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10/19/2008

Lions-Texans postgame thoughts

You'll read plenty about it in all the papers tomorrow, but the first question I asked Rod Marinelli after Sunday's 28-21 loss to Houston was why the Lions didn't throw the ball to Calvin Johnson more.

Johnson is one of the most naturally gifted and potentially dominant players in the NFL and it makes no sense that the Lions threw just four passes his way Sunday. He caught two balls for 154 yards — one 96-yard touchdown bomb (the fourth longest pass play in Lions history) and one 58-yard Hail Mary at the end of the first half. He also had a drop (admittedly, a problem he has to correct) and had one pass deflected by good coverage, and he touched the ball on a two-point conversion and a reverse.

I don't buy Marinelli's explanation that poor pass protection and excellent coverage made Johnson that insignificant in the gameplan. I'm sure it did on some plays — Dan Orlovsky made his second career start and I don't expect him to expose every hole in the defense — but the Lions have to do more to take advantage of Johnson's physical skill. Look at what Houston did with Andre Johnson. Granted the Texans ran the ball well early, but Johnson isn't exactly surrounded by Pro Bowlers and he still torched the Lions for 11 catches and 141 yards.

My beef from the get-go has been offensive coordinator Jim Colletto's unimaginative and/or untimely play calling. I believe that's the biggest thing wrong with this team right now.

A few other thoughts before I call it a night for an early flight back to Detroit:

• I don't know if the Lions got jobbed by a poor spot on the fourth-and-1 sneak or not. It was too tough to tell with the mass of bodies around the line of scrimmage. I do know, though, that their reputation as a losing organization does them no favors when it comes to the officials. Even subconsciously, it's easy to rationalize a blown call (like the missed pass interference on Shaun McDonald in the first quarter) against a bad team.

• The Lions had three more sacks and forced the game's only fumble, but they didn't do enough to harass Matt Schaub early. Schaub completed his first eight passes and finished 26-of-31 for the game. The Texans scored on drives of seven, eight and 10 plays on their first three possessions and had to convert just three third downs to get it done.

• Time to go back to Gosder Cherilus at right tackle. I don't recall George Foster as being poor in pass protection (though I'll wait to watch the replay to say for sure), but he did have two false-start penalties. Cherilus and Kevin Smith, building off my earlier post, should start the remaining 10 games on the schedule.

• I'm not going to slam Marinelli for not taking a timeout at the end of the first half. The Lions wasted about 15 seconds after Mike Furrey's third-down catch gave them first-and-10 at the 24 and ended up converting that Hail Mary to Johnson at the 8 as time expired. Asked about taking one timeout to the locker room after the game, Marinelli said, "At that point I didn't want them to get the ball. I didn't want to go down, field goal or (28-3). Things were building up on us at that point. I just wanted to get out of the half." The Lions trailed 21-3 at the time and Marinelli's right: They stood to do more harm than good had they taken a timeout with 30 seconds to play.

• Where would this team be without Jason Hanson?

2 Comments:

Blogger Al said...

I like Marinelli so I am sorry to see his comments about the timeout at the end of the first half. Not calling the timeout so Houston doesn't get the ball is playing not to lose instead of playing to win.

I'm convinced that part of the Lions' problem is playing not to lose. I think they started playing not to lose when they were 6-2 last year. That slows a team down and makes them lose. They didn't play not to lose in the preseason because it didn't count. As soon as the season started they started playing not to lose again.

This one is on the coaches. They are the ones who need to manage this mental aspect of the team. They do it by being aggressive offensively and defensively. We saw some of the defensive aggressiveness against the Vikes. They need it on the offensive side of the ball too. Consistently. Attack the other team.

6:25 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^couldn't have said it better myself....this team has been a 'play not to lose' limbo since ford took over. it all starts at the top and the only way this nightmare will end is if ford sells the team to someone who knows what they're doing with a proven track record and who gives a damn about something other than money and revenue.

lions will NOT go 0-16, but unless they start being aggressive on both sides of the ball, they'll only get 2 wins.

orlo played better than last week, but i still wanna see what we have with stanton.

7:38 PM 

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