into a 31-17 Lions loss? Well, the Lions had one field goal blocked, and missed another—getting zero points from two good drives. But that only makes it 31-23. Where’d that other touchdown go?

Oh, right: the Lions were flagged 11 times for -107 yards, and the Saints were flagged 3 times for -30 yards. The penalty differential was exactly one scoring drive.

It isn’t that the Lions didn’t commit these infractions; they did. But as with last week, the problem is consistency. Offensive and defensive holding, and offensive and defensive pass interference, are subjective calls. Much like charging and blocking in basketball, there are technical definitions but enforcement is done by “feel.”

When Nate Burleson is flagged three times for offensive pass interference—as Pride of Detroit user “NobodySpecial” pointed out, that’s as much as any offensive player in the NFL had been tagged with OPI all season long—the game “feels” rigged.

I mean, here’s the SaintsNation Saints blog:

In my entire life of watching football I've never seen an offensive player get flagged 3 times for the same penalty in a game, especially something rare like offensive pass intereference. That goes back to the poor discipline, but it's also just weird.

I don't believe the referees were being controlled by Vegas, mobsters, Roger Goodell, or any other outside force determined to make sure the Lions lose. But it’s impossible to claim with a straight face that the Lions are being officiated the same way other teams are. For instance: pushing a hand into another player’s face is a penalty, except when it’s a ball carrier stiff-arming a defender . . . unless that ball carrier is a Detroit Lion, then it’s a penalty again.

My personal belief is that the league and/or officials are trying to send a message to the Lions. Now that they’re a “dirty team,” the Lions not only have to play as clean as everyone else, they have to play cleaner. They’re going to get flagged for things no other team gets flagged for. Rough stuff from the other side is going to go unpunished. The league is sending a message to the Lions, and it’s up to them to listen.

For once, the one-way street of fandom cuts both ways: on Sunday, the Lions were just as furious as fans were. They were feeling just as confused, just as upset, just as impotent as everyone hollering at their TVs. They were playing the game just as well and just as clean as the Saints, but the refs were taking the results away from them. It’s not fair. It’s not right. It’s unjust.

Civil disobedience isn’t a choice here; the Lions cannot #OccupyTheNFL. There are two possible responses: have a tantrum, or grow up. Remember when Gosder Cherilus was our resident hothead? He of all people should be the first to jump in and make a stupid play after the whistle—but he got it. He gets it. He lets it roll off his back. The Lions are going to have to learn to do the same.

The great thing is, the Lions are talented enough to do it. They can win playing clean. They can win playing cleaner. They can beat the Vikings, Raiders, and Chargers with one hand tied behind their back—and that’s good, because they’ll have to.


Fireside Chat, Week 13

>> 12.05.2011

Kind of an odd duck this week. I was broadcasting from just before halftime, but forgot to hit “record” at the beginning of the actual show. The first few minutes were absolutely sparkling, just unbelievably riveting. Seriously, best radio segment since the Gettysburg Address.

Trust me.

What got recorded includes the Q&A; portion, as well my attempt a play-by-playing a few series. This is an experiment that may or may not continue.

As always, subscribe (and rate!) the podcast on iTunes if iTunes is your thing.

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