Jump to content

Bill Barnwell Of Grantland Breaks Down Lions-Falcons - Must Read


Recommended Posts

I have bolded some particular points.

_______________

Sunday started with a game that felt like it was both played and watched (on television) by hungover Americans who would have have been sleeping. The Falcons and Lions contrived to deliver a product that more closely resembled the World League of American Football than the National Football League. And by that, I don’t mean to disparage the fine men of the WLAF, who gave it their all in the early ’90s. I mean a game played by WLAF alumni in 2014.

And that game surely would have been better coached. While there were myriad mistakes from the players on the field, Atlanta’s Mike Smith and Detroit’s Jim Caldwell repeatedly made suboptimal decisions, mismanaged the clock, and clung desperately to conservative tradition for as long as possible. Like a malfunctioning fireworks display, the game culminated in an awe-inspiring spectacle of stupidity, with mistakes firing in from all sides before a bizarre climax played out amid a chorus of boos.

Before we talk about the coaching mistakes, it’s hard to really overstate how poorly these two teams played. Atlanta got out to a 21-0 lead by scoring three touchdowns on its first four possessions, with Matt Ryan starting 14-of-17 for 160 yards with two scores. A patchwork Falcons offensive line that was starting a third-string center (James Stone) and right tackle (Ryan Schraeder, who I was sure was the guy who started Pitchfork for most of the first half) did an excellent job of keeping the Lions pass rush off Ryan, who seemed to get the Falcons out to an insurmountable lead. Since 1990, teams that went into halftime with a 21-point lead had been a combined 149-8, which is roughly Madison Bumgarner–in-the-playoffs good.

It went wrong quickly for the Falcons; in fact, they probably should have blown their lead even earlier. In one of the worst 20-minute stretches you’ll ever see, the Falcons fell apart. Ryan threw an unconscionable interception to Cassius Vaughn that would have qualified for intentional grounding if Vaughn had managed to drop it. The defense allowed Golden Tate to get open downfield on third-and-25 for a 59-yard touchdown catch. And Atlanta fumbled three times, but somehow managed to recover all three. It was like an unzipped version of what the Texans did in Pittsburgh on Monday night.

And that all started after … you know what? It can’t wait any longer. I’ve got to talk about the coaching. Robert Alford picked off Matthew Stafford to stop a Lions drive late in the first half, giving Atlanta the ball with 1:18 left and two timeouts. The Falcons had moved the ball with barely a hiccup, and in Ryan, they possessed a virtuoso quarterback who had driven his team downfield in mere seconds time after time after time.

That went for naught in a matter of moments. Atlanta dropped back to pass on first down, but Ryan was forced to scramble for six yards. Just as color commentator Troy Aikman noted the Falcons were right to hurry up to try to score, he saw the Falcons slowing down their substitutions and deliberately bleeding the clock, at which point he changed his tune and suggested that Smith thought his team had already scored enough and would be happy to go into the locker room with 21 points. They would, of course, not record a single score the rest of the way and lose by one.1

While Caldwell valiantly replied with 22- and 20-yard field goals to try to hand back the expected points Smith had forfeited, the real insanity showed up late in the fourth quarter. After the Lions scored a touchdown and failed on a two-point try to leave the score at 21-19, the Falcons needed to execute a four-minute drill to win the game. After picking up a pair of first downs on a blown coverage against a Harry Douglas wheel route and a well-executed screen to Julio Jones, the Falcons made it to the two-minute warning with Detroit down to one timeout. Let’s relive this in line-by-line form.

• Atlanta’s win expectancy as it goes to snap the ball after the two-minute warning is at 97 percent. If it simply manages to keep the clock running without gaining any yards, it will punt the ball to Detroit from inside Lions territory with about 25 seconds left. There is almost no way to lose.

• The Falcons find a way. After a run on first down uses up Detroit’s last timeout, as the announcers are literally reading the names of the broadcast production team — the verbal victory formation — Ndamukong Suh penetrates into the backfield and Stone commits a holding penalty (which was declined) to stop the clock. Stone performed admirably against Suh & Co. in his first career start, and I’m sure he held on instinct alone, but it would have been better if Stone himself had hit Steven Jackson in the backfield for a loss.

The Falcons make it worse. They could still run the clock down to 1:00 or so, but on third down, they dial up another screen to Jones … who drops the pass. I don’t think you can be too angry at offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter for that call, given that he was putting the ball in the hands of his best offensive weapon with a very safe throw. Jones just dropped it. Atlanta has to punt.

• The Lions get the ball back on their own 7-yard line with 1:38 left, and Stafford quickly moves them to the Atlanta 31-yard line, at which point he spikes the ball on first down with 34 seconds left. From here, it’s a 49-yard field goal on a soggy, subpar surface for Matt Prater, who had been shaky for the Lions since arriving as the team’s third kicker. Because he once hit 50-plus-yarders regularly in the dream kicking environment in Denver, he is “in range.”

• With no timeouts and 34 seconds left, the Lions take the ball on second-and-10 and … hand the ball to Joique Bell up the gut for a 1-yard gain. In just about every appreciable way, this move decreases Detroit’s chances of winning.

The Falcons respond by calling timeout. I actually screamed. The Lions have had one of the worst kicking games in NFL history this season, they’ve sliced your defense apart when they’ve thrown the ball in the second half and yet are trying to settle for a long field goal, and you stop the clock for them? Why? The only reason I can imagine you would stop the clock would be in the hopes that you can get the ball back with time to score, which is ironic, given that the Falcons threw away an opportunity to try to score at the end of the first half out of self-satisfaction.

• Even more incredibly, the Lions run the ball again! Bell runs up the middle for 1 yard with 24 seconds left. Again, how does this make sense? The play’s going to end with about 18 seconds left. In that time frame, you’re going to run your offense off the field, run the special teams unit onto the field, get everyone lined up, and then successfully try a long field goal? If Bell runs for 15 yards, he takes enough time off the clock and the ball is sufficiently far enough from the sideline that the game’s probably over. If the Lions commit a penalty on offense, just as the Falcons did earlier, the game’s probably over. The best-case scenario is that you gain 4 yards and have to sprint your terrible special teams unit onto the field.

Or you get bailed out because Atlanta defensive lineman Paul Soliai somehow commits a holding penalty. Defensive linemen never get called for holding penalties. By my count, there had been three accepted holding penalties on defensive linemen heading into Week 8. Think about how egregious this hold had to be to get called with the game on the line. And it was the right call.

• The Lions, still insisting they really want to burn as much clock as possible, give up a yard by kneeling on first down before spiking the ball on second down, leaving five seconds on the clock for Prater. The Detroit special teams unit — the same unit that was going to run on the field with a ticking clock and kick a game-winning field goal — surely knows the plan and has been ready to hop onto the field for more than a full minute by now.

• Somehow, the Lions ice themselves. Prater misses a 43-yard field goal, but that waiting death squad of ninja assassins masquerading as the Detroit special teams can’t get the ball snapped in time, producing a delay of game penalty. Even though most offensive penalties inside of two minutes produce a 10-second runoff (which would have ended the game) and Prater attempted and missed the field goal (which also would have ended the game), because the penalty technically took place before the snap, there’s nothing Smith can do about the whole thing.

• Having somehow run in a circle to get the ball back near the spot where all of this started, Prater hits the game-winning 48-yard field goal on the second try.

On the plane home from London, Smith instinctively calls for a kneel-down in the middle of first class. I can’t prove this one happened.

Nobody deserved to win this game. I genuinely mean that. I know it would throw off the record books. I don’t care. Both teams deserved losses. Maybe more than one loss each. Bill Simmons gave himself 58 wins for his four missing weeks in the Friday picks column. No reason we can’t band together and give the Falcons and Lions five losses each for what happened Sunday morning. ****, the Falcons won’t even be that far out of contention in the NFC South with five extra losses on their record.

The worst part is that in about one month, we’re going to forget how this game ended. The Lions are going to have a better record than they have had in the past, almost entirely because they’re currently 3-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less after going 6-14 in those same games over the previous two seasons, and some lazy pundit is going to write a column or ask a leading question about how the Lions have learned how to win, or how they’ve matured this season, or how they’ve refocused under Caldwell. And it will be total nonsense. When you hear that, remember this game. Actually, no. Forget this game ever happened. Do literally anything else with your life than think about this football game again.

http://grantland.com...orleans-saints/

Edited by fuego
Link to post
Share on other sites

Or you get bailed out because Atlanta defensive lineman Paul Soliai somehow commits a holding penalty. Defensive linemen never get called for holding penalties.

When this was called, I actually said out loud to my wife, "what a bunch of bull. defensive linemen never get called for holding!" But on the replay, sure enough, he held him.

Edited by fuego
Link to post
Share on other sites

pretty well written. the 97% chance of winning at the 2 minute warning is particularly daming. i was thinking to myself "surely, i'm nervous for no reason whasoever." and then stone holds suh and the rest is a domino effect of that penalty.

stepping back to reflect on that 2nd half - it is a microcosm of mike smith's regime. how many times has he watch a lead blow up in his face. matt ryan bailed him out for his only playoff win under the exact same circumstance. i can no longer give two chits about this team when the continually trot out the same scenario over and over.

i'll still keep a pulse on this team, test the waters, keep informed, but i just really have no emotional investment. my money and my care will be to better causes.

Link to post
Share on other sites

pretty well written. the 97% chance of winning at the 2 minute warning is particularly daming. i was thinking to myself "surely, i'm nervous for no reason whasoever." and then stone holds suh and the rest is a domino effect of that penalty.

stepping back to reflect on that 2nd half - it is a microcosm of mike smith's regime. how many times has he watch a lead blow up in his face. matt ryan bailed him out for his only playoff win under the exact same circumstance. i can no longer give two chits about this team when the continually trot out the same scenario over and over.

i'll still keep a pulse on this team, test the waters, keep informed, but i just really have no emotional investment. my money and my care will be to better causes.

And really, you can't blame Stone for that. He's a rookie UDFA going up against a superhuman freak DT and he was having a good day prior to that play. Like the author said, he held due to instinct.

Just take 3 knees, force them to burn their last timeout, take a delay of game after 3rd down, and punt it back to them with 20-25 seconds left. The only way you lose in that scenario is if your DBs inexplicably let a WR get behind them.

Link to post
Share on other sites

this line is the only one i disagree with. we didnt throw the opportunity away due to self-satisfaction, we did it out of fear....which in my opinion, is much worse.

which is ironic, given that the Falcons threw away an opportunity to try to score at the end of the first half out of self-satisfaction.

Link to post
Share on other sites

And really, you can't blame Stone for that. He's a rookie UDFA going up against a superhuman freak DT and he was having a good day prior to that play. Like the author said, he held due to instinct.

Just take 3 knees, force them to burn their last timeout, take a delay of game after 3rd down, and punt it back to them with 20-25 seconds left. The only way you lose in that scenario is if your DBs inexplicably let a WR get behind them.

Sadly, that happened. Third and twenty-five. Smith may have been afraid of lightning striking twice.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll know more when I re-watch.

Trust me man...you DONT have to do that.....trust me. There are better ways to spend your time. Go to traffic court...or perhaps you could go find some bumper to bumper traffic and go sit in that. Or just take a nap, or read a book....anything will do....
Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think the Detroit running plays were that dumb. Matty Ice is known for miraculous just-need-one-field-goal drives. If you give Ryan 20 seconds, that's scary.

I guess that's why Smitty called the timeout. Since they're trying to burn the clock, let's try to preserve it. Might not have been a terrible idea, I dunno.

The worst thing is that we f-ing blew the 21 point lead in the first place. But I don't know why they didn't just throw a pass to whomever Worrilow was covering in the middle of the field, on every single play of the game. It didn't look like we were ever close to stopping that.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sadly, that happened. Third and twenty-five. Smith may have been afraid of lightning striking twice.

Smitty was absolutely afraid of that happening again. Smitty is afraid of every possible bad thing that could happen. That's why he doesn't trust his players to execute a 2 minute drill at the end of the half, or to prevent the other team from gaining 55 yards in 20 seconds. Then he compounds the fear with panic, which is why he frequently calls timeouts to help the other team or goes for it on 4th and 7 in the middle of the 3rd quarter when we are down 3 scores. The man is just a terrible in game coach. He might be awesome from Monday-Saturday, but he always ***** the bed on Sundays.

Link to post
Share on other sites

And really, you can't blame Stone for that. He's a rookie UDFA going up against a superhuman freak DT and he was having a good day prior to that play. Like the author said, he held due to instinct.

Just take 3 knees, force them to burn their last timeout, take a delay of game after 3rd down, and punt it back to them with 20-25 seconds left. The only way you lose in that scenario is if your DBs inexplicably let a WR get behind them.

I guess you missed the 3rd and 25 then...lol

Link to post
Share on other sites

149-8 record when leading at halftime....that's Smitty ball for you folks...dont make mistakes on the field, play to not lose the game, instead of playing to win the game...thats how you lose when one player makes a mistake or a coach makes a mistake..

With 1 TO for Detriot, you run the ball every time on 3rd down and kick that sucker...1 minute the length of the field with no TO is very hard...plus a soggy field and poor special teams...

97% chance of winning at the 2 minute warning...

Bad coaching, Bad play...

Like someone said in a post a couple of weeks ago...At the end of the day, It's Atlanta, they will find a way to lose...

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think the Detroit running plays were that dumb. Matty Ice is known for miraculous just-need-one-field-goal drives. If you give Ryan 20 seconds, that's scary.

I guess that's why Smitty called the timeout. Since they're trying to burn the clock, let's try to preserve it. Might not have been a terrible idea, I dunno.

The worst thing is that we f-ing blew the 21 point lead in the first place. But I don't know why they didn't just throw a pass to whomever Worrilow was covering in the middle of the field, on every single play of the game. It didn't look like we were ever close to stopping that.

Said that exact thing in an in-game chat. We had NO answer for that.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The only problem I have the decision to pass is the pass play used. I appreciate that the screen worked earlier but I don't know that we should be looking to go back to the well there.

I'll know more when I re-watch.

It's an easy catch and you're almost ensured a catch. It was also unexpected and could have gotten us a 1st down which would have ended the game.

I have never seen a team make EVERY mistake possible to lose. It's utterly ridiculous.

Link to post
Share on other sites

And really, you can't blame Stone for that. He's a rookie UDFA going up against a superhuman freak DT and he was having a good day prior to that play. Like the author said, he held due to instinct.

Just take 3 knees, force them to burn their last timeout, take a delay of game after 3rd down, and punt it back to them with 20-25 seconds left. The only way you lose in that scenario is if your DBs inexplicably let a WR get behind them.

Well....

Link to post
Share on other sites

It's an easy catch and you're almost ensured a catch. It was also unexpected and could have gotten us a 1st down which would have ended the game.

I have never seen a team make EVERY mistake possible to lose. It's utterly ridiculous.

I didn't really think it was an unexpected given that we just ran the same play 3 plays prior. And I recall the Lions having very good coverage on the play so the 1st down probably isn't going to happen.

I think we would have been better served to run some 8-10 yard routes and try to make an easy completion. If it's not there, Matt covers the ball and takes a sack or a knee to keep the clock running.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...