If you had to teach a person that knew nothing of the Lions almost comical history the easiest way to do so would be to show them the first 5 minutes of the Lions v. Vikings game on Sunday. The Lions looked good to start, moved the ball efficiently then dropped a 3rd down pass for a first down, botched the hold on the impending field goal and gave up a 78 yard touchdown run on their first defensive play.
That can sum up nicely what seems to happen to this franchise year in and year out. Look good at times, produce in certain areas, start to slow down, fall apart quickly, becomes embarrassing. The first five minutes of the season, right there.
However, since the NFL has a lot of commercials to show so they can make more money, they decided to play the remaining 55 minutes of this one and the Lions were able to come back and win the home opener in exciting fashion.
There were multiple things to take away from this game and they are going to be the deciding factors for the rest of the season for this team. First, Scott Linehan and Reggie Bush seem like soulmates. The creative ways Linehan used Bush, moving him all over, play action fakes, reverse fakes, double screens, it was incredible.
If Bush can play all year this is a completely different team. Calvin Johnson is the #1 weapon, but if teams are going to continually drop both safety’s over the top of Johnson, allowing Bush, Burleson, Broyles (when healthy) and not Brandon Pettigrew at Tight End to work intermediate routes, this team will walk all over most every team they play.
If defenses decide they can’t let Bush and Co. beat them, then they have to attempt to cover Calvin Johnson with only 1 or 2 players. That can’t be done.
Watching this game, everyone should be excited about what Linehan drew up and the execution of the game plan. It was the most exciting offense for the Lions that didn’t include Barry Sanders (although that isn’t saying much, it is a compliment).
However, the Lions seem to still be getting in their own way. False starts at home should never happen. They happened twice. Holding is inevitable and bit the Lions on a 3rd down conversion and can’t happen. The pass interference on Chris Houston was a weak call as he barely brushed the receiver, but when you don’t turn your head, the ref will almost always throw the flag, even though the catch was made anyway and didn’t count towards the 88 yards in penalties they took.
These are dumb penalties that shouldn’t happen and will prevent a team from making the playoffs. And they aren’t even the penalties that are hurting the Lions. Personal Fouls are still the issue with this team and cannot continue. Louis Delmas’ penalty on Jerome Simpson after he beat Darius Slay was not only stupid, it made no sense as to why Delmas decided to even run over to the sideline and get close to the receiver. Delmas, an alleged leader on the team, went WAY out of his way to get in someone’s face who, for the most part, had just done nothing at all.
Then there is the Ndamekong Suh cut block. The chop block/cut block should be eliminated from the game entirely, and has been on defensless players that are out of the play. Suh didn’t care and decided he was going to take out a man that was already over 5 yards behind the play and not really trying to get back into it (fat guys from the Offensive Line don’t normally catch up to players streaking into the endzone).
There are so many reasons why this play shouldn’t happen that if Suh is suspended it shouldn’t be a surprise, despite already being penalized, a touchdown called back and a pending fine of around $15K.
The point of highlighting these two penalties is that you can get away with them at home against a team as bad as the Minnesota Vikings. You may be able to survive a few other games this year despite boneheaded plays like this. But, when the offense looked as good as it did and has as many options as they do, this team stands a chance of succeeding this year, but will never do it if these issues persist.
Darius Slay had an awful game but Delmas, Glover Quin and Chris Houston helped out enough in the secondary that they were able to cover for the rookie. The defensive line, outside of the first play of the game (and the Suh block) played one of the best games this team has seen.
When putting it all together, this team has the talent and game plan to win a lot of games this year. But, do any Lions fans believe that they will be able to give up taking awful, needless penalties that routinely prevent them from ever being a real threat to winning in the playoffs? Most likely not.