Lions beat the Bears, MSU takes a very bad loss and Michigan still can’t get a win
Lions Playoffs Bound
The Lions slipped by the hapless Bears yesterday winning 20-14. Going up against a team with nothing to play for, and a benched starting QB the Lions struggled and trailed 14-10 in the fourth quarter. Just like the rest of their season though they came through when it mattered most. They took the lead with on a Joique Bell TD run with 7:15 left in the game and Matt Prater added some insurance with a FG with 2:35 left. On the final drive Jimmy Clausen and the Bears couldn’t get past midfield and the Lions marched off with their 11th win of the year. They remain in a first place tie atop the North and will settle that battle once and for all next Sunday in Green Bay.
They won again. Perhaps we should all be used to this by now, but yesterday they did it the same way they have all season. The defense kept them in the game, and the offense came up with a key drive with they needed it most. It seems strange to barely win every single game they play, but it has gotten them 11 wins this year so obviously it works for them. The other positive is that in the coming weeks they will be in the playoffs and that is when that style works the best.
The defense was their usual strong selves. They did give up 14 points to an offense led by Jimmy Clausen, but they did their jobs by giving the team a chance to win. On the brighter side both of those TDs came after they were put in bad spots. In the end they only gave up 234 total yards (although they were helped out by about 100 dropped passes by the Chicago receivers). They sacked Clausen twice and picked him off once. They are still one of the top defenses in the league currently ranked second in the league right behind Seattle.
I harp on this seemingly every week, but the offense is not giving me a reason not to. They once again struggled to move the ball at times and that was against one of the worst defenses in the NFL. They still put up 367 yards and the 20 points was enough to get the win, but going up against the Bears porous defense you’d think they would be able to score a few more points. They had plenty of other chances to score points but Stafford threw two very bad interceptions. One came in the end zone when he threw it up for about five Bears to catch, and the other came inside the 10 yard line. In the end they still managed to come up with the big drives when they needed it most though.
The Lions also started to take some pretty bad penalties again. None was more obvious on film than what Dominic Raiola did when he stepped on Ego Ferguson’s leg when Ferguson was down. I really don’t know what is wrong with him, but Dominic Raiola just isn’t right. I’ve said it before, and I know these guys run hot during a game, but that is no reason to go out of your way and stomp on a guy’s leg. And the whole apology after the game is a nice touch. What makes this worse is that it’s not the first time, and it could cost his team big time. The NFL is reviewing the play and there’s a chance he gets suspended for that final game in Green Bay.
They are now heading into their final game of the season with a chance to win the NFC North. Regardless of what happens in that game they are still going to finish this year with at least 11 wins and will still be in the playoffs. I personally don’t think they can go into Green Bay and get a win. Yes they are playing well, and I think they will be in the game because of their defense. In the end I just think the Packers are too good at home. The teams Green Bay has struggled with most this year are teams who have a good front seven who put pressure on Rodgers. It’s what Seattle, Buffalo and Detroit all have. But there’s another thing about those games. They were all on the road, where the Packers have not played well this year. At home this year the Packers have been unreal. The home road splits for the Packers is crazy, to the point that I don’t quite understand how a team can be this different home and away. They are scoring over 41 ppg at home and just 21 on the road. They are outscoring opponents 2:1 at home and have been outscored on the road. And perhaps most importantly, they are 7-0 at home and 4-4 on the road.
This was the game we all were looking at as the season went along. Midway through the year you saw that schedule and saw three games on there that were tough. Arizona, New England and Green Bay. They have lost the first two of those, and this game might go a similar way. At the same time, if I told you going into the season they would be in this spot I think everyone would have been ecstatic.
Michigan State joins some bad company
Well Michigan State…Welcome to the club. They are the newest member of a growing club of teams that have lost in major upsets to bad teams this year. They joined the club on Saturday evening when they fell at home to Texas Southern 71-64 in overtime. MSU led by as many as eight in the second half, but were never able to put away the Tigers who fought back to send the game to OT and beat the Spartans in the extra session. They join teams like Michigan, Nebraska, Miami, UConn who have all lost in major upsets this year. The loss comes at a bad time as the Spartans were just starting to build momentum and had just gotten back into the top 25.
It’s hard to find positives in this game. There was one reason this game was on the schedule. Texas Southern was supposed to come up here, get smoked and go home with a nice pay check. But on a day when most students were gone, there wasn’t an atmosphere and MSU found it hard to find any energy. I don’t think I need to tell you that if they played with any intensity they win that game walking away. We all know TSU can’t compete with an MSU team that is playing hard. Texas Southern is a team used to getting down by double digits in the first half, but the Spartans never did that. They allowed the Tigers to stick around and ended up paying for it dearly. MSU, without that energy, didn’t have enough talent to get by. They didn’t have Brandon Dawson in the middle, and that clearly hurt them. Still, there were many more issues than just that. If you know Tom Izzo teams they are built around a tough hard-nosed style, where the team relies on energy. If they don’t have that passion you get a better idea of what type of talent they have. On this day the talent was clearly not enough.
We can’t say that Michigan and MSU are even now because both have lost to horrible teams. MSU still has a long way to go to catch Michigan in that category and really they might have run out of time now, unless of course they lose to the Citadel tonight. So sorry Wolverine’s fans, you’re still top dog right now. Now, if we are actually starting that debate, it is pretty tough to say who is worse between NJIT and TSU. I might give a slight nod to Texas Southern being worse than NJIT though. I simply say that because while NJIT doesn’t have a conference, if they did they would compete in the Northeastern Conference or the American East. Yes I know most of you have no idea what those conferences are or that they even existed to begin with, but they are better conferences than the SWAC (although all three conferences were in the play-in games of the NCAA tournament last year…the mark of the three worst conferences in the tournament). The SWAC in which Texas Southern competes can probably be regarded as the worst conference in division one. These teams make yearly trips around the country every year getting pounded by big programs and making money for their athletic budgets to run for the rest of the year. The champion of the league makes their name every year by being one of the teams that loses in the play-in game of the tournament. With all that being said, the Tigers are the two time defending champion of the league. They got to be in that play-in game last year when they lost to Cal Poly. What we really need is to get those two teams together so we can settle the debate once and for all.
Michigan still can’t win
Michigan’s woes continued on Saturday afternoon when they dropped their fourth straight game with a 62-51 loss to SMU. The Wolverines showed some fight at times, but it was far from enough to compete with a solid Mustangs team led by former Pistons coach Larry Brown. SMU beat the Wolverines up on the inside and defensively held them to just 31% shooting. Michigan was pounded in the rebounding category 44-27 and they went just 8-36 on three pointers. Michigan will try and get some good feelings back again tonight when they play host to Coppin State.
There’s no doubt that Michigan just isn’t very good right now. The question is whether this is really who they are. I know they were fairly impressive early in the season and at that time I thought they were young and would have some growing pains. This has gotten beyond growing pains though. This is just not good basketball. I personally think that it is now pointing to the direction of not being very good. I think other teams have a book on them now and that book says that they don’t have any type of an inside game. Ricky Doyle is their best big man, but he’s only going to hurt you on rebounds and put backs. He doesn’t exactly have an offensive game that you need to respect. So then you can just force Michigan to the outside and pressure the perimeter. They aren’t playing good enough as a team right now to find the open people and when they do they can’t hit shots. Their shooting struggles are perhaps the most disappointing about them right now. I don’t need to tell you that’s a staple of a Jon Beilein offense. We all know that. So when they can’t hit from the outside it really spells trouble. So just chalk it up to this. They are young, don’t have an inside game, can’t hit from the outside and can’t play defense. All of that is a lot to overcome if they are going to turn this thing around.
On tap for Tonight
Michigan State vs. Citadel. 6:00
Western Michigan vs. Alabama A&M. 7:00
Michigan vs. Coppin State. 8:00