Wednesday, December 30, 2009
It occurs to me that my last post might have been a tad too negative, even for me, and with that in mind, and in the wake of the sad departure of my dear Patriots loving colleague, I have decided to be more positive. Indeed, for this post, I am determined to only see the bright side, to grab hold of a rainbow and frolic with it in the dewy meadow under a bright morning sun. Forget the fire and the brimstone, the threats of suicide, the strange digressions and depraved imagery. For the rest of this post, I will do my best to be Grantland Rice on goofballs, Fred Rogers on laughing gas, Richard Simmons on Ben&Jerry's.
Okay, here we go. Oh, and from here on, there will be no foul language, no dastardly cussin', because cussin' is wrong, and as someone very wise once told me, cuss words are the sign of an uncreative mind, as is sarcasm, so let's get creative!!! And fun!!!
This week, the Chicago Bears jaunt into town, fresh off of an exciting and invigorating win over Brett Favre and the Magical Minnesota Vikings. Behind the scintillating play of that Four Star Field General, Jay Cutler, and the piston like running of that jackrabbit in cleats, Matt Forte, along with a suffocating and spectacular defensive eleven that gave up a mere 30 points to Wonderboy Favre and his Purple Powerhouse, the Ursine Warriors from the Windy City turned their season around and gave Bears fans everywhere the Christmas gift of a lifetime!
But fear not, fellow Lions fans, for while the growl of the grizzly is indeed an intimidating sound, it cannot compare with the full throated roar of the noble lion. No, indeed! And our Lions will have plenty to roar about when the Bears march into Ford Field, which has seen it's share of big games - Super Bowls, Final Fours, Chris Benoit's last Wrestlemania match before he retired to tend to his family - but none will be bigger than this titanic showdown between two of the NFL's most renowned and tradition laden franchises. Yes, folks, Ford Field will be the scene for a thunderous encounter between these two behemoths, and we can only hope that the roar on the field matches the cacophonous Lion's roar produced by the 968 fans in the stands.
But fear not, folks, because with two teams like this, the game couldn't possibly be anything other than SPECTACULAR! While the Bears have Cutler, that magician whose ball skills make him the Houdini of Halas' Heartthrobs, the Lions have Drew Stanton, a local boy with the heart of an actual lion, a fierce and proud modern day Spartan who would make ol' Leonidas weep and drop to his knees, genuflecting before the pure grace and raw courage and grit of such an elegant and perfect warrior. Any quarterback can throw a measly touchdown, but not every quarterback will be the first man on the scene to tackle the defender after he intercepts a perfectly thrown ball. And yet, there is our man, The King of Grit, The Lord of Pluck, Drew Stanton, valiantly hurling his body against the walls of his Leviathan of an opponent, putting his mortal body in harm's way so that his immortal spirit carries on in the mouths and hearts of generations of Lions fans. God Bless You, noble warrior!
But it's not all Drew Stanton for the Lions. No, sir. Not by a long shot! The Motor City Maulers also have a fleet footed deer of a receiver in Calvin Johnson, who is reputed to have once outrun a cheetah and outjumped Superman! In fact, one fella even remarked that Calvin Johnson was none other than renowned super hero, Dr. Manhattan! WOW!!! EXCLAMATION POINTS!
But even if somehow those noble and fierce Kings Of The Jungle are stopped by the Monsters of the Midway, the Lions Great Wall, led by beloved veteran Jeff Backus and fan favorite Dominic Raiola, should open holes for the spectacular crazy legged running of that wild hare, Maurice "Mercury" Morris. He will elegantly glide in and out of every hole faster than you can say Jack Robinson. And that's pretty darn quick! And, you didn't hear it from this fella here, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Kevin Smith make a miracle recovery and lope onto the field with the spirit of Barry Sanders in his heart and the support of those hundreds of fans in attendance spurring him on.
Indeed, the Lions Perfect Playmakers are on pace to exceed the wildest hopes and dreams of an entire fanbase! There will be times when it will seem like Bobby Layne, Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, Lomas Brown, and the cast of 300 are out there running and throwing and catching the ball. I know it will be tough, but try to remember that these are real Mortal Men! UNNECESSARY CAPITALIZATION!!!
Defensively, the Ford Field Fanatics will be treated to quite the show indeed, as the collection of playmakers general manager Martin Mayhew has assembled, building off of the fine, groundbreaking work of that trendsetter Matt Millen, will call to mind the ghosts of Lem Barney, Joe Schmidt and Chris Spielman. Their spirits will echo around the crowded confines of Ford Field, filling that wondrous hall with the power of a thousand angels! WOW!
But even if somehow the Mighty Men of the Midway keep pace with the Boys in Honolulu Blue, don't you worry your silly little heads, because the Lions have a secret weapon. Indeed, Jim Schwartz, that modern day Lombardi, that incarnation of Alexander the Great, that man who led the Jews out of bondage in Egypt, will call upon every bit of power inside of his vast soul, and then he'll reach down beyond that and call upon the magic of the greats that came before him, men like, uh, Wayne Fontes, and he'll dial up a Whiz Bang Golly Gee Willickers play that will KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF!!! Seriously, they will just fly right off!
It's a grand time to be a fan of the Detroit Lions. Yes, indeed! Their third win will be a magical moment, a moment that all Lions fans across the world, fans from Timbuktu to La Paz, can be proud of. It will be a moment that will live in the record books forever. Three Wins!!! Can you even imagine such a thing??? I'm getting chills just thinking about it!
But fear not, Lions fans, for even if the Lions somehow don't come away with that unprecedented third win, they will find themselves the envy of the league. That's right, THE WHOLE LEAGUE!!! And that's because the Lions will once again have the pick of the litter, the cream of the crop, the cliché of the cliché, in the upcoming NFL Draft, and that will mean they can draft Ndamukong Suh, that Man Mountain from the Plains of Nebraska, and if nothing else, that will give me a chance to work even harder on my spelling of Ndamukong. HOORAY!!!
Well, folks, this is the last game of the season, and it's been a blast! But don't you worry, because the Lions that live in our heart will go on even when the pigskin has stopped being snapped. I only wish that we could somehow extend the season another month. There's still so much more to do, so much magic to experience, so much talent to enjoy. I mean, after all, we will only get one more chance to enjoy the once in a lifetime show that is Drew Stanton, and after it's all over, we won't even get to see that First Ballot Hall of Famer, Daunte Culpepper anymore. And that's a shame. His talent and drive is even more remarkable when you consider that in the off-season, he is rumored to be a Boat Captain. I am not entirely clear on the details, but apparently it is a Love Boat of some sort, and isn't that fantastic? I will be sorry to see him go.
But let's just turn that frown upside down! That's the spirit! The 2009 season is drawing to a close, and with it, another magical Lions season is almost in the books. I have heard rumors that they sometimes play football all the way through January, but I don't believe them because if they did then surely the Lions would keep on playing every year. Silliness!!!
Well, alright, I have to go now, because the sedatives the orderlies shot me full of a while back are wearing off. I'll see you all in Narnia, where we'll frolic in the Gumball fields and pick Lollipops off of Candy Cane trees! Wheeeeeeeeeee!!!
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: BEARS 24, LIONS 7
Sunday, December 27, 2009
That game felt like it was 148 hours long. Look, I love football - as evidenced by the billion words I have written about it over the past two years - but GOOD LORD, right now it just feels like I am strapped to a chair week after week with my eyelids held open by sadists while I watch death images scream across the scene. I am becoming dehumanized by the ruthless misery of it all and by the third quarter, I was ready to lope out onto the street, knuckles dragging, while I screamed at the moon and Baby Jesus wept.
The end of this season feels so pointless without Matthew Stafford, without Kevin Smith, without Brandon Pettigrew, without hope, and without reason. It is like watching a terrible foreign film where the characters all eat shit for two hours and then the main character hangs himself from his shower head while his girlfriend sits on the toilet, shaves her head and just stares at the camera and mouths the word why over and over and over again before the movie abruptly ends and a sad clown plays the violin before shooting himself. Horrible, just awful.
The sad desperation with which the Lions have played large chunks of the last two weeks just somehow makes it that much more intolerable. It is a futile effort, utterly without reward, and yet the defense is playing its ass off, hoping against hope that whatever turd is taking the snaps will somehow be able to put up more than six points. It is heartbreaking to watch, mean and cruel, and I wish I could say I was getting some satisfaction from it all, that there was some small solace in watching the team try so damn hard, but right now, it just feels like I am watching the tiniest, wimpiest ant standing up against the hordes of hell after the rest of the world has been overrun. It's a noble effort, but it still doesn't change the fact that the poor son of a bitch is just going to get squashed and that no one will ever remember him for his brave and foolish stand.
This is what this Season of Hope has come to, wild ranting and strange morose gibberish, depressed wails and tired pain. We have wandered so long - so damn long - in the wilderness of despair, and yet here we are, stranded there once again, while the vultures circle over head, and all we can do is keep staggering along, hoping that the end will come swiftly and without pain. But it never does. Instead, we just keep trudging along, beaten and wrecked, while we wait for the world to end.
JESUS. This has gotten out of hand, and I apologize. It's just so hard to watch these games, these terrible games, knowing that no matter how hard my dudes fight, in the end it won't be nearly enough because they have been mortally wounded. They are outgunned even on the best of days. Now, they just stagger into every gun fight naked, with only their broken fists and their bloody feet to kick and punch with while the other dude hauls out a cannon.
Our guns are gone, left in the wreckage of terrible battles that have been mostly lost. We can reload but we have to reach the end of this terrible road first. Unfortunately, there are dudes waiting with spiked paddles lining the road the rest of the way, waiting to savagely beat us as we crawl home.
This is a depressed post, ugly and disturbing, wild and stupid, filled with a billion different confused analogies and dumbfounding imagery, but this is what these times, strange and terrible as they are, drive even the best of us to. I haven't even discussed Drew Stanton, and you know what? I'm not going to. At least not today. In a couple of days, maybe, sure, why not? But for right now, I will not savage Ol' Plucky. His people have suffered enough, and there are days when the only grace you can give yourself is to be merciful to the wicked and the foolish, for they have suffered mightily too, and perhaps in the ugly void between the cacophony of rage that has wrecked so many of us and the bitter silence of terrible death, we can find common ground in our pain. There is no rest for the weary in these terrible days, no solace for the tortured. We are all stupid and dazed, and sometimes we even devolve into delusional grandeur and stupid hyperbole, as evidenced by the entirety of this whole Godforsaken post, and I don't even have a point anymore. And maybe this is appropriate, because neither does my football world.
But hey, Jason Hanson made both of his field goal attempts. That's something, right?
This post has been sponsored by the National Ennui Council and has been ghostwritten appropriately enough by the ghost of Ian Curtis after listening to 100 straight hours of Morrissey.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
It's Christmas this week, which is why you're getting the game preview today instead of later in the week. It's also why I will probably get a bunch of dumb shit wrong because injury reports, who's going to play and not play, etc. are always sketchy in the middle of the week. But fuck all that, I'm not about to spend Christmas writing up a game preview for a 2-12 team. I may be insane, but I'm not that insane.
Anyway, I suppose I could do a Christmas themed post, but you and I are both above all of that nonsense and it would inevitably just lead to disturbing gibberish involving Santa Claus running naked through the streets anyway, so we will not go down that route. Unless, of course, I get bored and just head off in that direction anyway, which as you should all know by now is a distinct and terrifying possibility.
But enough nonsense, we have a game this weekend. And fortunately for us, Detroit's opponent, the 49ers, are not the same 49ers team that inspired mass hatred and outright disgust for oh so many years. Unfortunately, as you can all see thanks to my man, P.B., in his post right below this one, the 49ers are also a team on the way up. Sure, sure, there are some hopeful idiots - including me if I am being honest - who believe that the Lions are a team on the rise too, but the 49ers rise to mediocrity is a far cry from the Lions own immortal rise from Worst Team Ever to Merely A Horrible Team.
Indeed. It seems as if the 49ers are finally knocking on the door of respectability once again, although perhaps a better way of saying that is Mike Singletary is screaming at the door and whipping it with his pants, which he has ripped off in a fit of rage. Singletary's legendary intensity seems to be the defining story surrounding the 49ers these days, which is unfortunate because it obscures the fact the he is kind of shitty as an actual coach, and it also takes away from the fact that the 49ers have a solid core of young, talented players who are carrying this team on their backs.
For the first time in a while, the 49ers have some real, live playmakers on both sides of the ball. On offense, Frank Gore is only a breath away from yet another 1,000 yard campaign, and Vernon Davis has finally emerged as a go to target at tight end. Meanwhile, Michael Crabtree finally apparently realized that the last high profile wide receiver to sit out a whole season in between college and the NFL was named Mike Williams and he got his ass to practice, giving the 49ers a legitimate weapon at wide receiver. Unfortunately for the Niners, they are still looking for a legit NFL quarterback. Sure, sure, Alex Smith is having his best season as a pro, but that's like saying that Hitler had a better 1944 than 1945 or that Rod Marinelli had a better year in 2007 than in 2008. Yeah, it's technically true, but in the end, there were still many tears and there was much bloodshed. Millions of people died and when it was over, all that was left was for the world to remake itself under a banner of . . . okay, perhaps I have carried this thing a little far. The point is, is that although Smith hasn't been an outright disaster since taking over as starter part way through the season, he's still not that good of a quarterback, having amassed a ho hum passer rating of 78.5.
Defensively, the 49ers have an absolute stud in Patrick Willis. He might be the best linebacker in the NFL. Like the offense, there is still a ways to go before it is a championship caliber unit, but there are some pieces in place, led by Willis, and if they get continued improvement from Ahmad Brooks along with an improved pass rush, there could really be something worth getting excited about here.
Yes, it's not a bad time to be a 49ers fan, and thankfully . . . oh, wait, what? Oh, that's right. Shit. Apparently, I am a Lions fan and that's what I'm supposed to be writing about. Damn it all. I was getting all excited about the future of the 49ers too. And why not? I mean, it's certainly better than having to focus on the Lions thirteenth loss of the season on Sunday.
You want analysis? Okay, fine. The Lions defense will make a couple of big plays, but for the most part, they won't be good enough to stop the 49ers attack. Meanwhile, the Lions offense will score in between 0 and 7 points as Drew Stanton tries in a futile effort to prove that he can be a viable NFL quarterback.
Wait a minute. Drew Stanton? Indeed, voice inside my head. Ol' Plucky himself will apparently start for the Lions at quarterback this weekend, and while that is certainly better than the alternative who goes by the name of Daunte Culpepper, so is being hung by your balls from the ceiling like some form of disturbing mistletoe. Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle's monkey, that was a Christmas reference!
Anyway, that bit of grotesque dipshittery aside, it will be kinda painful to watch as Drew Stanton stumbles his way around the field, throwing terrible interceptions and leading the team to an inevitable loss, because it will shatter the dreams of his die hard fanbase, those who think the poor boy only needs to be given a chance in order to succeed. I know, I know, this is essentially every Lions fan other than me, and as usual when I start writing about Ol' Plucky, I can just see my boy Ty shaking his head in mild disapproval, but what can I say? I just don't want to see you get your hearts broken. I am a humanitarian and a gentleman after all.
This season is now in its final death throes, and the Lions are crawling on broken glass to a finish where they will be mercifully beheaded and then fed to the dogs. That is not a happy story, nor is it a story that really lends itself to much intrigue or excitement. Sure, it might be interesting in a macabre way to see how many little cuts they get from the broken glass, and it might be perversely funny to watch them scramble around at the end trying to avoid that terrible axe, but in the end, that axe is going to fall, that head is going to come off and then we can watch the body get torn to shreds by wild dogs and hope that next year's journey has a happier end.
By the way, I think that's like the third or fourth post in a row in which I have gone on about someone getting beheaded. I swear, this is not intentional, and I'm not sure what the deal is. I think it might have something to do with me watching the second season of The Tudors on DVD, which featured practically half the cast getting their heads cut off. The best was when Anne Boleyn's jackass brother got it and he was trying to talk to the crowd like Sir Thomas More did. For Sir Thomas, the people were all quiet and respectful but they just screamed obscenities at poor ol' George Boleyn. Although nothing was as heart rending as King Henry VIII's reaction when his old mentor, Sir Thomas, got the axe. Heartbreaking shit, no doubt, heavy and pregnant with terrible emotion. You could feel Henry's . . . sigh. Okay, fine, the Lions.
The Lions will likely lose to the 49ers on Sunday. Without Matthew Stafford in there, it feels like the season is almost pointless, like each game is just another dumb exhibition, a showcase for the coaches to evaluate who gets to stick around next year and who will get stuffed in a trunk with Daunte Culpepper and dumped out of a plane into the Indian Ocean when the season is done. That is what will happen, right?
Oh well, these are the days that no fan wants to have to have to experience, but we are Lions fans, and this is the way it must be. Resignation is the only emotion any of us have left that won't leave us withered and beaten, reaching for a cocktail of Xanax and Motor Oil. There is football still to be played, but really it is just an echo of reality, the foul whispers of ghosts whose earthly bodies have already been decapitated and left at the gates of hell. Okay, I am getting ridiculous and melodramatic now, and so I'll just leave you with the immortal words of the sages Bill S. Preston Esq., and Ted Theodore Logan: Be excellent to each other. And in the thunderous words of Abraham Lincoln: Party on, dudes.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE BECAUSE I DON'T FEEL LIKE DOING FIVE PREDICTIONS THIS WEEK BECAUSE IT WOULD ONLY RESULT IN ABSURD RAMBLINGS ABOUT MONKEES AND PROBABLY CHEETAHS AND GIRAFFES SINCE THE IDEA OF FOCUSING SOLELY ON THE LIONS AND THE NON-ACHIEVEMENTS OF THEIR PLAYERS IS ENTIRELY TOO FRIGHTENING: 49ERS 24, LIONS 16
Monday, December 21, 2009
It's hard to know how to feel after a game like the one against the Cardinals on Sunday. On the one hand, it sucked, obviously, to lose, and the first half felt like the Bataan Death March combined with every one of the Saw movies and an episode of The Benny Hill Show. It was a miserable experience that warped and deformed all who were forced to witness it, and in the end all any of us could do was laugh and run around, chasing scantily clad women in fast motion and rubbing the head of old bald British dudes. Okay, so maybe it wasn't exactly like The Benny Hill Show, but what the hell, there were tears and there was laughter so close enough.
On the other hand, the second half was exactly the sort of thing that all of us needed to see. After an extended excursion into the terrible jungles of failure, the second half finally saw us emerge, led by none other than the Lizard King, Cinnabon, Lord of the Apes, Ernie Sims along with his cohort, the Prince of (insert goofy nickname here), Louis Delmas. It was awesome to see those dudes, along with the rest of the defense, decide fuck this horseshit, and then proceed to wreck the Cardinals throughout the third quarter. The fans loved it - oh man, did they love it - and the team looked completely different. They looked confident and focused and desperate to win. Perhaps Gunther Cunningham powerbombed a midget at halftime or Jim Schwartz threatened to kill a box full of puppies, I don't know, but whatever they did worked, because those dudes looked liked dudes that I could be proud of.
Unfortunately, you still need a quarterback to win, and, well . . . yeah, about that. Daunte Culpepper has finally been mercifully executed - let's hope so anyway - and it wasn't like one of those executions where everyone kinda feels bad for the dude up there getting his head chopped off and all the villagers are praying for his soul and screaming mercy or anything like that. No, this was one of those executions where the villagers were all spitting on the poor fool, screaming obscenities and then cheering wildly when his head was lopped off and then tossed into the crowd to be used as a soccer ball by the village children.
Everyone was happy to see Daunte benched. At least, I hope so. I mean, there could probably still be some idiot hold out screaming that we need to give Culpepper a better chance, to remember 2004 like it was the fucking Alamo and other assorted dumb bullshit. It's possible someone like this exists in a world where there are a growing number of people who think we should trade Calvin Johnson so we can move up one spot in the draft. But that is another maddening and ridiculous topic for another day. All I will say for now is that people are humongous idiots, and so I'm sure there were a few people bemoaning the fate of the poor misunderstood Sex Boat Captain.
But the sad reality is that Culpepper's replacement, Ol' Plucky, Drew Stanton, well, uh . . . well, he sucks. His arm is astoundingly weak - whenever he has to throw to a receiver on an out route, it is almost painful to watch. Every one looks like a potential pick six. That would be tolerable - mildly anyway - if he proved to be a good game manager, but he isn't that either. Instead, he thinks he's a play maker, and that results in retarded throws that are intercepted and scrambles that go nowhere and pain, terrible pain. Look, I know that most Lions fans love Ol' Plucky, and while he may be a fantastic grit merchant, he's not much of a quarterback. The comeback in the second half was all defense and field position, along with one gigantic run by Maurice Morris, who dare I say it, was kinda sorta awesome.
Indeed, Morris was the offense for the Lions on Sunday, and for a large chunk of the second half I just kept thinking we could win this game if we only had a quarterback. Sadly, we did not. The good news is that we do have one, ready and waiting. The bad news is that he is currently living in a plastic bubble, guarded by ninja monks with bazookas and pit bulls with venomous snakes for teeth. He's sealed up and we likely won't be seeing him until next season, which means that we have to sit here and watch either the Sex Boat Captain or Ol' Plucky try to win games for us, which, uh . . . I hope you were watching on Sunday. Thankfully, none of that should matter next year. It just means we have to get through the next two games without engaging in mass suicide.
I am so happy with the way that the team performed in the second half. I don't get a chance to say that often, but when I do get that chance, I will say it. I am not all mass hangings and drain cleaner chugging, after all. There are those that may be too dull to realize this, and may get caught up in the ridiculous imagery of it all but what the hell, the world is full of idiots and all the rest of us can do is stand above them with torches and keep them at bay for as long as we can. That is, after all, the heart of what being a Lions fan is all about - just trying to stand above the fray and keeping the failure of it all from overwhelming you. Sometimes it is ugly and sometimes it is mean and sometimes it is utterly ridiculous, but it's also real.
I love the Lions. I love watching them, I love reading about them, and I love writing about them. That may be completely mystifying to some people, but who gives a shit? You are missing out on the point of it all, which is that when my team does win, it means something to me in a way that you can't quite understand, because while you may show up for a game and cheer when the team is winning, and then disappear for the rest of the week, I show up when the team is losing, and I don't stop caring when the clock hits zero. I show up when all you can do is hope and pray that it might get better one day. I have been to hell. It sucks. But I also know that the only way I will ever appreciate heaven is to know what hell feels like. Perhaps that is too faux-philosophical, and really, it's kind of clichéd, and I generally hate clichés, and I am really, really considering deleting all of this gibberish as it feels entirely too corny and ridiculous, but what the hell, let's dive all the way to the bottom of this rancid pool. There are some people who will never understand why we follow the Lions, why we care the way we do, but you know what? Fuck them. We are champions in our hearts and the world will know us before it is all said and done. That is good enough for me.
Anyway, this post has kind of had a more stream of consciousness feel to it than I expected - or than I normally like. It kinda feels all over the place, but I suppose that is appropriate in this strange, schizophrenic season, and it feels especially appropriate in the wake of what was an incredibly schizophrenic game. It was a game filled with the highest highs and the lowest lows. It was a beautiful game and it was also incredibly ugly. It made me wonder why I was a fan of any of this bullshit and it reminded me of why I somehow love it all. It was the failure of the past and it was the promise of the future. It was the Detroit Lions, and in the end it was 2-12, but for now anyway, it doesn't feel quite so terrible.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The season is almost over, and once again we find ourselves trying to climb out from underneath the apocalyptic wreckage of yet another miserable season. It wasn't supposed to be like this. Sure, we knew the record would be bad, but we also thought that by the time the year wrapped up we would be filled with hope for next season. Instead, everyone is hurt or dead and we are all lying naked at the bottom of a vast chasm, weeping and howling at a moon that we can't even see because it's covered by smoke rising up from our burned out dreams. It's a terrible thing, just awful, and it is stunning how bad it has become.
It sucks to have to put our dreams of, well, adequacy on hold for yet another season because the failure demon has risen like a fucking Colossus out of the earth and started dragging player after player back down to hell with him. Our star quarterback, the future of the franchise, has had his knee annihilated and his shoulder ripped out and eaten by the failure demon so far this season, and it has reached a point where most fans are crying out for mercy for poor Matthew like they were spectators at a medieval execution. QUIT TORTURING THE POOR MAN AND JUST CUT HIS HEAD OFF ALREADY.
But The Passion of the Stafford is not the only horrific show in town. No, instead, we've had to watch as our superstar wide receiver and only playmaker has had seemingly every bone and joint and muscle in his body torn apart like that dude in Hellraiser. Poor St. Calvin might actually be up for sainthood when this is all over. After all, the very first saints were martyrs.
But at least we have a strong running game to take the pressure off of . . . oh shit, really? Indeed. Kevin Smith's knee saw what was going on and sat in the garage with the car running rather than put up with the freak show bullshit that is the Detroit Lions. So, yeah, he's gone, maybe for good.
And then there's Brandon Pettigrew, who's on his way into surgery any minute now to repair his torn ACL and there's Louis Delmas who has been banged up this season and . . . AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
Sorry. I, uh, well, it's been a long season. Anyway, everyone is hurt, the team sucks right now, and the biggest news all week long has been the coaches threatening to execute everyone on the team for gross incompetence. This wasn't supposed to be the way this season unfolded. And yet, here we are. Again.
Hang on a minute. I'm going to go listen to Morrissey for a while and then jump off of the pier into Lake Michigan. By the way, it's December, so I'll just thrash about for a while before I slowly freeze to death and then drown.
I mean, GOOD LORD. Has it really come to this? Before the season started, I was excited to see the development of our young skill players. They could be our Aikman, Irvin and Smith. Hyperbolic? Certainly, but that was the kind of excitement I allowed myself to believe deep down. Instead, I got to watch our quarterback struggle through the season like he was the first dude off the boat on D-Day, our playmaking wide receiver get drawn and quartered for his faith, and our running back's knee explode and leave him laying like a piece of road kill. I am tempted to just type the word WHY over and over and over again and then rummage for my finest hanging neck tie. By the way, I think that's at least the third different suicide reference I have made in this post. Lions Fever! Catch it!
The 48-3 loss to the Ravens was the Lions worst loss since 1991. Yes, given everything that has happened in the past decade of terrible pain, and given everything that went on last year, last week's game was still the worst game the Lions have had in 18 years.
I'm just going to let that stand on its own for a while. I want you to stop and just think about that for a minute. Just think about what that means.
Okay, if you are still here after thinking that one over, congratulations, you have an iron will and/or are a masochist. Everyone else is probably running naked and afraid through the streets right about now, tearing at their flesh and scaring the holy hell out of old people and small animals.
Oh Lord, why? How has it come to this? I feel like I am just going around in circles now, trapped on an endless circuit of misery that always begins and ends the same way, with me asking that awful question. Maybe there is no answer, and maybe this is just the way of things and maybe our perpetual misery somehow balances the universe and oh my God, the gibberish I am spewing is just absurd now. I have been broken, beaten and whipped by this horror show. I suppose the only thing I can do is try to force myself to keep looking forward.
Alright, that's what I'll do. Okay. Here we go. So, what's next? The Cardinals are coming to town? You mean the team that went to the Super Bowl last season, has a Hall of Fame Quarterback and three different receivers who went over 1,000 yards last season? Insert random suicide reference number 11,368 here.
I mean, come on. Things are already bad enough. Now I have to watch my team's league worst pass defense get absolutely shredded by the dude who is Mike Martz's own personal Viagra. This is horrible. I don't care what happened on Monday against the 49ers, Kurt Warner is going to beat our defense down like they are a gang of Satanists trying to steal his family Bible. Good God. This is going to be brutal and ugly and mean, and . . . I need a moment here.
Okay, I'm back. I will try to rationally get through the rest of this, but I wouldn't get my hopes up. I suppose I could look at the bright side, which is that Larry Fitzgerald is questionable and might not play following his knee injury against the 49ers, but one Cardinals receiver out, even one as good as Fitzgerald, doesn't exactly tip the scales in our favor, especially when we have added 10 different defensive backs to the roster since September. At this point, the Lions are basically pulling in dudes off the street. It is now like that stupid show Pros vs. Joes or whatever the hell that thing on Spike TV was called that featured pro athletes whipping the shit out of delusional fans.
Thankfully the Cardinals are a one dimensional team, and . . . oh wait, you mean they're not anymore? Well, that's just super. Indeed. The Cardinals have become a team capable of mixing in a power run game with their prolific aerial attack, meaning that even if by some gigantic miracle the Lions stop the Cardinals passing game(maybe St. Calvin will be able to teleport around the field and grow wings and play all four defensive backs, thus fulfilling the miracle requirement for sainthood. If this happens, we need to petition the Vatican.), the Cardinals should still be able to run the ball down the middle of the field, especially on a team like the Lions who appear to have had their spirits broken and then had those broken spirits stolen by the failure demon and dragged down to hell.
So, yeah, the Lions defense is going to be massacred here. They should just dress up Larry Foote like General Custer at this point and let nature take its course. But things aren't all bad. I mean, the Lions have a bona fide Pro Bowl quarterback in Daunte Culpepper, who . . . (is there a way to type the sound of a life support machine flat lining?)
Yes, Daunte the Terrible is back at quarterback with Matthew Stafford being kept in an oxygen tank or plastic bubble or confined to a monastery where he is protected by martial artist monks for the rest of the season. And, well, Daunte is a shitty quarterback. End of analysis.
Meanwhile, St. Calvin is still banged up and although he might make a go of it against the Cardinals, at this point they might as well just strap a cross to his back while he runs down the field. I guess they could just feed the ball to Maurice Morris all day, but really, what's the point? He'll just be beaten and then eaten by Darnell Dockett anyway. I guess Aaron Brown could make something happen, but now I am just randomly throwing shit out there. The sad reality is that the offense will be lucky to even crack double digits. Seeing as how they are going against an offense that could probably score 50 if they felt like it, this is kind of a problem.
Look, the rest of the season is just going to feel like one extended execution. It will be horrible and utterly without merit or reason. It will just be play after play of watching our guys strung up and screaming for mercy while their opponents whip them with chains made out of poisonous snakes and hatred. It will be a terrible thing to watch and we will all be forever scarred as fans by the experience.
1. Culpepper throws for 26 yards on 5 of 38 passing. He fumbles on the first play of the game, shits his pants and then somehow manages to throw an interception even while sitting on the bench. Drew Stanton is still deemed by the coaches to be worse than this.
2. Calvin Johnson tries to play, but ends up getting torn in half by Adrian Wilson on a crossing route. The top half of his body crawls to the sidelines while his legs kick about uselessly on the field. No one will want to admit it, but the sight will be kind of funny.
3. Maurice Morris will have his legs eaten before the game by an escaped lion from the zoo. He will be depressed until he is reminded that this means that he gets to sit out the rest of the season. He and the lion will have a touching reunion on Oprah where Morris will publicly forgive the lion. The lion will respond by eating the audience.
4. Kurt Warner will throw for 1,010 yards and 18 touchdowns. After the game he will lead a public exorcism of Ford Field but will flee when he realizes that he is actually in hell.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: CARDINALS 117, LIONS 3
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
CONGRATULATIONS, YOU FINALLY DID IT
I mentioned this in the plaintive cry for help that was my post following the game, but it bears repeating: I turned off the TV in the third quarter and didn't come back to the game. I do not regret this decision, and I am actually thankful that my intuition apparently conspired with my ass to save my sanity and quite possibly my life. I am eternally grateful.
I have a feeling that I wasn't alone in this decision. Hell, my man Ty even fell asleep. We are fans who have been through the worst of the worst. We survived 0-16. I watched every one of those infernal games. I'm not entirely sure why this particular game was the straw that murdered that poor camel, but it happened. It finally happened. In a season that was supposed to be all about hope and moving forward, we were more turned off than we were in the season of unnumbered tears. That can't be said enough. Somehow, watching my team lose every game a year ago was more compelling, more worth watching than whatever the hell that abomination was against Baltimore. Well done.
AND THE REASON?
Hello, Daunte Culpepper. Does anyone think this turd is still capable of being an effective starting quarterback in the NFL? I mean, come on dude. Now is the time to step away and go back to playing Mr. Mom full time. No one wants to see you fuck around the football field anymore. Take your tiny hands and what's left of your dignity and spend the rest of the season desperately trying to woo Doc Brown so he'll let you borrow the DeLorean so you can go back to 2004 and warn your past self to protect your knee and stay off the sex boat. Also, perhaps you can go further back than that and convince the 8 year old version of yourself that the football is possessed by the devil. Really drive the point home. Wear horns and a devil's tail. I don't know. Just find a way to never wear a Lions uniform and we'll be good.
It is a testament to how awful Culpepper has become that his mere presence can make a game feel so utterly worthless. He is not only a lousy quarterback at this point in his career, but a symbol of the failure of the past, a living, breathing reminder of everything that we as Lions fans have had to go through to get to this point. He is the past decade of miserable pain and failure wrapped up in one oversized ball of suck. No one wants to even watch the games when he's playing. It's too painful, too terrible, like being dropped back onto a battlefield where you saw all your closest friends get their intestines ripped out and their hearts eaten. Even though the battle is over, you can still hear the screams, hear the mad cacophony of war all around you and feel the panic, the terrible agony of it all, and it makes you shiver and shake like a junky before you vomit and pass out. The past is too terrible to relive and every time Daunte Culpepper trots onto the field, there we are. Again. And it never gets better, never gets easier. Instead, somehow, it gets harder. We have eaten a lot of shit as Lions fans, and we are tough, almost impossibly so, but there is only so much that even we can take. And I think that, incredibly, Daunte Culpepper's 260 pound symbol of doom is the thing that tips the scales and makes it all just too intolerable, too terrible to even watch.
It is so bad that at this point, I would sigh a happy, relieved sigh and smile dreamily if Ol' Plucky, Drew Stanton, came trotting onto the field, and if you have been reading my little corner of this blog for a while now, well, first of all I apologize, both to you and your therapist, and second of all, you are well aware of the irrational disdain I have for Ol' Plucky. So, the simple fact that I would eagerly welcome Stanton with open arms rather than watch Culpepper shit the bed again says a lot here.
SAD. SO SAD.
Last week, I posted what felt like a eulogy for Jason Hanson, and in it I said that it sucked that we couldn't feel confident any more when he jogged onto the field to put one through the uprights. But deep down, I hoped that I was wrong, and that Hanson would continue to be a kicking Terminator for years to come.
But when he came onto the field early in the game against the Ravens to kick a field goal, I knew that I was right. And I knew it because for the first time in his career, I didn't feel confident that he would make the kick. It wasn't that tough of a kick either. That's how fast these things happen. Last season was maybe Hanson's best of his career. And now, this season, that confidence that I always felt when he would come into the game is already gone, swept away in the tide of shit water that has carried away every other thing that I have ever had to be proud of as a Lions fan. Sure enough, Hanson missed the kick, and when he did, I was dismayed to realize that I wasn't surprised at all. For the first time in Hanson's career, I wasn't surprised that he missed a field goal, and that was somehow even worse than the lack of confidence I felt earlier.
This sucks. A part of me - a large part - wanted Hanson to finish things on his own terms, at the top of his game. I wanted him to be able to be the one Lion who went out right, the one Lion who made it all the way through without being dragged down into the whirlpool of ugly death that has grabbed everyone else who has put on that uniform. He was our one chance at a happy ending, and now that feels like it is all gone.
You are probably laughing right now because it is only the kicker, and who gives a shit about the kicker? But the thing is, is that this is the sort of thing that matters to Lions fans, the sort of thing that we must grab a hold of so we don't get carried off into the abyss of failure and misery that takes everything else in the Lions universe. It is a small thing, stupid and kind of pointless, but it's all we have, and it sucks to not be able to hold onto it any more.
AND NOW FOR THE PUNCHLINE
It's not enough that we had to lose. Noooooooo. That would be far too easy. Instead, it was apparently important that we regain our faith in Kevin Smith only to see him be destroyed. Before the season began, I made some ridiculous predictions about Smith. I expected him to vault into the upper echelon of NFL running backs. I did this because I am a hopeful idiot. Of course, Smith proceeded to struggle throughout the entire season, enough that I reached the point where in my mind - and at times on this blog - I was beginning to write him off as the answer to our chronic failure at running back. But then a funny thing happened. Smith ran the ball well against the Bengals and their tough run defense and then he looked pretty damn awesome in the first half against Baltimore and their top ranked run defense. Suddenly, hope was back. We could believe again.
Yeah, about that.
I didn't see the play. Like I said, I was off racing giraffes and huffing paint thinner or whatever the hell I gibbered on about in my last post, but apparently Smith's knee decided it'd had enough and committed suicide right there on the field. Hey, why not? I mean, I suppose it's funny to let a poor fool scramble back to his knees before kicking him down again. If you're a sociopath, anyway.
And just like that, our hope that Kevin Smith was indeed the answer was wiped away. Goodbye hope, goodbye ACL, it was fun. Sort of. Okay, not really, but what the hell, a Smith in the hand is better than two in the bush or . . . I don't even think that makes sense and I apologize. Even though Smith had struggled for large chunks of this season, he was still an important piece of the puzzle, and he provided an answer - even if it was a feeble one - to one of a billion questions. There is so much to do here, so much that needs to be fixed, that we really can't afford to have to start adding things to the list. Unfortunately, it looks like that's where we are right now when it comes to the running game. Smith is gone for the year and there's a good chance he's fucked for next season too. A torn ACL is a killer for a running back, especially for a running back without great top end speed. A torn ACL screws your lateral agility, the ability to bounce and cut and all those good things that are crucial to every running back, and an absolute necessity for those running backs who, like Smith, don't have that top gear. I wouldn't be surprised if we just saw the end of Kevin Smith as a feature back in the NFL.
Okay, Jesus, this post has been depressing as hell. Even for the Lions. I mean, I don't even know what else to say, and so I won't say anything at all. I will just wish you all a good day, Vaya con dios and all that jazz, and I will go sit in the corner for a while and weep silently.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
A quick confession: I turned the game off with the Ravens up 27-3 in the third quarter. I don't apologize for this. After all, I am an important man and I have better things to do with my time, like huffing paint thinner and racing giraffes in the park. And before any of you get all up in arms, no I don't ride the giraffes or make them compete cruelly against one another. Instead, I do exactly what I said. I race them, one on one, me against them, as a test of my primal athleticism. Afterwards, we discuss poetry and ancient philosophy. I don't always win, but really, it's the attempt that's important, just getting out there and doing it, you know, and . . .
This is what the Lions have driven me to. I have been responsible for some baffling gibberish over the past couple of seasons, but that is a whole new level of stupid and strange, and, well, I would rather write about racing giraffes than the Lions. It has come to that. It's far more interesting and fulfilling at this point. But, since turning away from the stark reality of the rancid terrible truth that is the apocalyptic game that just went down between the Lions and the Ravens does no one any good, I will brave this shit storm and try, somehow, to talk about what just went down.
Okay. Hi. We've been through a lot over the past couple of seasons. Hell, we've been through a lot over the past decade. But, in the course of writing inane gibberish for this blog, this was the first time that I said fuck it and turned off a game so early. Sure, there have been times when I wandered away late in the fourth quarter, with the game out of reach, but it was always still on in the background, and even if I was just doing a crossword puzzle(why yes, I am a little old lady) or peeling carrots(not a masturbation euphemism . . . or is it?) or doodling obscene sketches involving Batman and Alfred(everyone expects it to be Robin, but the real lusty heart of the Batman saga is between Batman and Alfred. And, no, I don't give a fuck about comics, this was just a joke so please nerds, do not get all fidgety about this.) or drinking turpentine and wrestling she-wolves, I was always at least semi-aware of what was happening.
But not this time. No. I'm not sure what did it, but I just decided to let it all go and accept that the Lions were going to lose and lose terribly and I had no desire to see any of it. I figured that the Ravens would shut it down, that the Lions might get a garbage score or two and the game would end up looking a little closer than it was, and I was okay with that. I have seen that story played out far too many times to get worked up about it one way or the other. So, I went about my life for a couple of hours, and then decided to check back on the score. I saw the numbers 48-3 and then just laughed, because really, what the hell else are you supposed to do at that point?
I then decided to delve deeper into the box score, because I am a masochist and a great fool, and discovered that the Ravens rolled up over 500 yards of total offense and that Daunte Culpepper was, well, Daunte Culpepper. I thought back to the announcers talking about how the Lions defense had stepped up a bit over the last few weeks and about how Culpepper knew that he was still capable of being a starting quarterback in the NFL and then I laughed again. I then doused myself in gasoline, lit a match and ran naked and screaming through the streets until a kindly old man beat me half to death with a pillow case full of old batteries in order to put out the fire. I thanked him, went inside, put some Neosporin on, and then read a couple of game recaps, saw that Kevin Smith apparently torched his knee in the fourth quarter and then I went back outside, punched that old man in the face for not allowing me sweet relief and then laid in the snow and cried for a while.
There are days when it feels like there is a point to all this nonsense - well, as much as a point that mere sports can have anyway - and then there are days like today, when it all just seems like an absurd joke, one that ends with a gigantic fart of an explanation point that clears the room and sends old people to the emergency room with watery eyes and lungs full of brown death. Okay, that was kind of disturbing, but so is losing 48-3. I would like to think that my brain somehow knew the horrors that lay ahead and forced me to abandon ship before it was swallowed up and eaten by The Kraken, and for that, I thank it. These are treacherous times, and sometimes you need to take the shameful road of cowardice in order to preserve what's left of your sanity. This is nothing to be celebrated, but then, neither is what happened against the Ravens today. Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves. Kevin Smith's knee knew it, and it committed suicide rather than live through the horrible conclusion to this epic turd. These are dark days, terrible and obscene, and although we may live to see better days, days like this will haunt the living forever, and perhaps this is the way it should be.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
I've hit the point where I just want the season to be over with and for next season to get here already. Really, this is kind of how I have felt all season long. I knew that the Lions would still be terrible, but at least I would get to see the progress. I took some solace in that, and I suppose I have been grasping onto that, week after week, game after game, telling myself and you that the games were worthwhile, that even though the Lions would probably lose, at least it would mean that we were one step closer to finally being better. On some level, this has probably been a massive defense mechanism, one that has allowed me to keep going on with this nonsense. You have to trick yourself into this kind of shit sometimes when your team is this bad. It's okay though, Lions fans are experts at this sort of thing. On another level, I really, really believe that each game has been important, that with every one, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson and DeAndre Levy and Jim Schwartz and Ernie Sims' monkey have been able to learn and grow and get ready to actually be a competent football team.
It has been terribly frustrating though to watch them stumble and fall, one by one, never healthy, never able to go out there and have the chance to really put it all together. There have been flashes - isolated plays here and there, the Cleveland game - but thanks to all the injuries, specifically to Stafford and St. Calvin, these guys haven't gotten a real chance to get together on the same page for very long. It has stunted the development of both Stafford and the team as a whole, and has made this entire season seem like somewhat of a lost one. Not entirely, but kind of, if that makes any sense at all. It probably doesn't, but fuck it, since when has sense been my specialty?
Anyway, lost season or not, each week has at least been interesting, if only because we have gotten a chance to see how this team is growing, no matter how slowly or fitfully. Unfortunately, this week, there will be even less growth than usual, and even less of a reason to be interested at all in what happens. The Lions are terrible, their final record will be terrible, and even if they somehow manage to eke out a win against the Ravens on Sunday, it will just be an isolated blip that is essentially meaningless. And why is that? Because Matthew Stafford's dickhead of a shoulder refuses to behave himself, meaning that, yes, it's time once again for Daunte Culpepper to step forward and drive us all to tears and razor blades.
Of course, the reason we know now, rather than Sunday, that Culpepper will get the start is because Jim Schwartz made sure that the decision was made and known by all sooner rather than later despite the fact that he would have liked to have waited until Sunday to make the official call. And why is this? Because Daunte Culpepper carried on like a damn fool on Thanksgiving.
Yes, you all remember that fine scene, one that will surely be remembered fondly as one of the more glorious moments in our proud franchises' history, a moment that saw Daunte Culpepper stomp around the sidelines, hollering at Martin Mayhew because Matthew Stafford got the start that he apparently felt he so richly deserved based on the sterling body of work he had done up until that point in a Lions uniform.
Rather than go through that again, the Lions have apparently decided to forego whatever tactical advantage they could have gained by waiting until the last moment to decide. This allows the Ravens to come up with a game plan specifically tailored to stop Culpepper. And since all you have to do to stop Culpepper is blitz the hell out of him, well . . . I think we can all see where this is heading. So, thank you, Daunte. Your inspiring professionalism has been an inspiration and a blessing in this wonderful joyous season.
Indeed. If the Ravens have anyone with even a half functioning brainstem, they will immediately flash back to the end of the Steelers game, where Culpepper was sacked three times in a row on the final drive, thus destroying any chance the Lions had to win the game, and to the entire Packers game, where Culpepper was harassed and beaten into the turf in a woeful performance. And then their eyes will get really, really big, and they will send blitzers in all day long like a swarm of rabid methed up werewolves. It, uh, it won't be pretty.
One tiny reason for hope is that Ed Reed is unlikely to start for the Ravens, and since his replacement, Tom Zbikowski, is most famous for being a boxing David Eckstein grit merchant at Notre Dame and not for being a, you know, good football player, there is a chance that the Lions and Culpepper will be able to take advantage of this. Unfortunately, the Ravens are probably getting Terrell Suggs back from injury and so it will be difficult for Culpepper to take advantage of Zbikowski since he will likely be getting crushed by the Ravens pass rush all day long.
I guess that leaves most of our hope for victory - absurdly slim as it may be - in the hands of Kevin Smith and the Lions running game. Smith was actually pretty decent against the Bengals, running for 75 yards and averaging over 4 yards per carry against one of the better rush defenses in the league. Unfortunately, he has looked kinda shitty for most of this season, and this week he gets to play against a team that only gives up 3.5 yards per carry, the best in the NFL. Well, so much for that.
With the offense unlikely to generate anything worth getting excited about - or hell, even marginally hopeful about - I suppose it falls on the Lions defense to take control of the game. Excuse me while I chug from this gas can and then swallow this flaming sword.
Yeah. The Lions defense has been terrible this season. Even against the Browns, who at one point this season were dubbed by some the worst offensive team in NFL history, the Lions defense was beaten, left for dead, and then pissed on and eaten by wild wolves. It was a sorry performance, one that completely exposed the depth of the Lions utter incompetence defending the pass. Up until that point, the Browns passing game was a national joke. Had Matthew Stafford not decided to channel the Terminator, everyone would have been comparing Brady Quinn after the game to Joe Montana. It was awful, it really was.
Of course, last week, against the Bengals, the Lions managed to keep Carson Palmer mostly in check, and even forced a couple of interceptions and a fumble following a cornerback blitz. It was probably the pass defense's best performance of the season. Then again, that is kind of like being the world's tallest midget, or, I suppose, the world's happiest Lions fan. Besides, Cincinnati's relatively quiet performance through the air is likely more a function of how conservatively they chose to play rather than anything the Lions really did to stop them.
On the other hand, the Lions did do a good job of disguising their coverage and baiting Carson Palmer into making some bad throws. Perhaps this is a sign of progress, or perhaps this was just a weird anomaly more emblematic of Palmer and the Bengals struggles than anything else. I don't know. The good news is that the Ravens quarterback, Joe Flacco, has been struggling the last several weeks. He was pretty fucking bad against the Packers on Monday night, and if the Lions can bait him - a second year quarterback - as well as they did a veteran like Palmer, maybe, just maybe, they can make something happen.
This is unlikely to happen, though. I mean, the Bengals game right now is just an outlier that really can't be used to definitively say that the Lions can shut down Baltimore's - or anyone else's - passing attack. In general, the Lions have been terrible against the pass and if there is a cure for what ails a young and struggling quarterback, it is looking across the field at the collection of stiffs in Honolulu Blue who make up the Lions secondary.
Even if the Lions somehow manage to stop Flacco cold - and really, if they have any hope at all in this game, they will need to do this - they will still have Ray Rice to deal with. Rice has emerged as a big time playmaker for the Ravens, giving them an actual offensive weapon to go along with their perennially tough defense. The Lions have actually been relatively competent against the run this year - well, relative to the pass defense anyway, but that invites all the tallest midget jokes, etc. and so we won't devolve into that nonsense again, although I suppose I just did. Never mind. Anyway, the Lions have shown an ability to keep an opposing running back in check - an actual, tangible sign of progress this season - and if they can somehow stuff Rice and somehow force Flacco into making a few bad throws, maybe, just maybe, they can give the Lions offense a chance to get into the game.
Of course, then we are brought back around to Daunte Culpepper and his track record of excellence in the last five years, and, well . . . Jesus, I just can't do it. It would take a miracle for the Lions to completely stop the Ravens offense. The defense just isn't good enough, and really, they have to stop them cold. They can't even contain them like they did against the Bengals, because just like against the Bengals, they will end up losing 23-13 or 17-7 instead of 35-13 or 27-7. Right now, the offense is too sloppy and too inconsistent to be able to provide the defense with any margin for error. Take away Stafford and add in Culpepper, and suddenly that margin for error is not even a margin any more. The margin has shrunk and begun creeping up the other side, to the point where not only can the Lions defense not make any mistakes, but they must also make things happen. Basically, the Lions are fucked. Neither the offense nor the defense are any good.
Okay, so there it is. The Lions are screwed, the Ravens will almost definitely win this game, and huzzah for December football. There is a month of football left to be played, and after that we can start talking ourselves into being hopeful for 2010. But for now, all we can do is . . . is . . . you know what? I've got nothing. Fuck it.
FIVE PREDICTIONS EVEN THOUGH I NEVER FOLLOW UP ON THESE ANYMORE
1. Culpepper will struggle against the Ravens pass rush, and will end up throwing for only 150 yards or so and three interceptions. He'll throw one touchdown, a jump ball that Calvin Johnson somehow comes down with and then he will do that stupid dance of his and I will try to swallow my remote in order to choke away all the pain.
2. Kevin Smith will be bottled up. He'll see a lot of work thanks to Culpepper's struggles, but he'll only gain 65 yards on 25 carries.
3. Calvin Johnson will catch 5 passes for 110 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. His hamstrings will then explode as he runs to the sideline and he will be partially eaten by a cheetah, leaving him doubtful for next week. He will only survive due to Zach Follett breaking free of his choke chain and mauling the cheetah. The two will engage in a thrilling duel at midfield but the Cheetah will tire and Follett will skin the poor beast alive and wear his pelt for the remainder of the season. Why there will be a cheetah just hanging out on the sidelines in Baltimore is a mystery, but remember, there are chimps driving cars down in Florida, so who knows? It is a strange world.
4. Flacco will get back on track, completing 25 of 37 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns. He will also throw one interception.
5. Rice rushes for 80 yards on 15 carries and adds another 80 yards on 6 catches. He scores two touchdowns, and then after the game he returns to his day job, playing one of the munchkins in the Baltimore Community Center's revival of the Wizard of Oz. After all, he can't play forever, and a man must think of his future. Hopefully he doesn't hang himself like that one poor son of a bitch munchkin apparently did on the original Wizard of Oz set. I know you have no idea what I am even talking about anymore, but that's okay, neither do I. We are in this together.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Ravens 31, Lions 10
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
For the last couple of seasons I have been waiting for Jason Hanson to break down and for his leg to turn into dust, but he just never seems to deteriorate. Season after season, he trots onto the field like some sort of kicking Terminator, rarely missing, always reliable. It feels like he's been the kicker for 118 years and I half expect to see Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod show up with a katana and attack Hanson week after week. There can be only one after all.
Okay, that is two kinda nerdy movie references in one paragraph. Whatever, Terminator, Highlander, who cares, the point, dudes and lady dudes, is that Jason Hanson is old. And somehow, someway, he has managed to ward off the ravages of time and keep kicking well into his golden years. You would think that a man who won the Medal of Freedom after Antietam would be content to live out the rest of his days in peace and harmony. But, no, not Jason. That son of a bitch apparently can't get enough of the horrors of war, because he comes back, season after season, and keeps robotically kicking even as his fellow soldiers fall dead and bloody behind him. Maybe the reason why he is able to keep going year after year is because he is a vampire, and he feeds off the corpses of all those poor Lions who are destroyed in the hell mouth of Detroit football. Such a monster.
Alright, Jesus, every time I try to steer this into a coherent direction, I end up veering into the land of the strange and the absurd. Terminators, Highlanders, Vampires, Civil War Vets, does it ever stop? I am almost positive that I will make a reference to the Holy Grail and everlasting life before this is over, and I apologize in advance, but I suppose I am just trying to put off talking about the terrible and depressing reality that spurred this post in the first place, which is that Jason Hanson might finally be getting . . . old?
Sure, sure, he's old in terms of age. We knew that already - witness all of the above supergibberish - but for the first time he actually looks old. So far this season, Hanson hasn't been quite as consistent as he's been in the past, missing some field goals that he would normally make underwater in his sleep wrapped in chains. Why he would be underwater, asleep wrapped in chains is a mystery, but these are strange and terrible times, and these things happen. Maybe he crossed Ernie Sims' monkey in a poker game and I have said it before, you don't want to cross that mean little son of a bitch.
Okay, okay, I will get back to the main point. It's just that, well, this is hard. Jason Hanson has been the one constant, the one good thing, that we've had as Lions fans for a long, long time. He's the only one of our heroes who has never failed us, who has never flamed out or had a tragic end. So it's been hard to see him struggle a little bit and even harder to contemplate what comes after him. We have learned to tolerate and even accept mediocrity everywhere else, and it is horrible to think that we may have to do it here too. Sure, it's only the kicker, but desperate men must take desperate heroes, and there are no men more desperate than Lions fans. He's all we've had for a long, long time and our adoration of him is a testament to both the sad putrescence of Lions football and to the ability of Lions fans to always find something - anything - to hold onto while the rest of our football world goes to hell.
Sadly, against the Bengals, we got another sign that the Immortal Hanson might be a mere human being after all. For the first time that I can remember, Hanson actually left a kick short. Sure, it was on a 55 yard field goal attempt and it still managed to reach the crossbar, but this has never, ever been an issue with Hanson. This is a dude who has almost unlimited range, a dude who has kicked more 50+ yard field goals than anyone in NFL history. When he does miss, it's always wide, never short. It was kind of a sad moment and it just reminded me that the end will be near sooner rather than later for my man Hanson.
We've been through a lot as Lions fans. We've seen a lot of failure, and felt a lot of pain. We've had very little to hold onto and be genuinely proud of. Jason Hanson is one of those rare things. He's never really gotten a chance to be a money kicker, because really, the Lions have never really been in too many clutch situations, but I think that Jason Hanson is the best kicker of my lifetime. There have been others who have put up higher point totals - think Morten Andersen or Gary Anderson - and there have been others who have delved deeper into the public consciousness thanks to big, unforgettable moments - think Adam Vinatieri - but in my mind, Jason Hanson has been better than all of them. In many ways, he's my favorite Detroit Lion. Sure, I rave about the potential of Matthew Stafford, marvel at the gifts of Calvin Johnson and gibber like a fool about Ernie Sims and his monkey, but Jason Hanson is the only character in the absurd story of the Detroit Lions in my lifetime who hasn't seemed like he was part of the circus. He's the professional, the one dude we never had to worry about. Even Barry Sanders was sucked into the idiot machine that is the Detroit Lions. Even he was tainted by the failure, broken and beaten by it. Jason Hanson wasn't - he isn't - and every time he runs onto the field, it's a unique experience, because it's the only time that we as Lions fans are allowed to feel like, for once, we've got the dude in charge.
Okay, I didn't mean for this to turn into a eulogy for Hanson. It is kind of macabre. I mean, the dude is still out there, still playing, and still very, very good at what he does. I just fear that the days of him being Terminator Hanson might be at an end, and now when he runs out onto the field, that overwhelming sense of confidence and inner peace that he provides will no longer be there.
This post was originally going to be broken up into sections, like I usually do this time every week, where I would discuss several random thoughts from the previous game or things that were going on in the Lions universe. But it just sort of grew from there, and now I just want to let it stand as its own post about Jason Hanson. He's been the man here for a long, long time, and you may say he's only the kicker, but he's our kicker, and when he's gone, I'm honestly going to miss him. Unless of course he gets his hand on the Holy Grail and obtains everlasting life. In which case, well, play forever, noble prince, you'll always be my kicker.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Rebuilding is hard and it is slow and it is ugly and the road behind it is littered with the dead and the dying. Perhaps that is too bleak, but 2-10 does not engender a whole hell of a lot of positive feelings. It just doesn't, and it would be disingenuous to pretend otherwise. It sucks watching your team lose game after game, and it would be utterly inhuman to just stand passively back from that and say that it doesn't bother you.
Of course, there are signs that things are on the upswing. That Matthew Stafford pass to Calvin Johnson for a touchdown made angel's weep and the choirs of heaven sing. It was astoundingly beautiful and it was better than anything else that has happened over the past decade of terrible torment. That is both an awesome thing and an unfathomably sad thing. One play was better than a decade of failure. The promise that one play held is enough to make me sigh and then smile when I think about the future. But it's also enough to make me glance back at the wreckage of the past and wonder why we couldn't have that, well, ever.
But the past is the past and we are all about rebuilding and moving forward now. In a lot of ways, watching the Lions this season is like watching a toddler careening through the house. Sometimes the kid walks in a straight line and smiles and says something shockingly profound and you can see that one day he will be a real live functioning human being. And then sometimes the kid falls down and shits his pants and starts to sob and nothing you can do can calm him down and the future just seems so far away.
There were other signs that this team is capable of walking and talking. The defense was shockingly decent against the Bengals. They only allowed one offensive touchdown, and although Cedric Benson topped the 100 yard mark he needed 36 carries to get there and ended the day averaging only 3.1 yards per carry. Meanwhile, they held Carson Palmer to 220 yards passing and only 1 touchdown against 2 interceptions. I know that doesn't seem like it's that great, but for the Lions defense, playing a first place team on the road, it was damn near heroic.
It was incredibly frustrating to see the Lions control the game, build a fragile lead and visibly start to gain confidence only to see it all obliterated on a fluke interception off of a deflected screen pass that was returned for a touchdown. It was utterly deflating, like watching a toddler take one step and then another and yet another until they were walking and smiling and excited only to then watch them face plant and bust their nose and cry and cry and cry. It was awful, just terrible and I didn't know whether to feel bad for my dudes or to scream and wonder about why it has to be so absurdly cruel to be a fan sometimes.
Still, even with that the Lions never quite went away. They fought, they clawed, even though they were undertalented and overmatched. Matthew Stafford played and chucked the ball and was hit and driven into the turf again and again and again and each time he got up until finally he couldn't get up anymore. His shoulder is fried, his body is betraying him but he wants to win so bad. You can see it on his face. It is agonizing to see the end, to see happy days on the horizon only to trip and fall or have your body tell you to fuck off every time you try to take a step or two towards it.
This game was both painful to watch and gave me hope for the future. I know I have ranted on and on and on and on about hope this season. It is the overriding theme that always manages to creep it's way into the schizophrenic funhouse of absurdity that is my corner of this blog. It doesn't exactly mesh all the time with the werewolves and the drain cleaner and the tears of blood, etc., but what the hell, that is pretty much this season in a nutshell. Hope and pain, pain and hope.
There is only a month left in this season and by my estimation the Lions could win one more game the rest of the way. It is ugly, it is brutal and in the end the cold stark reality is that this is still a terrible team with a long, long way to go. I don't care. I have been down the road with this team and seen the belly of the beast. I know it's awful, I know there is nothing but acid tipped flaming arrows waiting there for me and for all of us who keep on caring despite ourselves. Still, there is always the chance that one day we will snatch those horrible arrows out of the air and stab our enemies in the neck with them. I have never really believed that before. It's all just seemed too improbable, too absurd, and so achingly far away.
So, why, at 2-10, do I somehow feel different? Why, this time, do I actually believe? I don't know. I really don't. Maybe it's because for the first time I see that the people responsible for all this absurd hellfire actually understand what is going on and seem determined to get out of it before it consumes them. They seem to have a plan and I suppose all I can do is take a deep breath and follow them, because really, what else am I going to do? Then again, maybe 0-16 just wrecked me, broke me in ways that I can't even understand and this is the only way I know how to cope with it all. I have to hope because the alternative is just too horrible, too ridiculous.
This whole season and everything I have written about it is bipolar and vaguely ridiculous. One sentence it's stabbing our enemies in the neck with flaming arrows or some other weird bullshit, the next it's werewolves chugging Drano and spitting blood at terrified strangers. In a sense, I can't wait for it to be over. I just want there to be some idea of what's real, what we can point to and say that's what's right and that's why we're going to be okay, instead of whatever this season is. I'm hopeful, but it all feels like a giant leap of faith sometimes, a leap that frankly I have no business taking. And yet, I've jumped, and I keep jumping, week after week, and every time I fall and bash my head open and I cry as I watch my brains seep out and my blood stain the rocks underneath me. It's horrible, but somehow I keep getting back up and crawling back to the top of the cliff so I can jump again. Maybe that's why this whole thing will be okay and maybe that's what I really know, that everyone involved with this debacle of a franchise, from the front office to the coaches to the players to the fans wants it to change so bad that we are willing to die a million horrible deaths every week just so that we can get the chance to try again the next week.
I don't know. This whole post has veered into the theater of the ridiculous, but these are ridiculous times, I am a ridiculous man and I am a fan of a ridiculous team in a ridiculous season. But to hell with all that, the Lions are 2-10 and next week they will probably be 2-11 and then they will probably be 2-12, and at the end of the season they might be 2-14. I am probably an idiot and a fool for believing in anything beyond that - at least that terrible record is real, it's tangible - but I'm okay with that. It will all be okay. I think. I hope.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Richard the First, aka Richard the Lionheart. Get it, because there is a Lion in the name? Okay, fine, to hell with you too. There? How do you like it? Wait, who am I talking to? What's going on?
Coming into the season, the game against the Bengals this week was one that every Lions fan pointed at and said "We should win that one." Actually, "pointed at" might not be the proper phrase there. Actually, it was more like "clung to" or "dug in with claws" or "kidnapped and locked in the basement" or "for the love of God we might be bad, but at least we probably won't be as shitty as the Bengals" or "if we don't win that one I'm going to jump on a bicycle and pedal furiously off the pier into Lake Michigan in December. When they find my frozen body, have them send it to Ford Field with a note saying 'I hope you're happy'." So, yeah, everyone was kinda looking forward to this one. And then the Bengals started winning, and then won some more and kept on winning until we find ourselves at this sad little moment where everyone is looking at this game as just one more that the Lions will surely lose.
This isn't a surprise. Even though things are a little better and we seem to finally be moving forward a bit, there are still very few teams that I would feel confident playing. Hell, improvement for us means 2-9. That is how apocalyptic our sad little world had become last season. Digging out of it is a slow and painful process and even though we are almost 3/4 of the way through this season, I would only feel confident playing the Browns, the Buccaneers, the Rams(yeah, yeah, I know), and maybe the Chiefs and the Raiders. I think the Redskins would win if that game was played again today and really, I wouldn't even be that confident going into games against those other teams. Hell, we already lost to the Rams, we barely beat the Browns and who the fuck knows what would happen against those other turds. The simple and undeniable truth is that we are firmly entrenched within that terrible group. It is ugly and it is awful, but better as things are, they are still bad enough that our improvement is still akin to other teams' utter misery and degradation.
There is little point in expecting - or really even hoping for - victory against any team not lost in that terrible maelstrom of failure. And, this season, at 8-3, the Bengals certainly aren't in that group. Of course, that doesn't mean that the retarded optimist buried within me won't be cheering like a simple jackass, hoping against hope that the Lions will miraculously pull their asses out of the fire, but let's face facts here: the Lions are going to lose again, and that's that.
The Bengals are terrific at two things this season: running the ball and stopping the run. The Lions haven't been able to run the ball much all season but they have seemed at least semi-functional against the run. The latter is probably more a function of teams realizing that they can throw for a million yards for a million years on the Lions than it is of the Lions run defense actually being okay, but what the hell, we must cling to any shred of hope we can find, no matter how delusional. After all, the reality is that the numbers aren't at all good - they're still pretty damn bad actually. The Lions are 19th in the league against the run, which is below average, but fuck it, below average is world's better than whatever soul destroying horrors we witnessed a year ago.
Still, the Bengals like to run the ball, and are pretty damn good at it. They have jumped on the back of Cedric Benson and let him carry them to the seventh best rushing attack in the NFL. Even after Benson went down with an injury, the Bengals didn't miss a beat, as the corpse of Larry Johnson and some dude named Bernard Scott both ran for over 100 yards in his absence. In fact, last week against the Browns, both players nearly ran for 100 yards. Johnson had 107 and Scott had 87 and both ran for almost 5 yards every time they touched the ball. This week, Benson will be back, and well, that is not a good sign. The Bengals have a stable of running backs who can all run the ball effectively, meaning that if they decide to play it safe and keep it on the ground then the Lions will probably find themselves run over.
Yeah, the thing about that is that the Bengals probably won't play it all that safe, and really, why should they? After all, the Lions pass defense remains apocalyptic, like the secondary is stuck in some weird time flux where it's still 2008 and a nation waits with greedy and cruel eyes to see if the Lions can go 0-16. Seriously, these dudes are just ass ugly, and I'm pretty sure that the dude who played Corky back in the day could wander onto the field and throw for 300 yards and a couple of touchdowns against them. He would be celebrating, acting the fool, carried out on the shoulders of his teammates while Philip Buchanan, Will James and the gang would be lying in the middle of the field in a pool of their own piss and tears, trying desperately not to shit themselves too. It would be an awful scene, just terrible and while it may be a heartwarming scene for everyone else to see Corky enjoy his day in the sun, for Lions fans it would be terrible and utterly without joy. That is what it has come to here, weird envy of retarded dudes based on absurd scenarios that never happened and never will happen. Damn that Corky, I will see him in hell.
Okay, clearly this thing has fried my brain, but to hell with all that, there is still football nerdery to be explored and explore it we shall. Carson Palmer hasn't thrown for 300 yards in almost two years - a testament to both the collapse suffered by the Bengals last season and the efficiency of their run game in this redemptive season - and he hasn't had a massively explosive season or anything this year, with 2300 yards and 15 touchdowns so far, but hell, just re-read the previous ridiculous paragraph. Palmer will be able to throw all over the Lions all day long and then after the bodies of the dead and dying are dragged out of the Lions secondary by a team of Priests he'll be able to throw some more. The Lions are dead last in the NFL against the pass, giving up over 280 yards a game and opposing QB's have a collective rating of 111.8 and have completed 70.5 percent of their passes. That is just abominable. Palmer has shown in the past that he is capable of lighting the scoreboard up, and when you combine all of these terrible elements into a stew, well, it is one that should make you vomit. Repeatedly.
So, the Lions probably won't be able to stop Cincinnati's offense. I guess that means they will have to score a lot on their own if they're going to have a chance. Unfortunately, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are still both banged up and while they will both play, neither will be as effective as they would normally be. That means that Kevin Smith will need to come through. Yeah, the problem with that is - as I briefly mentioned earlier - the Bengals are really good at stopping the run. In fact, their entire defense is pretty damn good and has improved as the season has gone on. It's hard to envision a banged up Stafford taking over the game and managing to keep pace with the Bengals offense. I mean, let's not get carried away here. For as much as we are all extolling Stafford's many virtues, he is still a rookie and he has still thrown 18 interceptions. To expect him to carry the Lions to victory against one of the top defenses in the NFL is ludicrous.
The Bengals are third in the league against the run, meaning that Smith - who has been banged up in his own right and hasn't exactly impressed this season - likely won't be able to do a whole lot. Add in the fact that the Bengals should be able to score plenty of points of their own and you have a recipe for a game in which, unfortunately, the ball has to be in Stafford's hands a lot. He'll have to throw and throw some more and when his whole body is sore and he's already thrown three interceptions, he'll have to keep on throwing. The only glimmer of hope here is that the Bengals are kind of middle of the road against the pass - they're only 16th in the league - but this is probably a function of teams not being able to run at all on them more than anything else. A closer look at the numbers show that the Bengals are thrown on the 8th most of any team in the NFL, meaning that you would expect them to be more like 24th or so than 16th against the pass. The fact that they are still better than 8 other teams who have had the ball thrown on them less than the Bengals kind of shows that Cincinnati might actually be pretty good defending the pass. That is kind of confusing, I suppose, but you know, I'm not usually the dude who breaks down the stats like this but I am feeling extra nerdish so please forgive me both for the nerdery and any confusion that results. To put things into even sharper focus, the Bengals are actually 9th in the NFL when it comes to opponent's completion percentage, meaning that teams like to throw the ball against the Bengals but aren't terribly successful when they do. The upshot of all this statistical gibberish? The Bengals defense is good - damn good - and there's probably little the Lions can do to move the ball consistently and effectively.
Okay, so statistical digressions aside, the Lions do have a secret weapon in Calvin Johnson. Ah, St. Calvin. He's the one dude who can make everything else irrelevant if he decides to play like the beast he is. Unfortunately, he's also a little banged up and has Leon Hall, one of the better cornerbacks in the league, covering him this week. Still, Johnson has an athletic advantage over, well, over anybody. If he can get things going with Stafford then maybe, just maybe, he can make things interesting. Still, I wouldn't get my hopes up.
Okay, so I have pretty much annihilated the Lions in this post and talked up the Bengals like they are having my child, but that would just be weird and I will go no further with that little bit of disturbing imagery. I guess the reason to watch this week would be to see the little glimpses of the future that we have managed to see in virtually every game this season - the impossible throws by Stafford, St. Calvin loping away from the defense, DeAndre Levy or Jordan Dizon or Louis Delmas smacking someone in the mouth - and because this is our team, and even when they are bad, they are still ours and fuck those other dudes in the other uniform. We may lose - we probably will lose - but we have been through worse, and there will be better days ahead. This is threatening to devolve into schizophrenic gibberish again, and so, yeah . . . on with the predictions.
1. Matthew Stafford will start and will be forced to throw the ball a lot. He'll end up airing it out 50 times, completing 27 of them for 310 yards, two touchdowns . . . and three interceptions. After the game, Daunte Culpepper will throw a fit in the locker room. It will later be determined that this is due to diaper rash.
2. The Lions will try to run the ball with Kevin Smith early on, but a combination of his being largely ineffective against the Bengals run defense and the Bengals offense forcing the Lions offense to have to throw to keep pace will render Smith largely irrelevant. He'll end up with around 15 carries for 40 yards or so.
3. Calvin Johnson will struggle a little bit thanks to his nagging injuries. He'll still catch 6 passes for 90 or so yards and a touchdown, but he won't be quite the difference maker that the Lions need to stay in the game.
4. Carson Palmer will throw for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns and Cedric Benson will run for 100 yards and a touchdown. After the game, Gunther Cunningham will throw his hands up in disgust and then, in a fit of anger, will challenge Ernie Sims' monkey to a duel. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail, but you don't wanna fuck with that monkey. He'll cut you.
5. And because I have nowhere else to put this, I would just like to mention that I was channel surfing the other night and saw some Monster Hunter bullshit thing on the History Channel where they were looking for Chimpanzees who were rumored to be living in the Florida Everglades. It was all vaguely ridiculous, with people interviewed about sightings and such like they were after fucking Bigfoot, but my favorite part was the matter of fact newspaper story they discussed where cops pulled over a Chimp who was driving a car. It was treated with complete seriousness, like yeah, why the fuck not? It was hilarious and I knew I had to mention it here somewhere. Rather than look for a way to turn it into some stupid joke, I wanted to discuss it in full even if it has nothing to do with the Lions. I didn't stay tuned to watch the rest of it, so I don't know if they found any Chimps in the wild or anything - I mean, there were fucking cartographers trying to prove that the environments of Florida and Mali were comparable enough for it to be possible - but I'd like to believe that it's true and I'd also like to believe that a gang of super-intelligent Chimps are hanging out on the side of the Florida highway, carjacking lonely motorists. My prediction - in order to keep this in line with the fact that this is supposed to be a prediction and is technically supposed to be about the Lions - is that soon we will see breaking news of a high speed chase in Florida involving a coked up Chimp at the wheel of a stolen car and that it will only end when he crashes into a tree and is then eaten by a lion. Why there would be a lion on the loose is beyond me, and why it would somehow find itself at the scene is even more unfathomable, but fuck it, this is my prediction. It is a strange world, and perhaps only I find this humorous and amazing, but to hell with it, sometimes I am a strange man and these are the things that please me.
PREDICTED FINAL SCORE: Oh, uh, shit, BENGALS 31, LIONS 10
NUMBER OF TIMES I THINK ABOUT CHIMPS TO MAKE ME FORGET THAT THE LIONS ARE LOSING: 12