Three Cups Deep: Week 3, at Tennessee Titans

>> 9.24.2012


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.


Angus Osborne,  September 24, 2012 at 4:59 PM  

Yeah, I don't think I'm apologizing for the the Lions, but it does seem like they lost because of a series of freaky plays (mind you they got to OT from a series of freaky plays).

Having said that: the Titans punt return was very well executed, and the Washington TD was horribly defended (IMHO Wendling is to blame for that play becoming a TD).

Anonymous,  September 26, 2012 at 4:15 AM  

Leapin Lion

I understand their identity is a passing team, but my issue is that its eems like the focus on the run game has thrown Stafford off. The stats are good, but hes missing open receivers high, low you name it. The offense, defense, special teams play has not been good. I don’t know what the issue is, but they struggle to execute.

Expectations are high, and it may sound cliché but maybe they believe the hype? I don’t see a nastiness that’s required to win on Sunday.

The settling for FG’s is also a concern, the lack of aggressive play calling has been perplexing. For how explosive this offense is supposed to be there haven’t been those big plays that teams like the Texans and Falcons have been able to produce.

Nick Cramer,  September 27, 2012 at 2:06 PM  

Good to see you Posting 3CD again Ty. While I agree with you that we cant completely leave the running game behind I can't help put feel that the game plan is still flawed. It is not like the safeties are not still playing very, very, very deep in the second half but it seems as if after half time all of the sudden we are willing to try deep passes because we are down so much. I just can't understand why we would not try some deep passes to CJ BEFORE we are down two TDs.

I am also completely with you when you were talking about Stafford's troubles in the first few games. It seems he had an especially hard time throwing outside the numbers.

I also want to say that while the 60 yard TDs were bad we can expect to not see those every game except for the fact that we are terrible against TEs and I don't see that changing until Delmas returns.

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