Monday, December 17, 2007

Answering the Detroit Lions week 15 "Burning questions"

With only 2 weeks left in the season for the Lions, it appears that there are just as many questions now, if not more, than when the season started. In my ongoing attempt to answer those many questions, it time for another round of burning questions from the Detroit News' Mike O'Hara.

Topics include...Well, let's just say the Lions have lots of issues, and several of them are brought up during the Q & A.

Let's take issue, shall we?

Burning questions from the Lions' 51-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday:

Q: What does that performance say about the Lions?

O'Hara: It doesn't say much -- only that the Lions lost to the Chargers. It isn't a one-game question. There are bigger questions and issues facing them than one loss.

Big Al: It says...You know what's coming...They are who we thought they were! In other words, the Lions are a bad team. A bad team that has given up on the season, and to make matters worse, have also quit on their coach.

Q: What are the issues?

O'Hara: Right now, the Lions are not as good as their won-lost record. They're 6-8, somewhere just below the middle of the pack, but they are worse than that -- a lot worse.

Big Al: We've learned the 6-2 start was nothing but smoke and mirrors. They were a team that was playing over their heads, when combined with the opposition committing so many mistakes the Lions couldn't help but win games. Remember Brian Griese's red zone picks, or the missed end of the game field goal by Minnesota? When the opposition stopped making mistakes, the Lions returned to their true level, which is that of a bottom feeder.

What's more disturbing is the Lions have all the appearance of a team that needs to be rebuilt. The incompetent boob running the Lions has built a team that will have improve by at least 3 games in the win column, but still manage to finish well under .500. It's the high water mark of the Millen era, yet the team needs to be blown up anyway.

They have an old starting QB in Jon Kitna who's been worse in the last 6 games as he was good in the first 8. The lines are both in shambles. The defensive backfield is picked apart on a weekly basis. The odds are great that the special teams coach and offensive coordinator have only 2 games left in their Lions careers.

That's not a team that is on the upswing, rather it's a team on a downward spiral into oblivion. It might be best for all concerned if the Lions were blown up, and rebuilt from scratch...Again...For the umpteenth time. I doubt that actually happens, but a fan can dream...

Q: Where should they rank?

O'Hara: Based on their performance in the second half of the season, the Lions are one of the NFL's worst teams, no matter their record.

Since they hit the halfway point of the season with a gaudy 6-2 record, they've lost six straight. The Lions, Ravens and Chiefs are the only teams in the league that haven't won a game in the second half. Even the woeful Dolphins have won in the second half, beating the Ravens on Sunday. The Lions haven't beaten anyone.

Big Al: When the Fish have a better second half record, 1-5 to the Lions 0-6, I think that says it all. The only part of the game where the Lions are of NFL quality is in the passing game. They can't run out of their own way, stopping the opposition air or ground games is out of the question, and the special teams are are anything but.

The Lions are a sad sack franchise. They are the same old Lions.

Q . Does that mean the Dolphins are better than the Lions?

O'Hara: No, and it doesn't matter. As coach Rod Marinelli keeps saying, and his players keep repeating, what matters is what the Lions do, and they don't do much.

September or October don't matter. They started the second half preaching the mantra teams are remembered by what they do in November and December. What the Lions have done is lose -- and lose big.

Big Al: The Lions may be better than the Fish, but it can't be by all that much. At least the Dolphins have been in most of their games going into the 3rd quarter. The Lions have had several games that were essentially over by the half.

And in winning a game yesterday, the Fish showed that they haven't quit on their seasonu. The Lions, on the other hand, have folded like a cheap lawn chair.

Marinelli said it best in his presser today, what they are doing isn't good enough. They are supposed to win games, and 6 wins is far from being acceptable.

Q: Back to Sunday's game. What were the most distressing signs for the Lions?

O'Hara: One was the Chargers' last play of the first half. On third-and-goal at the 1, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers stood and patted and patted and patted the ball until he finally found Brandon Manumaleuna, a backup tight end, wide open in the left side of the end zone.

There wasn't a Lions defender close enough to him to know who to blame. Rivers lobbed the ball for an easy touchdown.

Big Al: There were several plays like the one O'Hara described. One that stood out in my mind was a Charger TD that was called back on a penalty. I went off on the Lions in my live blog...

3rd and 9. Lions blitz...Screen pass...Oh shit...Sproles strolls 56 yards for the TD. That was...I can't really say just how awful the Lions looked on that play. The Lions gave up. They quit on the play. Sproles was untouched.

Luckily for the Lions, the score was called back due to a Bolts having an illegal man downfield. No matter, it showed that the Lions are a step slow, totally out of gas, and are playing like they don't give 2 shits. Or any shits, for that matter.

Marinelli constantly preaches that the Lions are supposed to play hard every snap. If that play is any indication, the team has stopped listening, and has totally tuned out Marinelli's "Pound the rock" mantra. Not a good sign for the future...

Q . What else should have bothered the Lions the most?

O'Hara: Remember this name: Darren Sproles. He's a 5-foot-6, 181-pound third-string running back who plays behind LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner.

Sproles started the second half at tailback while Tomlinson and Turner rested with a 34-7 lead. On the first play of the half, Sproles ran 34 yards. On third-and-goal at the 1, he ran through a hole in the defense to score standing up.

Before Sunday, Sproles had four carries for the season for 5 yards and one fumble. Against the Lions, he looked like LaDainian Tomlinson.

Big Al: Should Sproles running wild bother them? Sure. But it sure as Hell isn't surprising.

We fans have seen the Lions make backups look like All-pros time and time again, decade after decade. So why would it surprise anyone to see Sproles, the Bolts 3rd string running back, play like the next coming of Tomlinson?

It's also interesting to note that we never see a Lions depth player step up the way Sproles did on Sunday.

Q: Joe Barry was hired as defensive coordinator because of his experience with the Tampa Two defense. Assess his first year here.

O'Hara: Based on performance, abject failure. Unless the defense gets turnovers, it isn't any good. Receivers are wide open, the pass rush is inconsistent, tackling isn't good and coverage in the secondary is awful.

Big Al: As words fail me, I'll instead depict Joe Barry's season in the form of lolcats from the great Icanhascheezburger.

lolcat - fail
moar funny pictures

moar funny pictures

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

'Nuff said.

Q: Enough about the defense. Jon Kitna had five interceptions. Were they all his fault?

O'Hara: One was a deflection, but he takes the hit for the others. In the second half of the season, Kitna's had seven TDs and 11 interceptions.

A team's leaders, especially the quarterback, are supposed elevate their game and play their best in the playoff run. Kitna hasn't done that.

Big Al: Over the past several games, Kitna has tried to make plays he's incapable of making. His bad decision making, and propensity for turnovers, has cost the Lions dearly.

As O'Hara said, one pick was off a tipped ball, a throw that hit Calvin Johnson right in the hands. But the the next 4 picks were all on Kitna. He's shown that guts and leadership will take you places, but not necessarily where you want to go.

Kitna is a leader, and he has led the Lions. Led them to another losing record.

I'm with the Killer, it's time to see if Dan Orlovsky is an NFL quality QB. It's not going to happen, as Marinelli has hitched himself to Kitna, come Hell or high water, but we know what Kitna can do. Despite Marinelli's trying to convince himself otherwise, Kitna is not the long term answer under center. It's time to see if the Lions have something in Orlovsky.

Doesn't putting Drew Stanton on injured reserve look even more ridiculous now? It was a stupid move back in August, and it appears outright idiotic now.

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