Week 4 - Saints @ Lions Review
Apologies to any of the tens of readers out there for the lateness of this piece. I was pissed off after Sunday and what happened, and with the bye week coming I felt no pressure to get this out.
It really feels like deja vu all over again.
The Lions lose 35-29 (Scorigami anyone?) after running into a 14-0 lead after 5 minutes of the first quarter. The Saints then proceeded to score 35 UNANSWERED points, before the Lions rallied scoring 15 of their own but running out of time to complete the comeback.
I'm not going to go into big detail here, it's just a bit painful and done to death my more qualified commentators than I, but here are a couple of takeaways:
The coaching is bad, like..... seriously bad
The lack of preseason and what have you really does help a DC bring his ideas and instil them in the team, however, other teams in similar spots have done it, and really, our Head Coach was hired as a "defensive genius". It's been a problem for a number of years and it doesn't look like it's getting fixed any time soon.
There's no pass rush, bar Romeo Okwara getting 3 QB hits and 1 sack flashing. That's not enough to do anything worthwhile, especially when that's the high point and no-one else is really helping.
The secondary is a step behind on every play. It's not just Okudah, who is clearly struggling (and yes, he's a rookie, I'm not blaming him for it!), but they're all playing lack backups, perhaps with the exception of Duron Harmon and Jamie Collins who have played at a passable level.
Here, there's more positive news. The Lions have the 5th best O-line in football according to PFF. That's fantastic news, especially for Stafford who's made his career basically under pressure every play. However, this hasn't resulted in a groundbreaking running game. With an O-line that good, the run game should be lighting up defenses. Honestly, I actually trust the PFF data here and imagine that it's Adrian Peterson playing better than expected before the season started which is skewing expectation. 80-120 yards a game is not going to cut it here. With that O line and those running backs, we should be aiming for 130-150 minimum. The only answer is that the scheme isn't quite right yet, but there's hope here - but it needs to happen fast!
The main point about the offensive coaching is mainly the playcalling. Often too conservative, I had hope when in this game Stafford twice pulled off play-action passes on the first drive. But we very quickly slipped back into old habits with: Run, run, pass. I'm not saying we should abandon the run game, in fact above I hope I'm saying the opposite. But the NFL is always compared to a chess match. You do what they don't expect. We always do. Let's pass on first down. Let's run on third down. Let's let the pass open up the run. I saw a quote from another writer, I think it was Dan Hanzus of ATN but I could be misremembering, where he said something like "Of those offenses using motion before the snap, some are doing it for effect, some are doing it for impact. Those doing it for impact are largely being successful, those for effect are not. They're still back in 2005." I feel like we're one of those teams. We didn't use much pre-snap motion on offense in the past few years and suddenly its happened in the past 18 months - but it doesn't appear to have a point or impact and that it's just there for show, to mimic the McVay's and Shanahan's of the world. Let's do it with something in mind!
The situational playcalling is also bad
This is a quick one. When you're 21 points down in the middle of the third. When you're 14 down in the middle of the fourth, running the ball is generally not a good idea. Especially twice in a row. Yes, maybe this contradicts the point above about being unexpected, but sometimes things are unexpected because they're ill-advised. We killed the clock and it meant that for the Saints' final drive, we couldn't afford even one first down before the game was done. If we'd passed more often with a similar result and there'd be 5 or 6 minutes on the clock instead of 3.30, maybe we'd have had a better chance to win the game. WAKE UP!
It ends with the coach and the GM. I'm a bigger Bob Quinn fan than most Lions fans. For me, they blew up a good Lions team, and looking at the personnel now, it's all new and I feel like it's talented enough to win. It's not his fault that the coaching hasn't worked out... apart from the fact that he hired the coach in the first place.
For Matt Patricia, I still think he has the slimmest hope of turning it around. 9-7 is getting into the playoffs about 50% of the time. That means we need to finish the final 3/4ers of the season at 8-4. Looking at the schedule, that absolutely can happen, but the improvement needs to be real and it needs to start immediately. One more early loss in that run is the nail in the coffin. My main concern really stems from the fact that I've seen no evidence throughout MP's reign that he's capable of pulling it off. My main concern is that he doesn't pass the eye test. The coach can still flash in a poor team. In the podcast, I highlighted Kliff Kingsbury as an example. Arizona were really poor last year, but the scheme and the execution showed promise, they were just missing some pieces. MP's execution doesn't show that the scheme is sound and the players are lacking but the reverse, but also it doesn't show that MP can adjust mid-game and making coaching adjustments.
In short, I don't think he can do it. Maybe someone else can. And maybe we should do it and get an interim HC (Bevell perhaps?) who could change our fortunes for the better.
Oh, and re-sign Kenny Golladay for goodness sake!