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» Factors: Andre Johnson

One of the NFL's best receivers notched a -2.3% DVOA last year. Does a target-by-target breakdown show he was better than that?

30 Oct 2007

Any Given Sunday: Lions over Bears

by Ned Macey

The Lions have been so bad this decade that they warrant a punch line more often than real analysis. This year they quietly ran their record to 4-2 but remained easy to dismiss. Their two losses were horrendous performances against Philadelphia and Washington. The Vikings missed a possible game-winning field goal. They had a somewhat wacky late-game comeback against the Bears. The Buccaneers seemingly handed them the game last week. Now, they beat the Bears when Brian Griese throws three interceptions in the end zone.

At 5-2, however, can we still consider them a fluke? Their DVOA, which considers every play on the season, still sees them comfortably as a below-average team. The two losses are seriously weighing down that number. They are average to above average in all five of their wins, and they just played their two best games of the season.

Chicago, meanwhile, is fully living up the Super Bowl Loser's Curse. Griese has played inconsistently and has been unable to save the season. More importantly, the Bears run defense has struggled all season, which puts too much pressure on an untalented offense. The blame is now shifting to Cedric Benson, the starting running back, but he is only one small problem in team-wide dysfunction.

In the incompetent NFC West or NFC South, the Bears could still hold out hope of a late-season playoff run. The NFC North was the ugly stepsister in recent seasons, but this year, the Lions and Packers are both off to solid starts. The Bears had a home game against the Lions with a chance to get back to .500 and failed to get it done.

Their once-stout defense is no longer a dominant unit. Their defensive line is struggling against the run, as new starter Mark Anderson is more of a pass rusher. Free agent acquisition Anthony Adams is not as good a defensive tackle as the departed Tank Johnson, and they miss depth at that position that was provided by Alfonso Boone. The secondary is struggling with poor coverage from safeties Danieal Manning and Adam Archuleta. The continuing injury to Nathan Vasher has hampered their ability to play more aggressive defenses, leaving them in a zone defense where the Lions could successfully isolate receivers on the safeties.

Of course, a two-deep zone had been wildly successful for Washington against the Lions. The theory is to keep the safeties deep and test offensive coordinator Mike Martz's patience. The Lions did a better job against this scheme last week facing Tampa Bay, but the Bears still had to hope Jon Kitna would self-destruct if the big play was taken away.

The Lions remained patient throughout. They attacked with Kevin Jones on the ground, and like many Bears' opponents, he found open running lanes. Jones topped 100 yards for the first time this season. Jones' return from a Lisfranc injury has done something more important than revitalize the running game. Martz seems to trust Jones more than he trusted Tatum Bell, so his play-calling has become much more balanced.

Still, Jones was hardly consistent, combining a few big runs with a great deal of no-gainers. The real key was the sound play of Kitna. He kept his composure and avoided the crucial mistake. He threw two nearly-intercepted passes on the first drive but made solid throws after that. He did not take unnecessary risks but still played aggressively, hitting a number of passes down the seam in front of the safeties. Most importantly, he neither threw an interception nor fumbled the ball. One would think that is not a rare feat, but Kitna has only done it three times in his 23 games as the Lions starter.

Despite Kitna's improved ball security, the Lions offense continued to stall in the red zone. The threat of the deep pass disappears, and defenses take away the underneath routes. Without the capability to stretch the field vertically, the Lions are neutered. Their overall red zone offense is one of the worst in the league, while they are league-average or better everywhere else.

Chicago's defense's ability to hold in the red zone -- the Lions three times stalled inside the 10-yard line -- left the game in reach. Unfortunately, the Bears offense did not take care of the football. While Kitna struggled to find players in Lions jerseys in the end zone, Griese had no such problems. One week after leading a heroic last-minute drive in Philadelphia, Griese threw interceptions on three of the last four Bears' drives. Two of those were in the end zone, although the last one was more or less meaningless.

Griese's failings were particularly troubling because pass defense is the Lions' presumptive weakness. The secondary is not exactly filled with big names. Philadelphia proved that if you avoided pressure up front, you could find holes in the zone. Griese never found those holes. He averaged fewer than 10 yards per completion, excelling in the dumpoff rather than the downfield strike.

The failure to exploit the Lions secondary highlights the declining fortunes of Muhsin Muhammad. Rarely mentioned in reasons for the Bears' demise, the presumptive number one receiver is on pace for only 38 catches, his lowest total since 1997. Muhammad is 34 years old, and he should be in decline. Bernard Berrian, the second receiver, is not adept at the intermediate routes where Muhammad excelled. As a result, the Bears have no consistent wide receivers.

Speaking of aging players, the Bears offensive line is filled with them. Benson and his 3.1 yards per carry is a convenient scapegoat because we have easily accessible statistics for running backs. Benson has run tentatively at times this season, but he is far from the only cause of the running game's struggles. The offensive line features four players on the wrong side of 30. The Bears struggle in particular running to the left behind John Tait and Ruben Brown.

Benson is truly struggling and not running the ball well. People forget, however, that he was just as successful as Thomas Jones a season ago. The in-house alternative is Adrian Peterson, but he has been just as bad as Benson. Peterson's higher yards per carry are largely a function of the plays he is being asked to run. Almost half of Peterson's yards have come on third down, but many of those are hopeless third-and-long draws. He has only five first downs on 12 third down carries.

The simple truth is that the Bears failed to meaningfully address these problems in the off-season. After a Super Bowl season, it is hard to pull the trigger on a major move. The Bears only addition was their first-round pick, tight end Greg Olsen. They seemed to place faith in the improvement of Rex Grossman or Benson, but the vast majority of the supporting players were old. Those players were likely to decline rather than improve. Now, the team is falling apart, and the holes are readily apparent. They have only a handful of clearly above average offensive players, namely Berrian, center Olin Kreutz, and perhaps Olsen.

The Lions were able to thwart this offense with what any observer must admit is limited defensive talent. The defensive line is their most talented group, but while it played the run well, it hardly dominated on passing downs. Still, Griese made numerous mistakes against the supposedly weak secondary.

That secondary has been highly opportunistic this season. Cornerback Fernando Bryant has finally stayed healthy, and while he is not likely to make the Pro Bowl, he provides stability in an otherwise questionable unit. Keith Smith played well on Sunday, stepping in for the injured Travis Fisher, and he may be the Lions' second-best corner. This group leads the league with 13 interceptions.

The defense emphasizes takeaways, and they also have recovered seven fumbles for a league-leading 20 turnovers. Legitimate questions remain about whether or not this streak is sustainable. The Lions have only faced two above-average offenses according to our DVOA ratings. One of those was a Philadelphia team that put up 56 points. The other was Tampa Bay, who marched the ball up and down the field only to shoot themselves in the foot at crucial time with unforced errors. The Lions neither intercepted a pass nor forced a fumble against the Buccaneers.

The rest of the season is not promising for the defense. They face only three below-average offenses in nine games, and one of them, Arizona, certainly has the weapons to threaten the Lions. Teams have moved the ball well on Detroit all season, but the Lions have saved themselves with their knack for key turnovers. The superior offenses they face going forward are much less likely to make such crucial mistakes. If the defense gives up more points, as expected, the offense must improve in the red zone to win the ensuing shootouts.

While the Lions are unlikely to continue to win games at this rate, they could reach the playoffs with a 4-5 finish. That certainly is possible, if far from a sure thing. They have two games against the Packers, and they still have to play the Chargers, Giants, and Cowboys, all of which will be prohibitive favorites. For a franchise that has not won more than six games since 2000, this conversation alone is the sign of progress.

For a team that has won the past two NFC North crowns and represented the NFC in the Super Bowl a season ago, a 3-5 record is disastrous. The Bears defense is no longer adominant unit, and the offense does not have the talent to compensate. The Bears made their one big move by going to Brian Griese, and that move was the right one. Now they will fight towards becoming relevant again but likely remain on the outside of the playoff picture. They will shortly start to think about having to rebuild for 2008, and the holes that were overlooked last off-season will have to be addressed.

Each Tuesday in Any Given Sunday, Ned Macey looks at the most surprising result of the previous weekend. The NFL sells itself on the idea that any team can win any given game, but we use these surprises as a tool to explore what trends and subtle aspects of each team are revealed in a single game.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 30 Oct 2007

45 comments, Last at 01 Nov 2007, 7:22am by Matt Saracen - QB1 - Dillon Panthers

Comments

1
by Chas (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 12:19pm

At least Greg Olsen is good. :graspingatstraws:

2
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 12:28pm

"The Lions have only faced two above-average offenses according to our DVOA ratings. One of those was a Philadelphia team that put up 56 points."

If we remove the Lions game, does Philly still have an above average offense?

3
by SuperBears (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 12:31pm

The line has gone from a major strength to a huge weakness. Also, I wish I was charting their plays because they seem to be more successful running to the right side of the line this year. Except, Turner tends to think its last year and in key situations always calls a run to the left.

The safety situation is another problem, its horrible. Knowing that Brown would not make it through the season was a good call but signing Archuletta as the solution was a horrible idea. A major problem is the importance of safeties in the Cover 2.

You should always win a game when you only give up 16 points and have great field position all game.

The good news is that safeties tend to be an easier position to find in the draft and FA, so defense shouldn't be a huge problem next year. The huge problem is that there is almost no one on the offense that is above average, so the best the Bears are hoping for is to be like the Ravens and hope their defense keeps them in every game.

4
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 12:33pm

So is Clark!

5
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 12:34pm

I've been wondering if I should root for the Vikings to finish ahead of the Bears, just to avoid the humiliation of last place, even though last place offers a better draft pick. Since it isn't allowed to take both a qb and a receiver with a top five pick, I guess I will go ahead and root for them to beat the Bears.

I do think the Vikings might have easier problems to solve given, Adrian Peterson's talent, and the age of the Bears offensive line. Bears fans can only hope that a trend has not started with Tommie Harris, because his health is the key for the Bears' defense to rebound, although it's also pretty scary to hear the term "arthritic back" mentioned in the same sentence as "Brian Urlacher". They are both fun to watch, so I put aside my divisional loyalties and hope they start having better health luck.

6
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 12:34pm

Re 3:
If the safeties are so important... why is John Lynch the only good one from the TB, Indy, other good cover 2 teams?

7
by chuangtzu (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 12:57pm

Re: 6

Bob Sanders qualifies as pretty good as well. . .

8
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 12:59pm

Re 7:
Notice they're both known for stopping the run. That's not the problem with the safeties in Chicago, well it sort of is, but the bigger problem is that they can't cover.

9
by Papa Narb (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 1:08pm

I believe Mike Brown was the Bears safety before getting hurt, right? Their D has always (at least optically) played at a higher level when he was healthy.

10
by Buff (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 1:12pm

I haven't seen much of the Lions this season, so perhaps someone could elaborate on their red zone troubles. I thought Calvin Johnson was supposed to be a force in that area. Is Martz not using him in that type of role, are defenses doing something in particular to negate him, or is he simply not living up to the hype?

11
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 1:23pm

Kitna keeps on giving the ball to the other team in the red zone.

12
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 1:26pm

Re: 3

The Bears didn't just sign Archuletta, they traded for him. So they'll have one fewer draft pick to use to search for a decent safety. I said at the time that the Bears were foolish for making that trade.

By the way, does anyone else think Archuletta looks a lot smaller than he did during his Rams days? He didn't look like the guy I remembered in St. Louis.

13
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 1:29pm

Oh yeah, one other thing regarding Achuletta, because the Bears agreed to pick up part of the guaranteed money from his Redskins contract, they will have less cap space to sign a FA safety. Brilliant!

14
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 1:30pm

Mike Martz with a patient running game and a balanced attack? This really is Any Given Sunday.

15
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 1:33pm

Re: 10

Kitna and Johnson haven't really developed much 'chemistry' together yet. Johnson has missed about half the year with an injury and I think that's part of the issue.

When Johnson has played his stats have been very ordinary. I think it's fair to say he hasn't lived up to the hype yet, but he certainly still can.

16
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 1:39pm

CJ missed half the season? He missed one game with the bad back bruise....I am sure it has effected him somewhat at any rate.

17
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 1:42pm

MDS's analysis of the Lions reads somewhat like a fan that's been burnt once too often hoping for the best, oh wait....

For example, I don't think the Lions will be prohibitive underdogs when they play the Packers (in Detroit) on Thanksgiving. If the line were set now, the Packers certainly wouldn't be favored by more than a touchdown and I would guess more in the 3-4 pt range.

That said I agree with his assessment of their defense. When they don't get turnovers they can be really bad.

18
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 4:57pm

"poor coverage from safeties ... Adam Archuleta"
Imagine that.

19
by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 4:58pm

The Lion's D reminds me of the Cinci D from a couple years back. They give up huge yardage and some points but they go after turnovers hugely. It can work, but I suspect they'll play good teams that are more careful and lose.

It's just too depressing to watch the NFC North and know that the Bears are looking up at both the Packers (gah) and the Lions. The Lions. Seriously, that's how bad we've become.

20
by Dwayne (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 5:16pm

I am rooting against the Lions, because my head will explode if it turns out Matt Millen was able to assemble a winning team.

21
by Lions Fan (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 5:22pm

The Lions defense was definitely shaky early on in the season, and you do note the team has played their best 2 games of the season recently. It's also true that those are the games that Kevin Jones was healthy enough to get a full role.

Tatum Bell is not a good RB. Kevin Jones is. He has teh power to burst through holes and the speed and moves to make guys miss.

With Kevin Jones in, the Lions are able to sustain longer drives and thus take more pressure off the defense. When the defense isn't asked to constantly be on the field, they're more effective.

Also note the development of the following players:
-New starter RG Peterman (replacing an ineffective Woody) has started to play really well and along with RT Foster who's the best run blocking lineman the Lions have had in awhile (sad, eh?) are really clearing holes on the right side.
-FS Gerald Alexander is a rookie and not a household name but he's played excellently all year. While teams have been able to complete short throws in front of the Lions, Alexander and Kenoy Kennedy have doen a great job at keeping things inf ront of them (except in the Philly game...Ouch!)

The Lions still have a big weakness on the OL (Jeff Backus), and really weak spots at LB (MLB-Lenon, SLB-Bailey) and no true #1CB.

But the team is coming together and followign in Rod's discipline style of teaching.

The main difference, to me, is that instead of pairing up a 4-WR set bust/boom offense with a bend but don't berak defense, the Lions now seem to be mixing a more clock-control offense, with a bend but don't break defense. And with less time on the field, the D is less likely to break.

That being said, I don't argue that the Lions have a much tougher schedule up ahead than they've faced. Their hardest stretch is the last 4 games, so even if the Lions have a good record going into those games, it's no guaranteed playoff spot. They'll have to keep working hard and hopefully Detroit fans can have somethign to cheer about for once.

22
by Brian (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 5:22pm

How about Any Given Season - Detroit is better than last year's NFC Champion (what?!!!):
When you compare ranking # (not DVOA - and this is completely unscientific), Detroit's offense compared favorably to Chicago's defense...Detroit's defense compared favorably to Chicago's offense.
The only area where Chicago was favorable (according to this measure) was Chicago's run defense vs. Detroit's run offense. It shouldn't really have been too surprising.
So I guess the only thing that should have surprised us is that Kevin Jones put up 100+ yards. I didn't see the game, but Bears fans may be able explain as to where the holes in the game plan were, and in what situation those yards were picked up - I think one went for 34 yards.

I'm still more in awe at last week's AGS, and how Buffalo has kept it together and won a couple in a row with all those injuries.

23
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 5:26pm

I wonder how many playoff teams ever suffered 56-21 and 34-3 losses during the season. If any did, I'd bet they got beat by a similar score in the playoffs.

The Lions are more like a 2-5 or 3-4 team than they are a 5-2 team. An easy schedule and some really good fortune is masking a below average team

The Bears shortcomings became apparent in the second half of last season. Their decline does not surprise me. I think as this article suggests that the Bears are in a huge mess, they are old and terrible. That is a very bad combination.

24
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 5:29pm

Will - I still believe that the Vikings will end up with a better record than the Lions and Chicago. The Lions remaining schedule:

Den
at Ariz
NYG
GB
at Minn
Dall
at SD
KC
at GB

If the Lions win more than two of those games I will be very surprised.

25
by hooper (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 5:49pm

Re: 19

Hire Millen!

26
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 5:53pm

Jimm, given their health concerns, I definitely could see an utter collpase by the Bears; I've heard some really scary stuff about Uhrlacher's back, but I hope it's just rumour. As far as the Lions go, making up three games with nine left is a lot to ask when your choices are Holcomb, Bollinger, and Jackson, Quarterbacks at Large.

Seriously, the Eagles may have gone to the extreme the Vikings will see the rest of the way, with nine and ten guys no more than four or five yards off the line of scrimmage. If the Vikings don't have the ability to go downfield against this scheme, and they certainly didn't on Sunday, the Vikings will have to get some breaks to win six games, because you just can't beat even bad teams consistently if they have zero fear of you throwing the ball downfield. At some point Childress could lose the team, and then things get really, really, ugly. Even good professionals will have difficulty delivering their best when all hope is gone.

I'll say it again; if Childress actually thought in the off season that Jackson and Bollinger as qbs, and then the late addition of Holcomb, actually gave this team a decent chance of winning nine games, he oughta go within 24 hours of the end of the last game. If he privately informed Wilf that the qb talent on the roster probably wasn't going to be good enough, but there wasn't anybody good available willing to play with the receivers the Vikings had, that's a different story.

27
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 5:56pm

It seems to me to be a little churlish to blame the Bears' front office for the fact that Antony Adams isn't as good as Tank Johnson. There were supposed to be two defensive tackles infront of AA on the depth chart. Dvoracek and Walker are unfortunately unavailable to the Bears at present - Walker may be back following the bye.

Similarly while the Bears look a little foolish for bringing Mike Brown back, this isn't a recurring injury it is the third different season ending injury, and some of them were just bad luck (getting your foot crushed at the bottom of a pile could happen to anyone). I would agree that it would be unwise to depend on him again, but how many teams would have jettisoned their best defensive back under similar circumstances? Again, similarly to the Adams criticisms, the Bears are currently down three safeties including one starter, this would trouble a lot of teams. Also the pick the Bears gave up for Archuleta was in the past draft not the upcoming one, and it was a sixth round pick. Even if it hasn't turned out to be the best move in team history, they gave up very little to get him and his cap figures aren't too pricey.

It often bandied about that teams didn't do enought to help themselves in the offseason, but this past offseason didn't offer much in the way of help to many teams. Free agency consisted of a few blue chip players and then loads of overpriced junk, not every team had a need that matched the players available. The rate of expansion in the salary cap wasn't matched by the rate of growth for players's wages. Consequenty most teams were able to resign most of their players and almost all of the prestige ones. The new CBA made it very costly for players to hold out so very few did. Most free agent deals are based upon existing contracts for equivalent players, very few players are sufficiently good to rip up the boundaries of the old contracts and draw up new ones. The draft didn't offer too much hope either according to general consensus that it was pretty poor pickings. To cut a long (and badly worded) story short there wasn't too much help available for many teams in the offseason. Saying that would have saved me quite a bit of time.

28
by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 6:10pm

Depended on what help the Bears wanted. There were plenty of big-ticket moves on every part. Cleveland landed a great guard from Cinci. SF got a good safety (and there were a ton of good safeties in the draft). WRs moved all over the place. All the Bears did was trade their best RB for a draft pick and trade a draft pick for a bad safety.

Really, while there wasn't a ton on free agency there was a ton of moving around, and it's not like the Bears couldn't have traded.

It wasn't a great offseason for the Bears. I really hope they start with shoring up that offensive line next year, either through free agency or some other way.

29
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 6:14pm

I think you make some good points, jimmy, but as a guy, me, who roots for a team with lousier receivers than the Bears, I still have to say that even a Bears fan must look at the Pats this year, and think enviously about the three receivers the Pats upgraded to in the off season. Helps to have Brady throwing the ball, I guess.

30
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 6:14pm

So what will the Bears do in the draft? If they tank will they go QB? Or will they make me happy (as a fan of seeing crazy good lineups) and draft Glenn Dorsey to play alongside Tommie Harris.

The Lions are going to of course draft DeSean Jackson, he will look good in the Hakim role in the offense.

31
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 6:19pm

What good safety did San Fran get? Michael Lewis? dude was benched and at the very least Lovie Smith knew what he was getting with Archuleta.

32
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 6:22pm

#26 Will

One of the things that seems really dumb about the Urlacher back story is that Urlacher's contract and likely demands for a new deal have been one of the biggest reasons for not giving Briggs a new deal. As good as Urlacher has been prior to this season (in which he has looked about 50% as athletic as normal) it seems like madness to tell your 26 year old star linebacker that you can't afford him because you have to keep money back to pay for your 30 year old star linebacker who has an arthritic condition in his back.

The Bears re-signing priorities should go Tommie Harris and Lance Briggs followed by players like Berrian, Anderson and Hester. The Bears do need to invest in youth as a stronger priority, and it would be a very odd decision to spend a lot of money on aging vets like Muhammed, Fred Miller and Ruben Brown while refusing to re-sign some of the younger guys.

33
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 6:31pm

Jimmy, if those three guys are consuming significant cap space, and they are on the roster next year, Angelo is nuts.

34
by chip (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 6:34pm

I'll repost this here - it's more relevant to Bears fan. Summary: don't trade for Derek Anderson.

__________
29# Kal, I agree. Anderson will be exposed just like Grossman was last year. In the fact, the Anderson-Grossman analogy fits very well here. Grossman got off to a hot start until opposing teams had enough tape on him.

Anderson has looked like a world beater against terrible pass defenses (CIN, MIA, STL) posting 11 TDs, 1 Int & ~60% completion percentage. Against good pass defenses (PIT, OAK, BAL, & NE), he posted 6 TDs, 7 INTs & a 50% completion percentage. Given that he started ~40 games in college and had a college career completion percentage of 51% , I don’t think his accuracy can improve much beyond his current completion percentage of 55%. I'd say it's the personnel around him and not his ability. As a side note, go the Anderson's FO stats (see link). Look at the completion percentage at the 6 QB's above and below him. They are all 1,000 bps better than his. His stats are unsustainable.

I give it 3 more weeks before teams can start to scheme against Anderson. Oh, and if Jerry Angelo trades for him, I'll jump out the window. This is the deepest QB draft (per the Lewin Forecast) in 5+ years, just pick a f#$%ing QB that started 40 games and completed 60+% of his passes in college. Any of them….

35
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 6:46pm

Kal

I would agree with your point up to a degree. Yes NE got three new receivers, but they gave up a second for Welker and they haven't really signed the other two for all that long, the Bears don't currently have the cap flexibility to make that kind of move with the young players they are going to have to resign (and having resigned Vasher and Tillman). Also I am not sure that either Stallworth or Moss would have been willing to take the kind of contract gamble they have taken in NE playing with Brady with the Bears and the dire QB situation there.

There were very good guards available, but they were very expensive. The same can be said for Lewis in SF, he didn't come cheap and from his days in Philly I would expect him to suffer in deep coverage as much as Archuleta. In SF he rarely plays in a cover two, as they play a lot of man coverage.

Lionsbob

I am hoping the Bears can get a top notch offensive tackle in the first round (who knows they might even stink the joint up enough to get Long), if they can get a guy who can start right away at RT and slide over to LT after a year or two in the league. It would also allow the Bears to cut Miller and save his cap room to improve the team elsewhere.

After that maybe a QB to develop for a year (or two), a safety or two to throw into the mix and a DT.

Oh and the Bears need to cut Ricky Manning Jnr as he is $4.5m of cap room with no pro-rated cap hit and has been playing like crap.

36
by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 6:51pm

What good safety did San Fran get? Michael Lewis? dude was benched and at the very least Lovie Smith knew what he was getting with Archuleta.

If he did, he shouldn't have traded for him. He was atrocious for the Rams and he's just as bad now. And like I said, there was plenty of safety in the draft too. Gotta take some chances some time.

I don't think that Anderson is going to get schemed that badly from here on out. Defenses now have plenty of film on him (it only takes about 6 games total to get it), and the fact is that he has a great line and a great receiver making stupid plays out there for him. I do think he'll start regressing to the mean a bit more as other people make mistakes, but I don't think you'll see that much bad out of him from here on out. Which in some ways is bad for the rest of the league; it'll mean Anderson looks good and will be worth trading for.

So, as a Bears fan, I implore the Minnesota Vikings to trade for him.

37
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 6:54pm

While at least right now, the Bears are in a good spot to be bad compared to the last time they were picking in the top 10. Offensive Tackle and QB is probably the best positions in the draft at this early time. I am hoping the Lions think about drafting one as well to get rid of the albatross of a contract that is Backus, but a solid MLB or even a DE would not bother me either.

38
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 7:00pm

Will - 3 games is indeed a lot to make up and your worries about Childress losing the team are valid. I may be a tad optimistic, but I think the Lions early success and the Vikings lack thereof are largely a product of luck and schedule. Neither team is any threat to win anything in the NFC so it's really not a terribly important point anyway.

Bollinger sure looked terrible in preseason but at least in the limited snaps he's taken in the last two regular season he's gotten the ball down the field. In 32 attempts he's averaged 8.31 per attempt vs 5.65, 6.15, and 6.26 for Jackson, Holcomb and Johnson. But once you take sacks into account, Johnson actually comes out best.

Probably wishful thinking, but it seems to me Bollinger has the capability of getting the ball down the field. If the line can play very well they might be able to overcome his propensity for taking a sack and make some teams pay for putting so many in the box.

39
by Brian (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 7:10pm

I don't think we have as many angry Bears fans here talking about defensive players if they can just settle their QB down and keep the offense on the field.
Griese is not a world beater, some of his numbers: 61% passing, 9 TD's are pretty good. His personnel is good enough.
BUT the 10 INT's. Stupid.
If defenses don't have to respect the passer, your running back will have, I don't know, a 3.1 yard per carry average?
1. Fire the offensive coordinator
2. Hire new coordinator who can achieve a run/pass balance on each down
3. draft Matt Ryan.

40
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 7:23pm

@Crushinator: yes, I think so. Bad week against Green Bay, terrible against Giants, decent against Jets and Redskins, better than that against Chicago and Minnesota.

Even against worse offenses, the Lions have put up negative defensive numbers against only two teams, Minnesota and Chicago, and in all three games, their special teams were atrocious (below -10%).

jimm, how does this sound: a team loses 45-0 and 35-3 during the season, but makes the playoffs anyway?

It was the '91 Lions. They not only made the playoffs, but got a first-round bye and made the NFC title game. They promptly got pounded by Washington, 41-10 ... the same team that beat them 45-0 in the season opener (although Barry missed that game).

That team probably wasn't much different than this one. Better running, worse passing, beat a lot of weaker teams, crushed by a few good teams.

I am already surprised at the ways the Lions have failed to lose this season. It is not out of the question for them to win at home against Denver and Kansas City, nor on the road at Arizona and Minnesota. (I am assuming the Vikings will not have a passing game by then.) I expect the other games to be bad.

No matter the number of wins, the Lions are still not a good team. They're simply making the most of what they have, and frankly, for this franchise, that's a victory in and of itself.

If Ford cared about winning or even had an idea of what it meant, then I'd say this is bad, because it would prolong Millen's tenure, but it doesn't matter. As long as the Lions put cash in Ford's pocket (and he can certainly use all that he can get right now), that's all that matters.

I suppose Millen should be commended for that. The Lions suck, but hey! They're profitable.

41
by db (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 7:32pm

Do you think that Ron Rivera laughs himself to sleep or just chuckles all day with the occasional gufaw?

42
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 7:47pm

40. zlionsfan - thanks for providing an example. I think teams that get pounded by scores like those you mention can sometimes squeak into the playoffs but eventually a good team will just pound them.

43
by Jefe (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 8:10pm

Quick point on Urlacher:
In the Cover-2 base scheme Lovie employs, the Mike is responsible for run containment on any run between the tackles. Yet on almost every run that fits that category the last two weeks, #54 has been caught outside the tackle box trying to work his way back in. His initial overpursuit is okay if the safety behind him and the backside LB fill in, but Archuleta won't and Briggs/Hillenmeyer being blocked can't. The fact the DL pins back the ears and goes for max penetration every snap instead of watching for the run doesn't help either. Either Urlacher needs to adjust and stop being so hellbent on not letting RBs get outside on him, or else they need to stop playing Mark Anderson and Adams on the same side, because the opposing LT doesn't have to block them at all before finding Hillenmeyer at the second level. I counted at least 6 runs where Jeff Backus let Anderson go and got into HH or Manning with Jones cutting back behind in his wake.

44
by TheDudeAbides (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 3:05am

It's too bad MDS didn't point out how different the second half of the Lions season is likely to look. While the Lions do play a more difficult schedule going forward, they also play a different kind of schedule.
The Lions strength of schedule has been routinely blasted, but the Lions haven't played a team ranked in the bottom ten in defensive DVOA.
The Lions have played 4 road games and 3 home games. They've played 4 grass games and 3 turf games. Going forward, the Lions play 5 home games and 4 road games, but more interestingly, they play 2 grass games and 7 turf games. That obviously makes a big difference for a Martz offense (especially with an ascending receiver).
I'd also point out that Calvin Johnson has indeed missed a lot of the season. He missed almost all of the game he was hurt in, was inactive the next week, played only a handful of snaps due to discomfort the week after, and played only a handful of snaps after being clotheslined early on Sunday.

Also, the Lions are currently 3-0 at home and will very likely be favored at home against the Giants (who've played an even easier schedule to date [31] and could barely beat the woeful Dolphins on a neutral field Sunday). They will not be a prohibitive underdog unless the team really falls apart between now and then. It's more likely that they'll be 7-2 and a 7 point favorite against the 6-3 Giants.

45
by Matt Saracen - QB1 - Dillon Panthers (not verified) :: Thu, 11/01/2007 - 7:22am

Guys it's Ned Macey who writes AGS - and does a good job, I'm liking your analysis Ned.

Re: Archuleta. It is all well and good to say that Chicago should have done more in the offseason at safety - BUT, they were so satisfied with their roster that they traded away Chris Harris who is now starting for the Panthers. That tells me that Lovie Smith thinks that Archuleta is NOT terrible, but at least average OR that he is good, but slow in adjusting to the new team/scheme.

Re: Bears/Vikings drafting a QB. I would draft a guy if I were Jerry Angelo, probably 1st round depending on how the draft board looks. Griese is really only a placeholding QB, they need a vision for the future. Grossman will be gone at seasons end, Orton should stay at #3 for the rest of his career and their drafted QB can learn behind Griese for a year.

But I don't think the Vikes should draft a QB. I would prefer a veteran, mainly because of Tarvaris Jackson. To me he is a long term prospect, not a guy to write off after a few games. I think he was a reach in the 2nd round, but I think that if they found a replacement level veteran willing to play for 2-3 years that would be the best solution. Mr D.McNabb would be an ideal trade for them. If they draft a guy you would have - T.Jackson, B.Bollinger and New drafted guy - no experience at all and no one who could play straight away at an average level.