The talk around the halls of professional football was that the beleaguered Detroit Lions have been mismanaged, misquoted, mislead and misguided. It has even been alleged that the faint scent of ex-GM Matt Millen can still be picked up in the executive washroom.
It seems as if Millen used the Lions as his own pre-Obama stimulus package but contrary to popular belief, it would not have been cheaper to keep him. Detroit will win more than one game in 2009. Hey they played the Super Bowl champs tough for 55 minutes, right?
The Lions lost to the Steelers 28-20 and they did not need a “suspect” coin toss to aid them in making the game competitive. What does a coin toss have to do with anything you might ask? For those of you that are a tad wet behind the ears hit REW back to Thanksgiving, 1998.
The captains for the Lions and Steelers meet at midfield for the coin toss at the beginning of the overtime period. Steelers captain (and Detroit native) Jerome Bettis appears to mumble “tails” but referee Phil Luckett claims Bettis calls “heads” and the ball is awarded to Detroit, which promptly marches in for the winning field goal. The Steelers are extremely angry and feel cheated and the controversy sparks the NFL to rewrite its coin flip procedure.
Flash forward to a tad less than two minutes left in the 2009 encounter. Detroit has the perfect opportunity to tie the contest and send it into overtime. The Lions rub their eyes, blink and awaken with a first down at the Steelers’ 21 yard line. It is then and only then that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau decides to unleash the hounds and let the dogs out of the yard. The Steelers proceed to harass and discombobulate backup quarterback Duante Culpepper on three consecutive plays, pushing the Lions back to the Detroit 45 yard line.
Safety Ryan Clark said. “A lot of other games we haven’t been dialing up the pressure. Coach LeBeau just got aggressive. I guess he figured if we’re going to get beat, if we’re going to give up leads, let’s give them up being who we are.”
If dialing up multiple blitzes helped to preserve the victory against the lowly Lions, was there something wrong with the “red phone” during the Chicago and Cincinnati losses? “If we are going to get beat, [let’s get beat] being who we are.” Does that mean that Pittsburgh became “chameleonic” in their two previous losses? It seems as if the only thing that the “prevent defense does is preventing is the defense getting off the field on third down. This “soft” defense seems to be an opposing signal caller’s dream where they can sit back and go through all of their reads and progressions without any pressure.
All of the elements were in place for a Steelers loss. Receivers with the speed of sprinters occasionally displayed the hands of carpenters, minus the Elmer’s glue. I hope they are not attending the Limas Sweed wide receivers institute. At “Sweed U.” it seems as if you don’t have to catch the ball, you only have to catch up to it.
Even our “seasoned” quarterback sometimes appears as if he occasionally utilizes binoculars to focus on his receivers, alerting sleeping defensive backs to hey, wakeup, the ball is coming. The defensive pass rush also appeared to be asleep through the first three periods.
Big Ben Roethlisberger tossed four touchdowns but also threw an ill-advised pass that was picked and returned 38-yards for a score by Detroit cornerback William James. “It’s tough…but we can’t blame anybody, we just have to get better,” offensive tackle Willie Colon said. Rashard Mendenhall continued to be a bright spot subbing for “Fast” Willie Parker. “As you continue to play and gain experience, you get better and better at what you do,” said Mendenhall.
Another thing that has plagued the Black and Gold has been drops. Not just ordinary drops but gaffes when wide-outs have been wide open. Rookie wide receiver Mike Wallace dropped a pass when he was wide open at the Detroit 28 in the second quarter. Shortly thereafter Big Ben was picked off. “I still think about it,” Wallace said in the locker room. “I could have given our team a lead and the next play he picked it off, so I figured it was my entire fault.”
The Steelers have been on a safari and hunting trip three of the last four weeks and they haven’t fared too well. They were mauled into submission by Bengals and Bears and almost suffered a similar fate when they decided to embark on an excursion to the “dark continent” and tackle the “King of Beasts’.
The trouble with the team from the motor city is not that they do not know how to win; their biggest obstacle is abandoning the couch and comfort of losing. The trouble with Pittsburgh is; when you go big game hunting you need a high powered rifle, not a BB gun.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)