Monday, September 24, 2007

Answering the Detroit Lions' week 3 "Burning questions"

Thanks to the overlapping NFL and MLB seasons, it's another "Burning questions" Monday at TWFE! Today, we start with the Detroit News' Mike O'Hara, their Lions beat writer, and his "Burning questions." There's plenty to burn after a humiliating 56-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Topics include surprises, the team's mentality, matchups, and Marty Moronweg. Let's wade into the smoky fray...

Burning questions from the Lions' 56-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday:

Q: Should the loss have been a surprise?

O'Hara: Not the loss, but the margin and how badly the Lions were outplayed was a surprise. The bad news for the Lions was that it looked like they were trying to make a game of it and couldn't.

The Eagles were bigger, better and stronger. And they won a big matchup -- their defense against the Lions' offense.

Big Al: Surprise? No! Laying an egg, such as yesterday's debacle against the Eagles, after playing well for a week or two, is prototypical Detroit Lions.

Go back through the decades, and you'll find Lions team after Lions team that has done the same exact thing as the 2007 Lions. No matter who's on the roster, the head coach or running the team, doesn't matter. Crushing the hopes of long suffering fans, and making those who thought that the results would be any different look silly, is what the Detroit Lions do.

That the Lions lost was not surprising, but to see their defense so utterly inept? Not even the most cynical of Lions fans expected to see a Lions defense that disgustingly awful. Not that the offense was any great shakes, but it should be good enough to keep the team in games. But the defense? We saw in the exhibition season that a good NFL QB should be able to pick it apart. Donovan McNabb just confirmed the suspicions about the D-backfield. Good QB's bending over the Lions' defense is not going to change anytime this season.

Q: Start with the outcome. Were people oversold on the Lions starting with a 2-0 record?

O'Hara: Only if they let themselves get oversold and bought into the idea that the Lions had completely turned around by winning the first two games. They had the record they were supposed to have after two games -- 2-0 with victories over Oakland and Minnesota. They played hard, tough football for long stretches of both games.

Realistically, they didn't figure to beat the Eagles. Some think that might have changed when the Eagles struggled and had injuries in the secondary. But in terms of the record alone, the Lions are on schedule at 2-1.

Big Al: Sure, the Lions won their first 2 games, but you can easily make the argument that the Vikings and Raiders are a pair of teams that will be fighting for the 2008 number 1 draft pick. The fact that the Lions had to struggle mightily beat them was somewhat lost in the euphoria of of a 2-0 start.

The moment Detroit stepped on the field with a decent NFL team, and despite their 0-2 start, the Eagles are a solid team, they were exposed as 2-0 frauds. Losing to the Eagles is nothing to be ashamed of, but losing in such an embarrassing fashion definitely is shameful. A good team, a decent team, a contending team, doesn't give up arcade-like stats, or allow the opposition to do any damn thing it wants on both sides of the ball.

And what is the big deal about the Lions playing "Hard and tough" football? It's the NFL, isn't that how a team is supposed to play every week? Why praise the Lions for something that every team is expected to do on a week to week basis, without question?

Q: But what does such a one-sided loss mean?

O'Hara: That's the concern. It's one thing to play well and lose. At least you've played well. It will be hard for Rod Marinelli and his staff to find many good plays on defense and in key areas on offense from Sunday's game.

The way they were manhandled is the issue. They weren't beaten by fluke plays and returns. The Eagles dominated them.

Big Al: It means that good teams will dismantle the Lions' defense. That if the Lions pass rush is neutralized, the defensive backfield couldn't cover high school wide receivers, let alone NFL quality wide outs. It means that the full burden to win games will fall upon the shoulders of the Lions passing offense. It means that Rod Marinelli will have plenty of opportunities to spew inane cliches' such as, "We'll look at the film," "Clean up a few things," "Pound the rock," and "Teach."

It means that the Lions are a second division team.

Q: What about the mentality of the team and bouncing back from a lopsided loss?

O'Hara: The players sounded philosophical about the loss. Here's what Damien Woody said: "It's a 16-game season. You can't get overly excited about a big victory, and you can't get too down about a loss. We've still got a lot of big games, starting next week with Chicago.

"I've been a part of big losses on good teams. It happens in this league."

Big Al: The Lions are saying all the right things. So what? We've heard it all before! We hear them every season after the Lions lose (Pick one) badly/embarrassingly/stupidly/to a team with a worse record/on a fluke play/to a backup QB/on a blown coverage/taking the wind in overtime/period.

I'm tired of the talk. At this point, after years and years of excuses and rationalizations, the talk is nothing more than empty words, as empty as the 400+ yards Jon Kitna put in the stat book.

Their play on the field says volumes more about the Lions, than their words in the locker room.

Q: What about Woody's comment about big losses on good teams?

O'Hara: Obviously, he's talking about the New England Patriots, where he started his career and played on two Super Bowl winners. The Lions do not have that winning mentality yet. They don't have the Patriots' edge.

Big Al: I don't remember the Patriots allowing up 300 yards passing in 1 half, giving up a month's worth of TD's in 1 game, or making excuses like "It happens in this league" either.

Good Lord, the Patriots will play more "Big games" in 1 season than the Lions will play in an entire decade! Comparing the Lions attitude to the Patriots is comparing apples to giant alien robots from planet Zontar. They don't belong in the same discussion. Or universe...

Q: What was the biggest matchup Sunday?

O'Hara: Easy. The Eagles' defense against the Lions' offense. Score a big win for Jim Johnson, the Eagles' defensive coordinator.

Earlier in the week, Mike Martz, the Lions' offensive coordinator, said he expected the unexpected, and he got it.

The Lions went three-and-out on four of their first five possessions. On the other possession, they had the ball for five plays and scored.

While the Lions were struggling, the Eagles scored touchdowns on their first five possessions and six of the first seven. That's not a fluke. The better team won.

Big Al: How about Andy Reid against Rod Marinelli? Reids' teams are almost always contenders, and he's led his Eagles teams to several NFC title games, and the Super Bowl. Marinelli has lead his teams...Uh, no, he had never been a head coach up to last season. Well, he's been a coordinator...Wait, he's never been a defensive coordinator in the NFL. There's no comparing Reid and Marinelli.

For the second game in a row, Marinelli once again blew goats in his game management. Losing 1 challenge that was borderline to begin with, and not challenging an Eagles catch that should have been questioned. Since Marinelli has become the Lions head man, sideline screw ups have been all too commonplace.

You want to talk matchups? How about Brian Westbrook against the Lions' defense? Donovan McNabb against the Lions' defense? Kevin Curtis against...Hell, I'll just stop now. But you get my drift. The Eagles won every matchup, both on and off the field.

Q: Marty Mornhinweg, the Lions' head coach in 2001-02, is the Eagles' assistant head coach and in charge of offense. How do you think he felt?

O'Hara: After putting up eight touchdowns, 56 points and 536 yards, he might want to have a copy of the stats sheet on his Christmas card and mail one to every member of the Lions' front office.

Big Al: I couldn't give a shit about Marty Moronweg. In fact, I'd rather forget that the dumb ass was ever on the Lions' sideline. Say what you will about Moronweg's supposed offensive guru/genius status, I'll always reply with this...

"That moron took the wind, rather than the ball, in overtime."

He'll never be a head coach in the NFL. If some team ever had the nerve/guts/stupidity to hire him, you know what the fanbase would say?

"What in the Hell are you thinking? That moron took the wind, rather than the ball, in overtime!"

Q: The Lions play the Bears at Ford Field Sunday. What do you see in that game?

O'Hara: Trouble. Chicago's defense is better than Philly's.

Big Al: What do I see? Let me channel former heavyweight champion Clubber Lang... PAIN!

I see one pissed off Bears team, coming off a fairly humiliating loss of their own against the Cowboys. The only way the Lions stay in the game is that Rex Grossman is an awful, awful QB. He's bound to turn the ball a few times.

Can the Lions beat the Bears? Sure, but they'll have to play a close to perfect game on offense. But do you see the Lions' offense playing a perfect game against the Bears? The Bears have a better defense than every team the Lions have played to this point.

Against lesser defenses, Kitna has thrown 3 end zone picks in 3 games. He's turned the ball over 6 times. Kitna's been sacked 12 times, and the Eagles alone sacked him 9 times. All that says that an very good Bears defense may have a field day against a Lions offense that can't run the ball, and has a banged up O-line that has trouble protecting the QB.


  1. I think we can move the ball against the Bears. Dallas showed last night how a team with 1 great receiver, a good tight end and a couple of scrubs can exploit the middle of the field. The Lions have an overall better receiving corps than Dallas, assuming Calvin plays. I'm not saying we'll perform as well as Dallas, since they have a running game, but 21 points out of the offense is not out of the question. Given the ungodly spectre of suck that is Rex Grossman, 21 should be enough to win.

  2. I'm not giving up yet. I really believe that Marinelli came in with a plan. It'll take a couple years, at least one more.

    To this point, they've worked on the offense- running the Martz offense is complicated and takes a couple years to get clicking. In the '08 draft, I think they go defense, and perhaps offensive line. Given where they'll likely draft, it'll be a solid pick, and then they'll (on paper) have the pieces.

    I'm not even totally concerned about the sideline blunders. The Sergeant is still new at this, so he also should be given some time. The team believes in him, so that ought to be worth something- God knows it's been a while since we've seen that.

    My biggest concern is Hanson. That's what- 2-3 misses in three games? Unusual. I know it's happened before, but the guy isn't getting any younger. I'd hate to see them have to find a kicker to replace him.

    So this year is still about rebuilding. Next year, or the following year at the latest should be something though.

  3. Good call on Hanson, GTW. We're so used to seeing him be money from 40+ yards, it's alarming to see him miss 2 from that range. Including exhibitions, the Sarge has been the head coach for 27 games, but his game management is still awful. I can see the sideline screwups, happening occasionally, but with Marinelli, it's regularly, as in every game. Between that, and the refusal to take players out of a blowout, especially Kitna (Who was sacked 3 times when the Lions were 5 scores down! There's NO EXCUSE for that)has me concerned if Sgt Marinelli will ever figure it out. I'm not yet calling the season over, as they are still 2-1, and the Vears are beatable, but the Eagles loss was a huge red flag informing us that all is not well with the Lions.

    'eff, the Lions definitely have a shot against the Bears, especially if Grossman plays. He blows, and their offense is nothing to brag about, no matter who lines up at QB. But the rumblings have already started that Lovie Smith will start Brian Griese Sunday. I think the Bears have a better shot at winning with the ex-Wolverine under center, because he won't screw the pooch near as often as Grossman.

    It's the Lions irresistible force of an offense vs the Bears immovable object of a defense. Should be entertaining, win or lose.

  4. "We'll look at the film," "Clean up a few things," "Pound the rock," and "Teach."

    I especially love "teach". Don't forget one of Sarge's favorites though, "stay the course".

    The game Sunday against the Bears is going to be an absolute shitfest. I was thinking for the last few days that the Lions would win, but I now expect the Bears defense/special teams to account for 14+ points, and that will be the difference.

    They are going to need one of those maximum strength Maglites to shine into Kitna's eyes to check for signs of life, and a syringe full of "the hand of god" to bring him back when they don't see any.

  5. As a Colorado resident I learned that there is an important part of Griese's career that folks in Michigan don't know about. Sportswriters hate him. The Denver press ran his ass out of town. Of course, they were in league with Shanahan who fell out of love with Griese after his linebackers started dropping easy interceptions and costing Shanahan wins. He blamed Griese rather than the inept linebacking corps he assembled. Griese's greatest crime was that he wasn't John Elway, even though Shanahan initially thought he was. This is the same crime of which Jake the Snake was guilty, and of which Cutler will be found guilty in another year of so. The Bears' limited offense should be perfect for Griese and he will turn into the Trent Dilfer for whom Lovey Smith has been searching.