Game 1: A Start to a Long Season?
I spent most of the last week trying to shake off the feeling that we were in for a rude trouncing at the hands of a continually improving Lions. I reasoned that preseason was just that, and we would unveil the big guns for the first game. I wasn't alone as I listened along the radio dial here in Minnesota. Plenty of glossing-over, big hopes and dreams, and the belief that there was a rabbit in someone's hat at Winter Park.
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Game 1: A Start to a Long Season?
What we got, instead, was a stark reminder that this team has talent but where we need it most in key positions it is missing. Look, this isn't going to be a long Ponder rant. It's been done, we all are frustrated. The facts remain simple: he's got flashes but no consistency, and as long as that is true, I don't care how much we talk about the receiving threat opening up the game for Peterson to run. The D's that are smart just don't care. They will blitz, stack, and stunt their way to enough pressure to keep our offense off the field and the Vikings' defense on long enough to wear them down. Ponder has long been unable to convert pressure third downs, and this is the bread and butter of successful quarterbacks.
More concerning is that we have another session of head-scratching with Musgrave play calls. I can't pretend its not happening; when even the FOX announcers begin to openly question the approach we know something is off. The most important summation may have been that Musgrave may be calling smart football plays, but they are not consistent with the talent we have. A good OC will work with the talent and excel.
Simpson, great. AP great first run. Smith, a beast at safety. Allen gets a sack, Henderson an INT. Josh Robinson and Brian Robison really had some nice work. Sully gets stung by the Suh. Kevin held out via a Lion's smash and grab during preseason. Lot's of individual plays that looked great or had impact.
However until this team can find a way to balance the offense and defense we will continue to watch time of possessions be widely out of whack, and in these cases I cannot fault a defense who kept us in it as best you can when you get 3 minute breaks between series.
The takeaway for most of us should be that had not the Lions acted like the LOLions, the beating would have been much worse. Penalties, miscues stopped them several times. We institutionally here think of the Lions as a weak opponent. This year, its not true and recent history has made these series very close and often decided by mistakes by the Lions. Our front office must sit and wonder just where this team is headed when even Detroit is racing past us in the balanced team and talent category. Smart drafting and personnel trades for several years have augmented a broken franchise.
I argue Spielman has begun the same process here as he finally has the reigns and I see young talent that will make the grade. Saying this, I advocate for patience on the personnel side and that comes with a big caveat: I want to see if we have the balls to say we were wrong on Ponder and look to salvage a season. In fact, it might not be the front office that makes the call. It could be our single-year-extended contract coach who realizes that to ride the improvements Spielman is giving him that he needs to make the move at QB and muscle some influence with the OC.