In no particular order or sequence, as they pop into my head...
1. I said back in the one of my Pittsburgh posts that I thought that THIS game is the so called "trap game"....or whatever you want to call it. All I know is that the NFL for the last 60 years has given the Lions one of the most definitive home field advantage...period.
For the sake of tradition, the league forces one team, not only to have an extremely short week; they make them travel 3 hours to boot. This competitive DISADVANTAGE has flown under the radar for the past 15-20 years because the Lions have been such a consistently bad team. But not this year.
If the Pats can be called the worst 8-2 team in the league, the Lions can be called the best 2-8 team. There is a lot of talent on that team, and Swartz has finally got them playing hard. They know how to BE in games at the end, just not how to win them....and believe me, that is a hard lesson to learn....but when a team does learn it, they can be very dangerous.
Now if this was an ordinary week, I'd be a lot less concerned. But this is not only a short week to be going on the road; its a short week after TWO very emotionally taxing games against 2 of the better teams in the league.
It would be very hard for a team to be able to rise to the occasion emotionally for a third week in a row, during a regular week, but in less than 4 days, its going to be next to impossible, especially if you consider the fact that the all important Jet game is looming next.
This is a game that will be the Lions chance at national redemption. It will be THEIR superbowl. We on the other hand are a team just trying to get in, get out (hopefully with a win), and get on to the "really important games" that are coming up against the likes of the Bears, Packers, and the afore mentioned Jets
When the schedule came out I really didn't like this game. Oh I like it a lot better with the 2 wins over the Steelers and Colts, but I never liked this game and hate that we have to play it.
2. As bad as I felt at the end of that game for our defense, there were a couple of things that keep me from going over the edge. First I thought that through 3 quarters the Defense did a number of really good things. We were getting more pressure on Manning throughout the game, than the Colts were getting on Brady, even though they had the only sack. Both the first and third picks were due the pressure the Pats DL put on Manning
The defense did enough disguising that it fooled Manning into making a couple of critical mistakes The 2nd pick was a clear example of Manning being fooled (and I was surprised that the analyst took the time to point it out, rather than take the easy way out and blame the WR), And the last pick was partially due to Sanders falling off his initial coverage and dropping into the passing area. it was almost a deja vu moment from Ty Law doing something similar in his 3 pick game.
We are now a +9 in turnover ratio, 4th best in the league.
I liked the fact that through 3 quarters it seemed to me, that even while Manning was moving the ball, it wasn't easy. There was pressure, balls where being batted, even the completions were made into very tight coverage. That was certainly NOT the case in the 4th quarter, when Manning went though our defense like a hot knife through butter.
3. Where the defense really failed was NOT in the amount of yds they gave up, but in the amount of points. This defense was 0-4 in Colt trips into the red zone. Its understandable that a defense THIS young and inexperienced will give up a lot of yds. But a defense that hopes to help its team to a championship HAS GOT to be able to hold teams to FGs in half of those forrays. Up until that last drive it seemed that our defense got weaker as it got closer to the GL, not stronger.
4. Amazing as it may seems it was Felger who made two points that rang true to me. First he noted that Peyton Manning was good. I mean REAL good. He reminded me that in good conditions (as they were last night) Manning has carved up defenses a lot better than the one on the field last night. He spotlighted the 2003 team that couldn't stop Manning for most of that game until the GL stand. And that was a team with Bruschi, McGinest, Harrison, Seymour, Johnson, Vrabel, Law....all in their PRIMES, and STILL Manning carved them up.
So Felger wondered out loud, how shameful is it that a young, athletic, and fast defense that is supremely inexperienced can have a very similar game to the one that the best Pats Defense of this decade had 7 years ago. The answer is, of course, not very.
He also pointed out that perhaps the lack of pass rush in the 4th quarter was due to the simple fact of fatigue, Manning passed the ball 52 times last night. It could be that some of the guys had just run out of gas as the game went on into the 4th quarter. (and the loss of Wright) That also rang true
5. So even while the defense allowing TDs instead of FGs is a concern, what should be more troubling to us all was the inability of the offense to be unable to close the game out in the fourth quarter. The question everyone must have is WHY did the the offense fail at that point.
It seemed to me like the Pats came up with a great game plan, and they executed it flawlessly for the first 3 quarters. But they pay the other coaches too, and good teams will start to adjust to what they are seeing as the game goes along, and they will start to stop what is going on. I understand that. What I don't understand is why we aren't adjusting to the adjustments. There are a lot of moves in chess game. It seems we are very strong in our opening positions, but we aren't adjusting to our opponent's responses.
Clearly the Colts decided that they would shut down Branch and Welker. They used a tight, virtual one on one, 5 under 2 deep to effectively do that. In our last 2 drives we didn'[t ONCE attack the weaknesses of that coverage, instead, when we finally DID attempt to pass, Brady chose to throw into the STRENGTH of that defense.
Where were the delays to the TEs, or the seam patterns that led to big gains by both Gronk and Welker earlier in the game. With the Colts expecting run late in the game, a play action pass would have very effective,especially one attacking the S's. DE's and CBs are the strength of the Colts D, yet we failed in the 4th quarter to attack the weakness of that D....the Safeties.
Again the question.....WHY????? Where was the adjustment???????
6. Its so easy to be a critical, 2nd guessing fan. So that being said, its hard to fault an offense that puts up 31 points, has ZERO penalties, ZERO turnovers, ONE sack, and, IIRC only 2 negative plays. Add that performance to the one we had in Pittsburgh, and it isn't hard to think that perhaps we all might be a bit overly critical...or maybe just being fans
7. So while the offense looks like its finding itself, the Defense is show flashes of what it might come to be down the road. This is STILL a team that can beat anyone, but also a team that can lose to anyone if they don't play to their potential.
The margin of victory is still thin. The "blueprint" still has to be followed. Its why I'm so concerned about this game. How can this team NOT have some kind of let down given all the adverse circumstances mentioned above. This week we will need one of BB's better coaching jobs. I hope he is up to it.
8. OBTW, have I mentioned lately that Devin McCourty is turning into one hell of a CB.