Friday, October 1, 2010

Lions Congregation: Step Forward or Back?

Lions Congregation: Step Forward or Back?

October 1st, 2010 | by detfan1979 |

Welcome once again to the Lions Congregation! This week sees the Congregation visiting the email-bag once again with three great questions around the theme of “same old Lions?” and the opinions differ quite a bit so be sure to check out everyone’s answers! Have a thought you want to see the congregation address? Email

The Panel:

Ty of The Lions in Winter
Al of
The Wayne Fontes Experience
Phil of
NetRat of The NetRat Detroit Lions Site
Zac of The Sidelion Report
Steve of
The Detroit Lions Weblog
Blades Boyd formerly of The Church of Schwartz
Joshua DetFan1979 of
Roar of the Lions

1. Frank: Has the team gone back to “same old Lions” or was the Vikings just a bad game by an almost not horrible team?

Ty: It was as an ugly game, no doubt–but the “same old Lions” lose that game 35-0. The defense is undeniably better than before; two of Minnesota’s touchdowns were the sole result of terrible safety play. The offense is undeniably better than before, driving twice to within Minnesota’s ten-yard-line in the fourth quarter (only to threw two end-zone picks). You flip one or two plays around, and the outcome of the game is much different. You couldn’t say that about most of the losses last season.

Think about this: in every single game so far, the Lions have both held a first-half lead and been in it in the fourth quarter. That’s a world away from 2008, or even 2009.

Al: I had the same reaction, we were seeing the return of the same old Lions during the loss to the Vikings. But there are also mitigating circumstances.
The Lions aren’t as bad as they played against the Vikings. Unfortunately, they are that bad when some of their best players are injured.

We need to remember a couple of things. The Lions have been decimated by injuries to several of their core players, and worse, decimated by a decade of lousy personnel decisions. The Lions remain at least a couple of good drafts away from competing for a playoff spot. Nothing is going to change that, not wishing, hoping, or praying about it. Or for that matter, changing coaches or general managers.

19 games is not enough time to make a determination on Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz, nor is one bad loss to the Vikings is enough to write off what has been accomplished in those 19 games.

I’m doing my best to be patient, but at times my heart overrules my head when it comes to the Lions. I was as upset as you were about what truly was a bad loss to a very beatable team. I will be every time the Lions lose a winnable game. The Lions are headed in the right direction. Patience will be required. Lots and lots of patience.

Phil: I don’t think the team has gone back to the “SOL.” First, give them the eyeball test. If you’ve watched over the past decade, does this seem like a similar team? In the view of my humble eyeballs, this is definitely not the same type of team. The Lions have a below-average NFL defense, but it’s not historically bad. It’s a strong front four, injury ravaged linebacking corps and a terrible secondary. Again, it might not be good enough for Lions fans, but it’s better than the recent past.

Honestly, what I’m concerned about it is how the team is affected by the Chicago game. I know everyone is saying the right thing, but let’s be honest, Detroit had a win on the road against a division rival to open
the season. The Lions were on the cusp of at least getting the monkey off their backs in the opening week of the season — on the road, no less! And the carpet was yanked from under them. I think it was emotionally devastating for them. Though I think this team is mentally tougher than in the past, the same old results (losses) eventually will lead to the same old results (checking out). All that said, I don’t think it’s happened yet, not by any stretch.

(One of the seemingly “SOL” problems I do have with the Lions is that they’re still making boneheaded penalties at the most inopportune times. That kind of self-destructive behavior HAS to stop if they’re ever going
to get it together. Not the aggressive penalties so much, but the false starts, offsides, etc. — it just has to stop!)

NetRat: The offense is being helmed by a backup quarterback. They are also missing the starting RB, the backup RB (Smith), the #2 WR, and Peterman is playing injured. On defense the Linebackers pretty much blew the game (even the plays that appeared to be blown by CC Brown were partially on the LBs as he was covering for them being out of position). The refs continue to ruin any hope at momentum (not to mention ticking off players and fans alike). The team was supposed to have troubles winning some games but the O was supposed to outshine enough teams to give the Lions a decent season… that was before Stafford (and then Best) went down. I suppose this could be said to be the same old lions, but to me it would seem to be more like the same unlucky Lions. If they all get healthy and start playing as a team (instead of making mistakes as a team) they could still do some damage this season, or at the very least entertain us, they are not totally devoid of talent.

Zac: I like the description of the Lions as “almost not horrible”. They are still pretty bad but they do appear to be on that cusp of “not horrible”. When I think of the “same old Lions” I think of a muddled mix of players with no discernible foundation or direction. Do this: think about the players currently on the roster that you think are the team’s best or are most excited to watch every week. My guess is that list includes names likeMatthew Stafford (when healthy), Calvin Johnson, Jahvid Best, Ndamukong Suh, Louis Delmas and Kyle Vanden Bosch. With the exception of KVB, all of those players are young and the kinds of players any organization would love to build around. Excluding Calvin Johnson, they are all players that came to Detroit under the watch of Martin Mayhew. To me, that is progress.

Steve: Expectations should not have been inordinately high for Lions fans, entering this season. The Lions personnel on defense is both thin and poor, aside from their top flight defensive line group.

They have also already suffered a number of costly injuries (DeAndre Levy, Nate Burleson, Stephen Peterman, Louis Delmas, Zach Follett) on both sides of the ball, the most problematic of which being, obviously, Matthew Stafford’s separated shoulder.

The Lions are seemingly still a work in process, which provides some hopeful optimism.

That being said, the rash of turnovers, costly penalties, game and time management issues among the coaching staff all echo the overhwelming fact that this team still retains their identity as “the same old Lions”.

As much as I am impressed by Jim Schwartz, a loss this week in Green Bay would make him 2-18 in his first 20 games, surpassing the awful 3-17 start by Bo McMillin. That record speaks for itself.

For me, the most frustrating things are the persistent continuation of breakdowns in coverage (communication, responsibilities) in the Lions secondary, where no Lion defender is within ten yards of the pass recipient (see the Percy Harvin TD last week) and the overall proliferation of “explosion” plays allowed by the Lions defense (see Adrian Peterson’s 80-yard TD run), which are an indicator of both poor defensive play calling and even more personnel breakdowns.

I don’t believe that the Lions have actually gone back to being the “same old Lions”, but instead, have just highlighted the essence of what that aspersion means among many die hard Lions fans. They were never NOT, “the same old Lions”, in my book (at least not yet).

Blades: It’s the “same old Lions.” No one here will admit it but that’s what it is. Poor clock management, extremely poor play calling and a secondary that a JV team could throw on. Earlier in the season I predicated 4-12 by a lot of people and I got called every name in the book. Looking at the schedule, the Packers will kill us, I think St. Louis will beat us based on the way they are playing and then we have no shot at a win till maybe Washington in week 8 or Buffalo in week 10. I’ll be SHOCKED if the Lions win three games this year.

DetFan1979: I guess the answer to that question depends on which “same old lions” you are referring to. If it is the Fontes era Lions teasing into the playoffs occasionally while always seeming to somehow underachieve and squander the talent those teams had then… no.

If it is the Millen Era lions that were continually a mish-mashed mess of constantly changing player/scheme/coaching ideologies that lacked talent but were “system guys” and “overachieving character guys” who managed to overachieve to a level equal to NFL backup sometimes… then the answer is still no.

If it is the “Unlucky” Lions since the 50’s who have terrible luck and timing on injuries and almost never see the ball bounce their way on the field while managing ever differing levels of ways to lose via clock management or stupid boneheaded penalties at the worst times…then yes, same old lions.

Personally, I feel that the 3rd “same old lions” is an outgrowth of the first two — a symptom of the underlying problems of the past that linger, not of the future direction of the team. Detroit was, as I said at the beginning of the season, a solid 6 win team if everyone stayed healthy but they were scary shallow in depth. Well, just about the worst injuries that could occur have — and the Lions lost one win via the insanity that was beating the Bears at Soldier Field to open the season. How much different would 1-3 with a win on the road sound? (after a loss to Green Bay this week). Even at 0-4, the Lions IF healthy could still pull out 6 wins. Maybe only 4 with how things have been going.

On the whole, the base core of players on the team has grown from none to a dozen. Players the Lions have to release are picked up by other squads — some of them to be starters (Landon Cohen) for weaker teams, others depth. This alone is an indicator that talent levels have improved.

The plan over the last two years has been consistent and those areas that have been targeted with the most resources for improvement have definitely improved (the Lions defensive is example A). It will take time, but these are not the same old lions.

Short answer in case you don’t like the essay? Same Old Lions would have been down 21-0 in the first quarter, not making it a game through the 4th quarter.

2. LyonFan54: With all the mistakes the Packers made against Chicago last night (Monday) do you think the Lions have a chance to beat them considering we should have won that game against Chicago?

Ty: I would love to say yes–and with the way the Pack are struggling to run and stop the run, I’m even tempted to. But with a dinged-up Jahvid Best, no Stafford, no Burleson, and a dinged-up (and already weak) back seven, the talent gap is still too big. I can’t say that the Lions have more than the faintest glimmer of hope of breaking the Lambeau losing streak.

Al: No, I don’t. The Lions have absolutely no chance in to win in Green Bay…unless every player on the Packers’ 53 man roster shreds their ACL during the Saturday walk thru. Even then, I wouldn’t bet money on the Lions. They ALWAYS find a way to lose at Lambeau.

Saying the Lions are going to beat the Packers because they should have beat the Bears, who beat the Packers, is faulty logic. It’s like saying the Falcons are going to be the Super Bowl champions because they beat the Saints last Sunday. It just doesn’t work that way. The NFL is too volatile from week to week.
The Lions aren’t as nearly as healthy as they were for the Bears game, the Packers are still a better than the Bears despite their loss, and the Lions haven’t won on the road since 2007, or at Lambeau in generations.
Add it all up, you get “No chance in Hell” as the answer to your question. Sorry.

Phil: I love to be a contrarian, but I really don’t think they do. Let me modify that: the Lions have a chance … if their pass rush plays its best game of the season and absolutely mauls Aaron Rogers. In that case, they have a chance. Even in that scenario, though, Detroit’s O-Line has to be able to completely hold off the Green Bay’s pass rush. Furthermore, even if the Lions O-Line plays well, we’re not sure of Nate Burleson’s and, more importantly, Jahvid Best’s statuses. In other words, the Pack can still just drop seven into coverage and force the Lions to run the ball or thread some needles.

Is there a chance? Yeah, I guess there’s always a chance. But I don’t like those odds…

NetRat: No. The Packers live on the short throws with occasional deep shots, not the running game. The Lions can shut down the run game of slower RBs but that will have no affect on this game. If Favre can survive the current Lions pass rush then Rodgers is going to chew them up bad. The Lions are going to have to play perfect ball (and the refs have to cooperate as well) for this game to be within a score. I figure 3 scores is more likely.

Zac: No, next question.

Steve: After I picked myself up from off of the floor, dusted myself off, and stopping laughing, I deeply considered the likelihood of the Lions gaining a victory against the Packers at Lambeau Field, where they have not won since 1991.

Even with the Packers coming off of a short week of preparation, after playing a rotten, mistake-filled game Monday night, considering just how bad the Lions secondary is, and how overmatched they will be while facing the assortment of offensive weapons that the Packers currently boast, I just can’t conceive how the Lions will keep the game even remotely close, let alone actually find a way to win.

The Packers are the type of team that presents the absolute worst match-up for the Lions. They have a star QB, Aaron Rodgers, the aforementioned offensive weapons, a pressure-oriented 3-4 defense, whom the Lions also will have difficulty rushing the ball against.

The Lions most remote chance surrounds them exploiting the not-completely-impermeable Packers offensive line. With enough pressure, they could force Rodgers into some costly turnovers.

That being said, I fully expect that Lions opponents will routinely use “max protect”-blocking schemes, to limit the pressure from the Lions imposing front four, and send fewer receivers into passing routes. If that proves successful, even a less than average NFL QB can complete 60% of his passes and boast at least a QB rating in the 80’s, against a poor Lions defensive back seven.

With the longstanding home field advantage which the Packers currently possess over the Lions, take your pick between the Lions 21-game road losing streak and the Lions 19 year losing streak in Green Bay, signs point toward it being another 4 or 5 “Lambeau Leap” kinda night for the Packers.

Blades: Nope. Not a chance in hell. In fact, if you believe the Lions have a shot to win that game, I’ll give you 15 points on a $100 bet. Respond with your email address and we’ll make it happen. Next question.

DetFan1979: Fantasy Football players who own Aaron Rodgers will be very happy this week. Those who play said owners… not so much. About all that needs to be said. I’m an optimist, but I’m not crazy. I’m just hoping they keep it to two scores…

3. LionKipersMane: Is there any hope for the Lions? Seems like we are getting ready to talk draft again and it’s not even October.

Ty: There’s plenty of hope. If the refs don’t rob the Lions of the Week 1 win, nobody’s talking draft–and really, nobody (intelligent) is talking draft anyway. We knew an 0-4 was a real possibility going into the season; I still see this as a 5-7 win team.

Al: Hope for the future? Yes. Hope for this season? No.

We knew going into the season the Lions weren’t going to make the playoffs. There are too many roster holes, not nearly enough depth. One injury could take the Lions from a possible six wins, to a team struggling to get two…and that injury happened in the first game of the season toMatthew Stafford.

Be it as it may, even though this season is over, there is hope. The Lions of 2010 are a much better team than the train wrecks put together by the mustachioed moron. Better is a relative term, as some of those teams were the worst in NFL history. The Lions remain a bad team, but they are a team being put together with a plan. A plan that is working.

Yes, hard as it may be to believe, the plan is working. Slowly to be sure, but progress is being made. The Lions have quality players at some important positions (QB, RB, WR, DT, DE, FS), something we couldn’t say as little as two years ago. They won two games a season after going winless. The Lions aren’t in cap Hell (though there being no salary cap this season helps), but the contracts they are on the hook for are with players who seem to be worth the money.

So hope remains alive. If you can hang in there for a couple of more seasons, the Lions might be on their way to respectability. As for the remainder of this season, I suggest you start drinking heavily.

Phil: The answer this kind of goes back to the first question: Use the eyeball test. You’ve watched the Lions for long enough to at least know what it means to see some of the worst football in history.

The sheep may be ready to talk draft again, but that’s because the crowd is only as smart as its dumbest member. Don’t be a follower. If you like NFL football, watch the games and watch them analytically. Understand
that 0-3 or 0-4, though we’ve seen it a lot recently, doesn’t necessarily mean 2-14. Remember when the Lions would start out like doggy doo during the Barry years, then finish strong? Y’know, the Rasputin Fontes years. Think about it: after Sunday, the Lions will have played all three of their division road games. If those games are distributed more evenly across the season, it wouldn’t be a shocker if Detroit lost all of them. It looks so much worse because the three could be contributors to a 0-4 start.

In the end, though, the Lions still have time to prove they’re not the same team as in the recent past. The key will be to see how they handle those divisional games at Ford Field

NetRat: I was considered optimistic when I said the lions would win 7 this season. That was before the injuries (especially to Stafford). Now I’m being optimistic if I say 5 wins. Either way, draft talk was a consideration last May. Still, the point of this season is to get the young guys seasoned into decent vets and to prepare for one more stellar off season then the cinderella story line is a decent comparison idea. We shouldn’t be concerned with the draft just yet, we should be concerned with the possibility of a lock out and whether or not the new CBA will have a rookie contract limit built in. If they do (set contract limits) then any team can trade out or into the top 8 in round one making for a VERY interesting draft… oh, I guess I am talking draft… sorry about that.

Zac: Hope for this year? probably not, but I don’t know of many people that had real hopes for a playoff appearance this year. I have been of the opinion that the Lions would be an improved team even if it was not reflected in their final record. I think that is the case which leads to more frustration. As fans we want improvement on the field to equal improvement in the standings. The Lions still have too many holes to fill for that to be the case. This is what happens when you are basically an expansion team without the benefit of an expansion draft. With a finite number of draft picks available and a limited talent pool of available players we just have to wait it out. The opinions of Martin Mayhew remains high so there is no immediate need to call for anyone’s head. Patience is a hard thing to ask for considering we have been waiting for a decade but there is little the Lions can do about it and nothing else for us to do as fans.

Steve: Week 5 against the Rams is the Lions Super Bowl. Assuming that they lose this week, then proceed to lose a close home game against the Rams, does a winnable game remain on the current Lions schedule? Do they stand a chance at repeating the once unthinkable, by ending the season 0-16?

As much as it pains me, a loss against the Rams entirely changes the course of the Lions season, and makes these horrifying scenarios all seem a helluva lot more reasonable, and not at all beyond the pale.

A loss to the Rams certainly would expedite the draft discussions, etc., which now have become so routine for Lions fans (at about the mid-season point).

A win against the Rams would provide the Lions with a small, but necessary building block, which given how game they were in their first two losses, could lead to them stealing a few games and getting to the 4-5 victory mark which many experts thought they would have entering the 2010 season.

Blades: This is an interesting question. Is there hope this year??? Nope. Is there hope for NEXT year??? Maybe. This all depends on if the players actually see progress. Guys like Vaden Bosch and Calvin aren’t going to want to be part of a team that can’t win and if the Lions don’t do something this year, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see Calvin request a trade. He’s literally losing millions by playing for the Lions in sponsorship money and in contract money because his numbers just simply aren’t there. The only good thing is the with guys like Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett in this years draft, teams WILL trade up for those guys and since the Lions will likely be picking in the top 2, there’s lots of room for deals.

DetFan1979: I think I answered a lot of this in my first response. The Lions have a solid plan in place, a real NFL front office, and have been hitting on their talent evaluations. From constant busts in all rounds to our two first rounders this year are the current leaders for offensive and defensive rookies of the year. Mid-late rounders are contributing as depth, or in some cases starting. Sammie Hill is the perfect example of the “new Lions” — he was ok last year, and this year is a big part of that terrorizing defensive line rotation.

I’m enjoying watching these competitive Lions — seeing the young talent actually making big plays. Sure, they are still almost mediocre so they killed on some plays too. Just seeing opposing QB’s having to rush passes, get crushed, and running for their lives is worth the admission price. Getting to see Jahvid Best zipping around the field right now is gravy. Stafford will be back — as will other injured starters.

That, of course, is a big difference. What the Lions had to play with the last half of the Minnesota game would have been the starters in the past. But Hill, Morris, Bryant Johnson, and whoever was suiting up at OLB are NOT your starters. Stafford, Best, Burleson et al are.

Hang in there, and enjoy the games for what they are – entertainment. There will be plenty of time for the draft talk (assuming there isn’t a lockout) all too soon.

Thank you once again for joining the Lions Congregation! Have a question or topic idea? Email

Rating: 7.8/10 (4 votes cast)
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