Coffee, by Martin Gommel
McDonald's has espresso now.
They've had it for a few years now, in fact. They’ve quickly been renovating all the zillions of McDonald’s restaurants across the globe. Gone is the dramatic, quasi-art-deco Yesterday’s-Diner-of-the-Future-Today chic of the original restaurant, gone is the sometimes-drab, sometimes-garish look of the utilitarian huts of the Eighties and Nineties; now we have “McCafe.”
The one closest to my house sports breathtakingly detailed blue-and-black tilework, hardwood floors, and an enclosed bubbling “waterfall” backlit by color-changing neon. The “chairs” to some tables are rolling upholstered cubes that seemed to have rolled off an Ikea showfloor. The food is as it always was. I have no idea what to do with this edifice.
Now, when I go through the drive-through for a morning breakfast fix, my nostrils get an arresting double shot of ground, roasted espresso beans: a knee-buckling aroma that renders me oblivious to everything but wanting coffee.
If McDonald’s put their robot-barista where you order instead of where you receive McGriddles, they’d be rich.
So Three Cups Deep returns after a hiatus. I’m not lying when I tell you I’ve started each of the last few 3CDs only to be unable to finish them due to real life commitments, or caught waiting for the new Coaches’ Film to be released, or simply beaten to the punch by all the wonderful Lions bloggers out there making the same point I wanted to make.
But the coffee’s in the air, and we need to talk about some things.
Abandoning the running game is bad.
It just is. As hard as it is for an NFL offense to consistently get the better of NFL defenses for four quarters, let alone sixteen games, it’s so much harder when you tell the defense what you’re going to do. The Lions lined up in the shotgun 68% of the time in 2011, and passed on 62.9% of all plays.
The Lions have an offensive “identity,” they are built around Matthew Stafford and his arsenal of targets. The offensive line is a pass-blocking offensive line. The Lions have invested heavily in talented running backs who can flourish without dominating run-blocking. They might well be described as a pass-to-run team.
However, defenses know the Lions struggled to run the ball last season, struggle to sustain drives, and can be beaten by taking away the deep pass. This season are dropping their secondaries very, very, very deep and daring the Lions to beat them with runs and short passes.
In order to remain effective, the Lions have to beat them with runs and short passes.
For years, the Texans tried to force-feed Andre Johnson with 20 targets a game. They didn’t win much. When they finally got a consistent running back, a reliable tight end, and some decent No. 2 and No.3 receiving options, the offense exploded. Also, I should not need to remind any TLiW readers about the “Randy Ratio.”
Being predictable does not work in the NFL, not unless the execution is absolutely perfect. Matthew Stafford, for whatever reason, has not only been not-perfect, his first two games looked very suspiciously only “pretty good.” On Sunday, Stafford was outstanding: 33-of-42 (78.6%) for 278 yards (6.62 YpA) and a touchdown. He completed passes, he overcame drops, he protected the ball. Brandon Pettigrew didn’t, and that’s unfortunate, but none of that is why the Lions lost.
The Lions lost because they allowed two special teams return touchdowns, two of an NFL record five touchdowns of 60-plus yards.
Let's be very clear about this: without those two return scores, the Lions win this game. They also allowed the bizarre Pettigrew strip-return for six, and beaten by the weird over-the-top-of-Jacob-Lacey-who-turned-the-wrong-way score. Just like against St. Louis, the Lions dominated the down-to-down ball movement: With all the freaky long scores, the Lions still outgained the Titans 583-437. just like against St. Louis they couldn't make the scoreboard reflect it until the closing seconds.
Just like against San Francisco, the Lions' coaches brought the right game plan, and the Lions' players executed it almost well enough to win. But not quite. Not quite.