Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

There's little solace to be found for Detroit Lions fans after narrowly losing to division rivals The Chicago Bears, but amidst the the biting loss there are some bright spots to get excited about to go along with the trouble spots to be critical of:

The Good. 

The Lions were forced to start their rookie sixth round draft pick Jonte Green because of injuries to Dwight Bentley and Jacob Lacey. They also were forced to play Alphonso Smith who was re-signed last week. Heading into the game this seemed like a dream scenario for Cutler, but for the most part the two corners played very well. Smith got burned early by Marshall, but turned it around to help the defense put together a great game. Chris Houston has also been very good this season which suddenly gives the Lions five young corners with potential. I wouldn't be surprised to see Green overtake Lacey after his performance against the Bears.

In other defensive news Nick Fairley got his second start and has overtaken Corey Williams on the depth chart and is starting to look like the first round pick everyone was hoping he would be.

Despite what seems to be popular belief, the offensive line is playing at a high level. Sims, Raiola and Peterman have been run blocking machines opening huge holes for LeShoure (it pains me to think what Jahvid Best could do with that kind of running room...). Jeff Backus has struggled mightily when it comes to run blocking, but has excelled at pass blocking. Just the opposite, right guard Stephen Peterman has been a great run blocker but a poor pass protector. Gosder Cherilus has been very consistently playing at an above average level and is really making a case for the Lions to re-sign him to a long term contract which makes a lot of sense for the 28 year old fifth-year veteran.

The Bad. 

Nate Burleson is out for the year with a broken leg and Amari Spievey, who has been playing well since taking over for Coleman, is out indefinitely with a concussion. The Lions have depth at receiver with Titus Young and Ryan Broyles ready to step in, but are dangerously thin now at safety.

I have been a supporter of polarizing left tackle Jeff Backus over the past couple years as he has been stellar most of the time, but this year even I have to admit he appears to be losing a step. He is still an above average pass protector with veteran savvy and technique which has really kept Stafford upright for the most part. His run blocking skills, however, are really slipping. It's going to be harder and harder for him to fend off rookie Riley Reiff who has been playing very well in spot duty as a part of Detroit's new jumbo package. The coaches are going to put their faith in Backus as a veteran, and rightly so, but Reiff will have his chance sooner than later.

The Ugly. 

Fumbles. They lost three and there were three more. I keep wanting to blame it on the weather, but there really is no excuse. LeShoure was handling the ball loosely and got Brigg'd, Bell tried to jump four yards into the endzone and practically handed the ball to Urlacher, Logan dropped the ball twice losing one, and Pettigrew put two on the ground (and luckily out of bounds). Jim Schwartz reaffirmed his faith in Stefan Logan as their main returner, but it seems Logan has been increasingly prone to losing the football.

It's so hard to judge play calling from a fan perspective, but it's even harder to ignore the late-in-the-game success the Lions have when they are forced to be aggressive. If you take away the fumbles the Lions would almost definitely have walked out of Soldier Field with a win so it's hard to fault Scott Linehan, but at the same time it really feels that the coaches are trying to make the Lions' offense something that it is not. Through six games the whole team hasn't been able to get on the same page for one game, whether it's special teams giving up touchdowns, Stafford looking careless with the football, or practically everyone dropping the ball (literally). When you see brilliance one game and meltdowns the next it's hard not to start to question the coaching. I understand that the coaches can't be out there to catch the ball, but I think most of the staff is probably on notice for the next ten games.

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