Sunday, October 19, 2014

My thoughts and column on the Lions 24-23 victory over the New Orleans Saints Sunday

Thoughts after 3 quarters Lions, Saints

- The Lions finally put together drive by mixing their plays up better and taking a shot or two little deeper. They also relied a bit on Joique Bell. Today, that's a good thing. He is running well.
- If you give Drew Brees and inch, he is going to take a mile. His 46-yard TD pass to Kenny Stills was a classic example. He had a guy open. He didn't miss. Also, you saw his brilliance when the Lions had the Saints pinned back to their own one after a punt, and Brees immediately fired a pass to Marques Colston for a first down. Even Lions' fans have to admire his brilliance in a way today. It's almost like a privilege to watch the guy play. He is that good. Or should we say great. He has the Saints on the move again.
- Can you image this game coming down a field goal attempt by Matt Prater? Never mind.

My column. The only thing Michigan has going for it against MSU is desperation:

My column. The Tigers won't get better unless Dave Dombrowski does:

Thoughts halftime Saints, Lions

- While the Lions' defense is playing well enough to win this game, their offense clearly is not. Matthew Stafford is not sharp. He did miss Brandon Pettigrew for a potential TD in the second quarter and has been just a bit off with too many throws. And it's not like Stafford is getting much help from anybody other than Golden Tate.
- As well as the Lions defense played for most of the first half, it was disappointing, to say the least, how it ended. The two-minute drive by Drew Brees and the Saints was just too easy.
- How about a little more Joique Bell and little less of Reggie Bush. Bell seems to be the more effective of the Lions' two backs today and they need to gash the Saints a little bit inside.
Matthew Stafford
- Matt Prater is a shank about to happen. If there is anything such as a bad made field goal attempt, Prater demonstrated it by banking in a 21-yard attempt off the left upright during the second quarter. Brutal.
- The defensive line is an obvious strength for the Lions. The most underrated player on the front is tackle C.J. Mosley. He is not only solid at the point of attack, but he makes his share of big plays. We saw another example of that when he stripped Saints' running back Khiry Robinson of the ball and caused a fumble during the second quarter.
- The concept of Tate on bubble screens and quick flips to the flat against zone coverage is a good one. He is terrific running after the catch. It might be a good idea to use him on reverses, as well.
- The Lions' offensive line has been subjected to much criticism this season, and its effectiveness is certainly worthy of the questions. Yet, it's difficult to tell sometimes whether it's because of different pass protections than they used in the past. But what is clear, the offensive line is not creating running room at all up the middle. It does make you wonder how much tread is left on the tires, so to speak, for guard Rob Sims and center Dominic Raiola.

My column. The only thing Michigan has going for it against MSU is desperation:

My column. The Tigers won't get better unless Dave Dombrowski does:

Thoughts after 1st quarter Saints, LIons

Calvin Johnson
- The Lions' defense looks good today. They have put good pressure on Drew Brees. They also aren't afraid to bring pressure from their linebackers and safeties. The sack by James Ihedigbo was key. It's still early early, but it not an overstatement to suggest Teryl Austin is running a much better scheme than the Wide 9 the Lions' deployed under the previous coaching regime.
- Without Calvin Johnson, the Lions must do the basic things well offensively today. One is they must run the ball better. Yes, they have been able to run the clock out late in some games this year, but their rushing attack has been among the bottom quarter of all NFL teams. It's been disappointing so far today. Also, they can't, obviously, turn the ball. That's been disappointing so far  today, too. The defense isn't going to hold the Saints' offense with a short field. And they can't take foolish penalties, like the one on Glover Quin at the end of the quarter.

My column. The only thing Michigan has going for it against MSU is desperation:

My column. The Tigers won't get better unless Dave Dombrowski does:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Detroit Tigers won't get better unless general manager Dave Dombrowski does

Sunday, October 12, 2014

My thoughts and column on the Lions' 17-3 victory over the Vikings Sunday

Thoughts after 3 quarters Lions, Vikings

- The kicking situation is a disaster. The Lions will probably get away with it today because of the Vikings' ineptitude offensively and the strength of their Front 7 defensively, but come on..
- Hate to say it, but guard Rob Sims and  center Dominic Raiola have not been playing well, and it could be Father Time may have caught up to them. To have Stafford sacked and hit this often is unacceptable. It's not like there is much option at backup QB, either.
- The one problem with trying to run out the clock with Joique Bell and George Winn as your running backs is both have shown the propensity to fumble.
Matt Prater

My column. A win, a great setting, but Michigan victory over Penn State hardly a cure:

My column. MSU Spartans won't be their due until they respect their collective self:

Tboughts halftime Lions, Vikings

- The missed field goals mean more than just three points not being added to the scoreboard. Particularly with the Lions at this point, they are very deflating. You just can't measure how much Matt Prater's miss took the life out of the Lions' offense. The Lions obviously should have drafted either the Eagles' Cody Parkey or the Cardinals' Chandler Cantanzaro rather than Nate Freese in the seventh round. Both those undrafted rookies are having excellent seasons for their respective teams.
I know, Prater hit the second one. But one of two isn't good enough. Not even close.
- Having said that. Matthew Stafford has to pick it up. He was brilliant on the first drive of this game. Not so good since. A big issue, however, is the Lions' poor pass protection.
- The Lions' defensive line is playing well today, especially Ziggy Ansah  and Ndamukong Suh, both against the run and the pass. They should do well, though, against an inexperienced QB like Minnesota's Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings' offensive line is not that good, either.
- In fairness to Bridgewater, he'd be much more effective if the Vikings had Adrian Peterson and tight end Kyle Rudolph. They clearly aren't the same offense without those two, especially Peterson, a Hall of Fame talent, at running back.

My column. A win, a great setting, but Michigan victory over Penn State hardly a cure:

My column. MSU Spartans won't be their due until they respect their collective self:

Thoughts after 1st quarter Lions, Vikings

Theo Riddick
- Lions' running back Theo Riddick doesn't have great track speed (he nearly ran a 4.7 in the 40-dash at NFL Combine), but he does have functional football speed. He is also very elusive in the open field. And he has excellent hands. While he lacks Reggie Bush's home run speed, Riddick is more than capable of filling the same role. You definitely saw that on the Lions' first drive. It was an excellent example of a solid draft evaluation when the Lions took Riddick out of Notre Dame with their sixth-round draft pick in 2013.
- Lions' safety Glover Quin made two big plays in the first quarter. The most obvious was intercepting Viking QB Teddy Bridgewater's pass in the end zone. Less obvious was tackling Vikings' wide receiver Jarius Wright in the open field on a reverse. If Quin didn't make that tackle, it's likely Wright would have taken that run all the way for a touchdown.
- Count me among those who viewed the Lions' secondary as by far their biggest weakness coming into this season. It's amazing how well it has played this season.

My column. A win, a great setting, but Michigan victory over Penn State hardly a cure:

My column. MSU Spartans won't be their due until they respect their collective self:

My thoughts and column on Michigan win over Penn State, and my column on MSU after Purdue win

My column on Michigan. A win and a great setting, but Michigan victory over Penn State hardly a cure:

My column on Michigan State: MSU Spartans won't get their due until they respect their collective self:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Thoughts after 3 quarters Penn State, Michigan

Bizarre call by Penn State coach James Franklin to try a fake punt. It's not like Michigan's offense is doing anything threatening. Penn State's best move is to pin Michigan deep its own territory and watch Wolverines' offense self-destruct. Instead, the fake punt failed, essentially flipping the field in the Wolverines' favor. Also, it was ill-conceived play. Slow developing fakes on special teams like that are a recipe for failure. Good job by Michigan's Mike McCray sniffing out that out and making a play.
- Looked like Christian Hackenberg went to the Devin Gardner school of quarterbacking on the interception by Jordan Lewis. Horrible throw.
- Ah, haven't already seen enough Russell Bellomy to know what type of QB he is? That Nebraska game a couple years ago sealed it, right?

My column. MSU Spartans won't get their due until they get their collective respect:

Thoughts halftime Penn State, Michigan

Devin Funchess
- Devin Gardner remains a turnover about to happen. He has made several good throws in this game, but just when you least expect it, the turnover card comes up, Gardner's interception in the second quarter on a screen pass was brutal. The first half of this game sums up his career as Michigan QB.
- For all of Michigan's issues, and the way the Wolverines' highly-regarded recruits just haven't lived up to their advanced billing across the board, the one very notable exception is Devin Funchess. What a brilliant TD reception that was. He is an extraordinary player, and it wouldn't surprise me if he is a Pro Bowl NFL player some day. Big. Strong. Fast. Great hands. Great combination for Funchess.
- For what it's worth, Michigan Stadium is far more full for this battle of mediocrity than Spartan Stadium was last Saturday for Nebraska-MSU. Amazing, especially considering how many people this stadium holds compared to the one in East Lansing. Granted, it's a much better night weather-wise, but come on. We'll see how fast it clears out if Michigan loses its handle on this game.
- Christian Hackenberg has struggled this season, but he possesses a big-time arm. The way he gunned that TD into a seam during the second quarter looked like something you'd see in an NFL game.

My column. MSU Spartans won't get their due until they respect their collective self:

Friday, October 10, 2014

My thoughts and column on the Red Wings' 2-1 season-opening win over Boston Thursday

Monday, October 06, 2014

My thoughts and column on the Tigers' demise in 2014

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Why the Lions draft choice of kicker Nate Freese was even worse than you might think

The story is well-documented. How the Lions draft Boston College kicker Nate Freese in the seventh round. How he was supposed to be their answer at kicker, following the retirement of Jason Hanson, and the disappointment of David Akers in 2013.
Freese didn't do well. He was cut. His replacement, Alex Henery missed three FGs in the Lions' 17-14 loss to Buffalo Sunday.
But it's the kicker the Lions let get away that really adds salt to the wound, Arizona rookie Chandler Cantanzaro. Beating out former University of Michigan kicker Jay Feely, Cantazaro already has two field goals in a late afternoon game today for Arizona at Denver, and is 11-for-11 this season. He was undrafted last May of Clemson.
He was the kicker the Lions should have drafted in the seventh round rather than Freese. It was very seriously wrong missed evaluation, and it proved tremendously costly for the Lions Sunday.

Chandler Cantanzaro

Thoughts halftime Bills, Lions

There are common threats top teams have, regardless the level of football. It is they not only force turnovers, but score defensively. The Lions have done that this year. It's been one of their great strengths.
- Veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis has gotten much notoriety lately, and it's deserved. He had a huge play today, squatting on a route by rookie first-round NFL Draft pick Sammy Watkins, intercepting Kyle Orton's pass and taking it to the house for a pick 6. But it isn't only the one big play that has given Mathis such value. He is very good in man-to-coverage shadowing receivers. He may be older (34) than the typical NFL corner, but he is a very good player. Actually, he has been better this year than last.
- That interception was all on Matthew Stafford. Reggie Bush was open. It was a short pass. Stafford threw it behind hin. No reason or excuse for that one. It took the wind out of the sails of the Lions' offense. They were starting to roll before that play, they were sluggish the rest of the half after it.
- DeAndre Levy had six tackles in the first half. The guy is a machine. Always around the ball. Ndamukong Suh has been more active this week. That was his best half of the season. The two of them always seem to be around the ball.

Thoughts end of 1st quarter Bills, LIons

- Quarterback E.J. Manuel hadn't played well for Buffalo. His completion percentage was below 50. But I still think he would have given the Bills a better chance of winning this game than Kyle Orton. The Lions have an excellent pass rush, and at least Manuel has good mobility. Orton is just a sitting duck in the pocket for the Lions' defense.
- Lions' linebacker DeAndre Levy is just a search and destroy machine, isn't he?
- George Winn, the pride of Southfield and the University of Detroit Jesuit High School, is running hard. He looks very good. We'll see if he is able to hold onto the football. It was a problem for him in the preseason.
- How about instead of getting the ball into Brandon Pettigrew's hands in space out in the flat, do it for Eric Ebron. Bet he'd make a big play. The kid has excellent after the catch skills the Lions have yet to exploit.
- Matthew Stafford looks like he has a lot of zip on his fastball today. He displayed great velocity on the near-TD to Ebron, and the TD strike to Golden Tate.

My thoughts and column on MSU's closer-than-necessary 27-22 win over Nebraska