I'm referring, of course, to the now infamous call, the catch that was ruled a non-catch, the game-winning TD which was taken away by a very stupid rule. The bullshit decision by the referees to put the fate of the game in their own hands, rather than the hands of the players.
When Calvin caught the ball and clearly had possession and was fully in bounds, I jumped up and down. I ran around the room. I yelled and screamed and pounded my fists on the coffee table. I woke up my niece. It was worth it. We scored, we took the lead with 25 seconds to go, we finally snapped the streak of 20 consecutive road losses, we won for only the third time in over 2 seasons! We beat a division rival, and we did it without our starting quarterback, and it was an unbelievable effort!
Then, like a swift punch in the gut, the referees said some gibberish and my sister-in-law was none too pleased that I woke Sadie up for what turned out to be an incomplete pass. Two more hailmarys landed harmlessly and the Lions began the season 0-1 for the sixth consecutive season.
Like I said, I don't want to talk about it. It was such a heinously bad call, such a flagrant mishandling of what officiating should be about, that even Bears' fans are saying it was BS. The entire country is rallying around the Lions and calling this an atrocity. No one outside of the officiating community thinks the correct call was made. It's utterly egregious.
But I digress ... from here forward I resolve to not talk about the play, the catch, or the call for the rest of the season, or at least for the rest of this post. Instead let's focus on the first 59 minutes and 30 seconds of the game.
Remember back to my Bears-Lions preview last week? I said that the matchup I was most worried about was Jeff Backus against Julius Peppers. Well, through a quarter and a half Backus did an okay job and kept Stafford upright, but one play can make a world of difference.
With a minute to play before halftime, Backus got lazy on a single play and was beat around the corner by Peppers, who karate chopped Stafford's throwing arm and dislodged the ball, a fumble which led to a field goal and ultimately changed the landscape of the game. But more importantly, the hit separated Stafford's shoulder and will sideline him for at least one game, and likely more.
When a $72 million dollar investment is injured, that's a bad thing. When his throwing shoulder is injured two seasons in a row, that's a very, very bad thing. Obviously, if you've read this blog before, you know I'm not high on Stafford's bandwagon. But he is the quarterback of the future, for better or worse. And as much I think he's overrated and unjustly considered a rising star, I'd rather have him out there than Shaun Hill.
Blame Jeff Backus. But more than that, blame the Lions' management who have failed to draft a suitable left tackle in the past five drafts.
- 2005 - Instead of Mike Williams, they could have taken 2 time Pro Bowl LT Jamaal Brown. In the second round, they could have taken Pro Bowler Michael Roos instead of Shaun Cody.
- 2006 - Instead of safety Daniel Bullocks in the second round, we could have drafted Pro Bowl LT Marcus McNeill. Or in the third round, we could have taken All Pro guard Jahri Evans instead of useless running back Brian Calhoun.
- 2007 - Calvin Johnson was a good pick at #2, but Joe Thomas would have given us an All Pro left tackle. Or in the second round, we coulda taken about 5 potential Pro Bowlers (Lamar Woodley, Ryan Kalil, David Harris, Sidney Rice) instead of the worthless Drew Stanton.
- 2008 - At least we finally took an offensive tackle in the first round, though LT Jeff Otah would have been a much better pick than RT Gosder Cherilus.
- 2009 - The worst pick of all: we took TE Brandon Pettigrew (a total luxury pick) at 20th overall when we could have taken future star left tackle Michael Oher. This was a no brainer and the Lions messed it up.
After halftime, Stafford came out wearing a black tanktop (I have no clue why he couldn't keep his jersey on?) and was clearly not going back on the field. I personally think he's a little bit of a wuss, but ever since his "heroic" game against Cleveland last year he's considered bulletproof by most folks.
When I said Stafford needed to stop getting hurt and keep his ass on the field, my brother said that my shoulder would be separated too if Julius Peppers had karate chopped me. Very true. My arm would have probably exploded and I'd still be laying on the ground crying 4 days later. But Stafford, unlike me, is a professional athlete. He should be in the weight room 6 hours a day strengthening his arms precisely so things like this do not happen. The fact that he didn't even survive 30 minutes of NFL action this season tells me that he's not strong enough to play in the NFL.
Of course, while Stafford sat on the sidelines and watch Shaun Hill orchestrate the Lions' offense to a whopping 9 yards in the 3rd quarter, the announcers gave him plenty of credit. "Without Stafford at quarterback, the Lions really can't get anything done." Yes, that's true. But with Stafford? I mean, he only threw for 83 yards in the first half. That's not outstanding. In fact, that stinks. He didn't have a single completion to Calvin OR Burleson. In the entire half.
So next week against the Eagles, it'll be Shaun Hill at the helm (squaring off against Michael Vick) and Stafford will get plenty of adoration simply for sitting on the bench in a t-shirt with a backwards hat. This guy really has the life. Throw 20 picks in 10 games - get compared to Peyton Manning. Have a QB rating of 61 (worse than everyone in the league except JaMarcus Russell) - get compared to Troy Aikman. Now the guy gets injured for the second time in two seasons, and he'll be compared to Nelson Mandela for his leadership and strength of character. Whatever.
On the positive side of things...
How about that Lions defense!!?
Sure they gave up 463 yards of total offense, including an 89 yard screen pass ... but they also forced FOUR turnovers and created 4 sacks. Granted, the Bears offensive line is terrible. But still!
The most impressive and inspiring thing about this game for Detroit was the secondary. Maybe it wasn't an accurate representation because Jay Cutler is such an ass-snake ... but it sure seemed like they'll be better than advertised. CC Brown looks to be the real deal at safety - he looked like a Delmas clone out there with 6 tackles. Jonathan Wade and Chris Houston looked extremely aggressive, especially on run plays, and showed toughness at the CB position that I ain't never seen as a Detroit fan. And Delmas looked like his usual beastly self.
The Lions tackling was actually solid all game long. The coverage ... not so great. But if we improve in small steps that's better than nothing. And let's not forget about the real star of this game - Ndamukong Freaking Suh.
Yeah, if you look at the box score Suh only had 2 tackles. One was a sack. He also had two quarterback hits. But if you really watched the game, you saw the makings of a truly dominant defensive tackle. An All Time Great in the making. Call me an idiot all you want, but Ndamukong Suh will be in the Hall of Fame by 2035.
Suh was double-teamed literally the ENTIRE game, on every single snap, and that's what allowed Kyle VandenBosch to record a phenomenal 12 tackles and chase Cutler around all day. That's what allowed the Lions to register 4 sacks and forced Matt Forte to run for only 2.9 yards per carry. And most notably, Suh's presence is what caused the Bears to run the ball up the gut unsuccessfully on FOUR consecutive snaps after recovering a fumble on the Lions' 1 yard line. Four chances to score from a yard out, and four failures. Make no mistake - that was ALL Suh.
He's every bit as good as I hoped he was.
Oh, and as long as we're talking about Lions rookies ... how about Jahvid Best!!? 14 carries for 20 yards ... a 1.4 yard average ... admittedly, that's awful. But two touchdowns in his debut game? I don't think Kevin Smith has EVER run for 2 TDs in the same game! Best also caught 5 passes (for only 16 yards - most of them were checkdowns on third and longs) but still, he proved that he can be the third down back. Most importantly, Kevin Smith did not play a snap. Maurice Morris was Best's backup (2 carries, 2 catches) and Jerome Felton was the short yardage guy (though not successfully).
For some inexplicable reason, the Lions went to Felton on about 5 plays in a row in the second quarter. I wondered if Best was injured, but that wasn't the case. Apparently they forgot Felton was a fullback. Or didn't feel like doing a substitution. I'm not sure what happened. But after a couple punts, they dropped that strategy in a hurry.
Overall, the Lions deserved to lose this game. (Even though they technically won). But they were outgained by 300 total yards, ran the ball for only 20 yards total, and gained less than 50 yards in the second half.
They forced 4 Bears turnovers and benefitted from over 100 yards in Bears penalties, and still couldn't score. The defense was stout, but the offense was anemic. (Who ever thought that sentence would be typed about the 2010 Lions huh?) When your offensive play-calling is simply: run, run, pass, and punt ... you deserve to lose. You need to gain more than 168 yards of offense to win in the NFL.
Here are some further week one thoughts:
I was 9-7 against the spread this week. I nailed the upset special (Chiefs over Chargers) but whiffed on my "easiest pick of the week" (49ers @ Seahawks).
If not for a Dallas holding penalty as time expired, I would have been 10-6. And a few of the games (Colts losing, Tampa winning) were shockers.
For my fantasy predictions ...
I said Cutler would be the third best quarterback (he was 4th), and Eli would be 6th (he was 9th). I whiffed on the Alex Smith and Henne picks (both were bad). My QB duds were Romo, Rivers and Flacco. I was right about Flacco, who finished with just 5 points, but wrong about the other two.
At RB, I liked Beanie Wells as a stud but of course he did not play. I also liked Charles, Forte, and Ronnie Brown, who I said would finish with the 7th, 8th, and 10th most points at that position, respectively. In reality they finished 7th, 2nd, and 8th. Pretty good.
For RB duds, I nailed all four picks - Turner, Rice, Greene and Matthews. None finished with more than 5 points.
At WR, I liked Marshall and Welker (both good calls) and whiffed on Steve Smith B and Knox. I disliked Boldin and Roddy White and Steve Smith A, and they all had good games. But at least I picked Mike Sims-Walker as a dud, and he had zero catches.
My tight ends picks and DST picks were solid. Not great, but about 7 out of 10 were right on.
You would think I would have some fantasy success this week, but I went 0-2 in my two main leagues, losing by 15 points combined. In my Yahoo and ESPN leagues, however, I went 8-2. In Yahoo league 4 I won by over 100 points. I think I should be more of a 'fantasy football consultant' than an active participant. Maybe I should check monster.com and see if they have any openings.
Here's what we learned Week One.
1. Houston is for real, and Arian Foster is a stud. He ran for 231 yards and 3 TDs against a Colts defense which has historically struggled against the run.
2. Brett Favre is done. He looked awful, he looked 40 years old, and he looked like he needed a receiver. The Vikings are going 6-10 this year.
3. Wes Welker is the MVP of the Patriots. They're in good shape for another 12 win season. And they might wrap up the division early.
4. San Diego is going to struggle to win 8 games. So are the Jets. And so are the Cowboys.
5. Alex Smith still stinks. The 49ers might win the NFC West at 5-11.
6. Clay Matthews will be in the discussion for defensive MVP.
7. Troy Polamalu's injury is distant history. He is back and so are the Steelers, They should probably be considered the AFC North favorites until further notice.
8. After just one week of NFL action, Detroit ranks 31 in total offense and 31 in total defense. Splendid.
Notable Week One Injuries
You know about Stafford's shoulder and Kevin Kolb's concussion. You probably heard that Ryan Grant messed up his ankle and will miss a few games, and Matt Moore got a concussion which will force Jimmy Claussen into the starting lineup week 2 (home against Tampa, a nice way to begin a career).
But did you see that Jets nosetackle Kris Jenkins hurt his knee (the same knee he had surgery on last year) and will probably miss at least half the season. He's the guy who gives the Jets a dominant run defense. This injury is big.
Another hurt nosetackle was Pittsburgh's Casey Hampton. He tore a hamstring and might miss a few weeks. Steelers starting left tackle Max Starks was also hurt and will miss a month.
Philly suffered the worst. Along with losing Kolb, they saw fullback Leonard Weaver tear an ACL and starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley suffered a concussion.
Oakland DE Richard Seymour suffered a minor injury, as did San Fran's Ted Ginn Jr. and Colts Bob Sanders. All of them should be back in action by week 3 at the latest.
Jake Delhomme will get an MRI on his ankle and might miss a game or two. Seneca Wallace might make an interesting fantasy play against KC if Jake is out.
And then there's the Buffalo Bills, who lost linebacker Paul Posluszny to a long-term knee injury, just days after losing Kawika Mitchell for the season. When your two best linebackers are both gone for the season, and you're already the worst team in the NFL, well ... I guess you just pack your bags and move the franchise to Toronto.
Stay tuned for week 2 picks, thoughts on Lions-Eagles, and more insightful musings from my twisted mind. Go lions. Go SUH!