Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Week 5 Monday Night round up

Bears @ Lions

God. I'm now going to have to have to listen to talk about the Lions going to the Super Bowl for at least another week. In fact the Lions have three weeks till their bye, and each of those games has the potential for the opposition to slip up and fuel the Lions hype fire.

Because let's face it, that's what it is. I don't care about the Lions record. I'm not a huge stats fan anyway. I include numbers on this blog for the sole purpose of giving people a guide and because I know a lot of people care more about Fantasy football than actual football.

Me personally, I'm interested in what happens on the field. I'm interested only in whether I think a team can win the Super Bowl, because what you do in the regular season means nothing once you reach the playoffs. And the only team anyone ever remembers is the team that lifts the Lombardi trophy.

And I'm saying now, I don't think the Lions will.

It happens every year in the NFL. There's always at least one team, sometimes two that enter the playoffs with grossly inflated opinions of themselves. Last year it was two teams; the Falcons and the Bears. By any reasonable stretch of the imagination, neither team should really have been there. How the Bears made it as far as they did says more about their opponents than it does them.

This year it's the Lions, and as much as I hate to admit it, my own 49ers. Both teams are doing well... on paper. On the field it's a different story. Anyone who watches a 49ers game this season and thinks that team could win the Super Bowl this year is dreaming. The same applies to the Lions.

Detroit got mauled in the first half of both the Vikings and Cowboys games. If the Vikings had applied the same winning game plan from week 5 to week 3 (hammering the ball on the ground in the second half), then the Lions would have gone in to the Cowboys game at 2-1 having been trashed the week before. Then if only, if only the Cowboys (re: Romo and Garrett) hadn't blown the massive lead they built up, then the Lions would have come into this game 2-2, having been blown off the field in back to back games.

But sadly the footballing gods have deemed that Detroit came into this one 4-0, with all the hype that entails. They set about proving that they were the real deal and not just the all hype team by having a terrible first quarter, followed by a terrible second quarter, with the bomb to Calvin Johnson being the exception to their play, not the rule.

At least things got a bit better in the third. They put together a much better drive that ended with the Pettigrew TD. Then they ripped off an 88 yard touchdown run by Best, which basically ended the game. From that point onwards the Bears pretty much stuck their heads in the sand and tried to just avoid being beaten any further. They certainly didn't look like they were fighting to get back in it.

And that's what frustrates me. For the next week the media and the Lions fans will be going ape shit over this win and the Lions 5-0 record. The stupid thing is, last season I was saying that this season might be the year Detroit pulled it all together! Now they're 5-0, which in a way proves my point, but actually watching them play I think I might have been wrong. If you follow me.

I just look at it this way. If a) Johnson doesn't get such a massive free release on his touchdown and b) someone actually plugs that run gap on Best's 88 yard scamper, then the Lions probably don't win this. And that fact they struggled so much in such a scrappy game against the Bears of all people doesn't bode well.

The Bears have absolutely got more to worry about than the Lions though. One of the reasons I don't like statistics is because the official records will say that the Lions only had 3 sacks, which doesn't tell the story of just how chronically bad the Bears O-line were. They were even back to their old tricks of putting Cutler under center despite an empty backfield, an issue I've moaned about at length before.

The Bears just can't protect Cutler. Each pass play seems to consist of him either panicking, getting hit, or running for his life. It's an old complaint about Mike Martz and his system. Just ask Alex Smith how it worked out for him. I don't think Bears fans care how they do it, but somebody needs to step in and find a way to keep him clean. Maybe a little more play action, maybe some more eight man protections. But something has to be done.

The sole glimmer of hope for the Bears was Matt Forte, who carried 22 times for 116 yards (longest; 23). Though considering the game was never really out of sight until perhaps the Best TD went in, I'm surprised that Forte didn't carry more. It's the old cliche about putting the ball in the hands of your best players, playing to your strengths etc.

It took the Vikings five weeks to learn how to do it properly, that is to close out the win by sticking with the hot hand that you put you so far out in front. I presumed foolishly that the Bears had learnt from their 34 point offensive show against the Panthers, but apparently not. And I except that under normal circumstances, when you're behind you throw a lot to get yourself back in the game, taking the gamble because if you don't then you lose anyway.

But that's the sad thing about the Bears. Their O-line is so horrible in pass protection and Cutler is so nervous now behind that shaky line that running the football is literally the Bears best chance of picking up any significant yardage and scoring.

Of course we can't blame it all on the offense. The defense is not what it was in 2010. The pass rush is steadily going flat, the coverage has wide open holes in it and the run defense - as evidenced by the 163 yards that Jahvid Best put up on just 12 carries - needs some serious attention.

It's going to take more than a few Devin Hester kick and punt returns to fix the Bears woes. At least their bye is only three weeks away, after entertaining the Vikings next week and then playing in a half empty stadium against Tampa in week 7 (I got a phone call today from the official ticket agents for the Wembley game, who are trying desperately to flog off cut price tickets. Oh dear).

The Lions - the jammy bastards that they are - have a nice schedule ahead. They have two more home games against the 49ers and Falcons, who are apt to piss games away. Then the Lions travel to Denver and we'll know more in the coming week about whether Tebow starts in week 6, which will have a significant impact on the potential for the Lions to go 8-0 into their bye.

The second half of the season looks much tougher for the Lions, with two games against the Packers, a trip to Oakland, a visit from Adrian Peterson and the Vikings, and a trip to the Saints. We'll see how long that -0 lasts...

Right, that's your lot for today. I'm off to write a complaint letter to ESPN, kindly requesting that they gag Jon Gruden in future so we don't have to listen to him giving effusive praise to everyone on the field, regardless of how good or bad they may be.

Tomorrow... I had something planned, but I can't remember what it was now. I'll probably just end up drawing a random diagram of something as a result. Also, if the site appearance changes over the coming days don't be alarmed, I'm just trying to figure out ways of squeezing more money out of you.

Did I say that out loud? I meant to say, enhancing your reading experience.

To help with this, I highly recommend you click that Facebook like button thing at the bottom of this post. Go on, you know you want to find out what it does.

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