We sat down with the Pride of Detroit this week to gather some intel on the Lions, Marvin Jones and the new passing game, and some advice for downtrodden Bears fans.
WCG: The Lions won a shootout against the Colts (39-35), lost a low scoring affair with the Titans (16-15), and then failed to complete a furious comeback against the rival Packers (34-27). At 1-2, what is this team's identity and what kind of game do the Lions want to play in Chicago this weekend?
POD: Your guess is as good as mine, Allah’s, Alice Cooper’s or anyone else. I have no clue what to make of this team. I know on a basic level the defense is as bad as it can possibly get. I know that the offense, under Jim Bob Cooter, has turned Stafford and a core cast of five receiving targets into a machine that at any point if they can get rolling (which can be tricky for them at times it seems!) will start grinding down the field. But beyond these basic assumptions I know nothing. The run game confounded us for two weeks before that piece finally gave out.
I know they like to pass. I know they like to, well, try to keep the other team out of the end zone, but usually fail. Cool as it is to watch Stafford furiously work to make a comeback, I think the Colts game is the closest to what they’re trying to be; dump points on and then hold on for dear life while the defense wheezes and groans.
WCG: The retirement of Calvin Johnson is a loss for the Lions, Lions fans, and fans of the NFL in general. I think even some Bears fans will miss Megatron because he was so fun to watch (minus the two weeks of the year against Chicago). This seems like an odd question but does his retirement somehow make the Lions and Matthew Stafford a more effective offense / quarterback? What's the pecking order of the passing game look like now? Will Dwayne Washington finally provide a spark in the running game?
POD: You would think what you’re proposing about Stafford and the offense being better without Calvin Johnson is insane. I just wrote that particular section of a sentence and my brain is already going, “Chris, this is insane; more insane than your usual insanity. Damn it’s insane. It’s going to sound incredibly stupid and homer-charged if you even insinuate that, and you know deep down you can’t believe that. Damn what’s wrong with you?"
And yet… and yet my displeasure with that insanity flies in the face Marvin Jones leading the league in receiving yards. It flies in the face of Matthew Stafford in the top echelons of quarterbacks through three games, #4 in the league in DYAR and sitting upon the top leaderboards for counting stats.
So maybe reality is insane.
Despite Jones leading the way there’s no clear pecking order, but Jones certainly has stood out with what he can do after the reception. The run game is still bad. Dwayne Washington won’t change that appreciably.
WCG: The Lions defense has offered little resistance to Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers so far this year. What's the state of the defense right now? Is it simply missing injured players Ziggy Ansah and DeAndre Levy? Or are there more fundamental issues at play?
POD: The state of the defense is my favorite Spanish word: basura.
There is nothing good that can be said of this linebacker corp right now, and quite frankly help’s not liable to come soon to shore it up even if DeAndre Levy gets healthy. It’s leaning on the health of Kyle Van Noy and rookie Antwione Williams, which is still suboptimal.
The line is desperately missing Ansah’s pressure off the edge. The secondary has problems, but I know Darius Slay is still good to take away or severely hinder a team’s top receiving threat.
While I think there’s a good deal to be said about the absence of good personnel, I think there’s also something to be said about the coaching. Teryl Austin’s star is really beginning to dim here, and he’s failed at coaching acceptable replacements in big holes.
WCG: Joique Bell signed with the Bears this week to fill in for the injuries in the backfield. Is there any juice left in Joique or did the Bears just sign a zombie to fill a uniform?
POD: Jeremy Reisman, our managing editor, had his heart torn out by y’all. I hope you’re happy.
I honestly don’t expect a lot from Joique Bell, but this is also the same Lions defense that made mobile cheeseburger Eddie Lacy look like a competent backfield option. Either way, Bell was averaging just about 3.5 yards per carry when the Lions parted ways with him. He’s a power back but he struggles to find penetration.
Are we allowed to call them zombies again? Have we run out of cute terms like Walkers and Infected and Shamblers or whatever the hell? I’m cool with that.
WCG: There is a general panic in the Bears Den of fandom that the Bears are on a track to finish the year as one of the worst teams in the league. The Lions endured a decade of futility under Marty Mornhinweg, Steve Mariucci, Rod Marinelli, and early Jim Schwartz. Any advice for handling prolonged disappointment?
POD: You’re in luck. I happen to live in Toledo, so in addition to chronicling the Lions fanbase, I witness the despair of Browns fans daily. I also, somehow, have a good number of acquaintances who are Bills fans.
There are different ways of handling the trauma of constant failure. Browns fans have worn their grief as some badge of honor, proclaiming it by tongue to all who will hear like delirious Calvinists; they cling to the conviction their suffering will be rewarded one day.The Bills fans are notorious for alcohol abuse and wrasslin, debauchery to ignore the sad plight of their team. Detroit Lions fans tend to evince the Freudian death drive; opinions and moods sail to darker and darker waters as the season continues.
Honestly I don’t know how the zeitgeist will turn out for Chicago. It’s remarkable it’s taken this long for reality to sink in for many Bears fans. My advice though? A good sense of humor, a thick skin and a little self-deprecation. If you’re not going to win the football game at least try to win the party.
(Also: learn to like hockey I suppose.)
But really, you’ll be fine. The sports media loves the Bears! Whenever you get a sniff of success they’ll be there to pump you up, no matter how unwarranted. Mike Ditka is going to live forever.
Thanks to Christopher from Pride of Detroit!