Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Time to clean house at Michigan after Shane Morris concussion scandal

Monday, September 29, 2014

Brady Hoke, the Shane Morris incident and the part that is so disingenuous

It was disturbing the way Brady Hoke answered the questions following Michigan's loss to Minnesota Saturday. Also, Shane Morris should have been pulled from the game earlier because of a leg injury, even if he didn't have a concussion. He certainly should not have been allowed to go back in.
So I am with most people on this. There is no defending the indefensible. It was a bad moment for Brady Hoke and Michigan's football program.
What I do think is disingenuous is this clamoring for Hoke to be fired simply because of the Shane Morris incident. If it is proven he had a concussion, that would be a different story. But as is, many of the same people (not all) lambasting Hoke today because of the incident would be defending Hoke if Michigan were 5-0 instead of 2-3. They would not be praising ESPN commentator Ed Cunningham, who did an excellent job with his analysis of the incident, but they would be angry with him.
This is just the latest incident suggesting Hoke is lacking control of his program, and overall, Michigan's athletic department is missing badly with its various football-related concepts. It's another part of a growing cluster that strongly suggests Hoke will no longer be Michigan's football coach at some point during or after this season, and that perhaps athletic director Dave Brandon is on thin ice.
But the reality is, most of the anger is football-record related. It's simply because the Wolverines are terrible on the field, and there is little hope remaining they pull out of the tailspin anytime soon.

My column. Tigers' AL Central title will mean little if it doesn't lead to postseason success. http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140928/pat-caputo-al-central-title-means-little-unless-detroit-tigers-turn-it-into-postseason-success

My column. Hopefully a little perspective about the Lions for a change: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140928/pat-caputo-hopefully-a-little-perspective-about-the-detroit-lions-for-a-change

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My columns on Tigers clinching AL Central and Lions victory over the Jets

It wouldn't be the '14 Tigers if they weren't flirting with disaster

Saturday, September 27, 2014

My thoughts and column on plight of Michigan football program following the Wolverines' 30-14 loss to Minnesota

Thoughts after 3 quarters Minnesota, Michigan Saturday

Look, Michigan is not going to overwhelm anybody at this point, but the situation in Ann Arbor today has gotten morose and more than a little dire. The Wolverines really needed this game, and there are no indications whatsoever they will get it. There are starting to be chants to fire somebody at Michigan Stadium, although its difficult to make our whether it is "Brady," as in Michigan coach Brady Hoke, or "Brandon," as in Michigan AD David Brandon, but both are under fire right now, obviously. This has gone from not good to awful in the second half. The Wolverines are playing as if their collective heart isn't into the game. Not exactly a good sign for any turnaround this season.
- Shane Morris has not held his poise in this game. If anything, he has played even worse today than Devin Gardner did against Notre Dame and Utah. Not that he has gotten much help.
- Michigan Stadium had filled in quite a bit from the start of the game. People seem more interested in tailgating than the actual game. Wonder why? (kidding). You hear some boos and chants, but more than that, you often hear nothing. Just silence. It's a beautiful setting here, and it's a pretty day in regard to weather, but there is an eerie feeling surrounding this game.
- One of things not to like about Michigan's offense is how slow it moves. They take forever to get in and out of the huddle. There is little tempo or rhythm. The hiring of Doug Nussmeier has been a disaster so far.

Thoughts halftime Minnesota, Michigan Saturday

- That Minnesota moved down the field in its two-minute offense for a field goal is decidedly disappointing, and points to a certain lack of competitive character on Michigan's part. Come on, what did the Wolverines' defense do, just take the last minute of the half off? That is not winning football.
- Watching the first half of this game makes it evident why Big Ten football is struggling overall. There is little imagination for either one of these teams offensively. You don't have to be Nick Saban to figure out when these teams are going to run or pass. You can simply tell by whatever formation they are in. Thing is, both these defenses are pretty good, but hardly dominant. Just like last season, Minnesota's one-dimensional rushing offense plays perfectly into the hands of Michigan's defense, which is not strong in the secondary, but has stout front four and an excellent linebacking corps against the run.
- De'Veon Smith is running exceptionally hard and looks like he really, really wants to be the Wolverines' prime ball carrier.
- Shane Morris has not passed that well in this half, but in fairness to him, it's not like he is missing a lot of open receivers. The lack of separation by Michigan's receivers is alarming especially when they take shots deep. I do think Morris a better runner than he is often given credit for. Looks like he has pretty good straight line speed.

Friday, September 26, 2014

My thoughts and column on the Tigers' 4-2 victory over the Twins Thursday

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thoughts after seven innings Twins, Tigers Thursday

- I know a lot of fans have been clamoring to see more of Joakim Soria, but his fastball simply isn't as crisp as it was before he went on the disabled list. Frankly, he should be throwing harder. Having said that, the results were good in the seventh inning of a one-run game in the midst of a tight division race. But if he isn't throwing harder, rest assured they won't be during the postseason.
- The Tigers had Anibal Sanchez warming up in the bullpen the last two games. One of the incentives of clinching the division title early is being able to use him before the start of the postseason without a pressure situation. One of the downsides of a player returning from injury in September is there are no minor leagues to use for rehabilitation assignments. Soria would have benefitted from one, too.
- It's weird how the Twins are one of the few teams that doesn't employ a big shift on Alex Avila, and that he slapped a base hit to left field to lead off the seventh, eventually scoring on a double by Rajai Davis. It was a big add-on run for the Tigers, who don't need to put too much pressure on their bullpen.

My column. Chris Sale is a joke and the Tigers enjoyed the punch line: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140924/pat-caputo-chris-sale-is-a-joke-and-the-detroit-tigers-enjoyed-the-punch-line

Thoughts 3 innings Twins, Tigers Thursday

- Max Scherzer's pitch count (63) is way too high after three innings. He's just walked too many hitters. But I really like his approach tonight. The Twins keep looking for his changeup and he keeps pumping his fastball by them. Scherzer has a very good heater tonight. Obviously, he has proven his durability this season. He's still got such velocity after more than 200 innings worked. We'll see what he has left for the postseason. He is definitely the Tigers' ace at this point. There should be no question he opens the postseason.
- Victor Martinez, period, has played a huge role for the Tigers offensively. But it's been especially true of what he has been able to accomplish from the left side of the plate. He IS the Tigers' left-handed power. And he has seldom disappointed in that capacity. Another bomb tonight.

My column. Chris Sale is a joke and the Tigers enjoyed the punch line: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140924/pat-caputo-chris-sale-is-a-joke-and-the-detroit-tigers-enjoyed-the-punch-line

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My thoughts and column on the Tigers' 6-1 victory over the White Sox Wednesday

My thoughts on Chris Sale hitting Victor Martinez

Chris Sale hitting Victor Martinez and then going into his theatrics only played into the Tigers' hands. It woke them up. He struck out Martinez in a key spot earlier. If the Tigers were, indeed, stealing signs, it wasn't working (their bats had been awful in this series) and it only drove up Sale's pitch count. It was just a bad, bush league move by a top MLB pitcher, who should know better. He not only cost his team mightily, but possibly a decision on his record. And for what purpose? None. Look at the scoreboard now.

Thoughts after 5 innings White Sox, Tigers Wednesday

There is a reason Chris Sale is, well, Chris Sale. The strikeout of Victor Martinez to end the third inning was an example. But the Tigers have done an effective job of driving his pitch count up.
- Marcus Semien hit what appeared to be a perfect double play ball with one out in the fifth. Yet, the ball rolled through the infield because shortstop Andrew Romine abandoned his position to be cover second base with a runner stealing from first. Why was Romine covering second? Semien is a right-handed hitter. There was no shift on. It should have been Ian Kinsler's responsibility to cover second (It would be the opposite with left-handed hitter). Fortunately for the Tigers, Justin Verlander was able to get out of the jam, and doesn't have that high a pitch count (56). But those are the little things, that really aren't that little, that the Tigers do a little too often for their own good.
- That combination of Andrew Romine and Bryan Holaday in the seventh and eighth spots in the Tigers' order doesn't exactly appear intimidating.
- Verlander is pitching well. He has no walks, three K's and the White Sox have not tagged the ball on him despite their five hits. Verlander's command is much better lately than throughout most of this season.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My thoughts on the Tigers' 4-3 victory over the White Sox Tuesday

Thoughts after 5 innings White Sox, Tigers Tuesday

- The Tigers are a better team when Rajai Davis plays than when he doesn't, regardless of the pitching the Tigers are facing. Don Kelly should not get any more starts in center field the rest of the season. Can that be any more clear after Davis created a run in the fifth inning?
- So far tonight, this has been David Price at his best. He is tall and throws from high angle. When he is able to command his slider, it makes his fastball that much more effective. He was fortunate the ball hit by White Sox catcher Josh Phegley stayed in the park, though.
- The Tigers will only go as far as the middle of their batting order takes them. The bottom of their order has been, and still is, a problem (other than when Davis is there). Eugenio Suarez has had his moments this year, but has been exposed both offensively and defensively later in the season. Andrew Romine is no option. Alex Avila is playing well defensively, but has looked awful at the plate since returning to the lineup.

Monday, September 22, 2014

My thoughts on the Tigers' 2-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox Monday

Thoughts after innings 5 1-2 innings White Sox, Tigers Monday

- Kyle Lobstein has been better than anybody could have possibly expected, He doesn't have great so-called "stuff," but he doesn't beat himself, either. He had a WHIP of nearly 1.5 at Toledo this season, and count me among those who didn't think it was  going to work with him getting this many starts at the MLB level, but it clearly is. As a lefty, he might have a decent MLB career as an at the end of the rotation starter or long reliever. Don't see him as a setup man, certainly not closer or even as a situational lefty, although he has gotten left-handed hitters out consistently.
- The Tigers have no walks against Chris Bassitt. They just aren't working the count during their at bats, especially with runners on base. The pop up by Miguel Cabrera to end the fifth inning on the first pitch was particularly telling.
- Great throw by Alex Avila to nail Avisail Garcia trying to steal second base in the sixth inning. He has been excellent with his throwing this season, and very solid defensively overall. His detractors get tired of hiring that, but it's true.
My column. The sea parted, the earth moved and, finally, the Lions played great defense Sunday: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140921/pat-caputo-the-sea-parted-the-earth-moved-and-finally-the-detroit-lions-played-great-defense-sunday

My column. For Brady Hoke and Michigan, the handwriting is on the wall: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140920/pat-caputo-for-brady-hoke-and-michigan-handwriting-is-on-the-wall

Sunday, September 21, 2014

My thoughts and column on the Lions' 19-7 victory over Green Bay Sunday

Thoughts after 3 quarters Packers, Lions

- This game reminds me of the Lions' 7-3 victory over the Packers at Ford Field for some reason. Detroit's defense is playing unexpectedly exceptional football. The difference is, of course, Packers' QB Aaron Rodgers missed much of that game with a concussion, and Drew Stanton was the Lions' QB that day. Matthew Stafford was injured.
- The Lions got burned badly because of a blocking scheme with backup right tackle Garrett Reynolds, forced into action because of injuries, one-on-one against Julius Peppers. If you going to do that, the ball must come out quickly. The fact Peppers made a big play (forced fumble, recovery in the red zone after a long Lions' drive) should not come of much of a surprise. It's not like he hasn't done it before. Or if the Lions blocking set was a good one. It was more like a recipe for disaster when you think about it.
- Undoubtedly, this town has its collective fingers crossed with the hope it doesn't come down to rookie kicker Nate Freese having to make a field goal to decide the Lions' fate.

My column. For Brady Hoke and Michigan, the handwriting is on the wall: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140920/pat-caputo-for-brady-hoke-and-michigan-handwriting-is-on-the-wall

Thoughts halftime Packers, Lions

- Nate Freese equals disaster for Lions. Period.
- The Lions' defense has been outstanding so far. They've contained Aaron Rodgers with the exception of one play, forced two turnovers, scored eight points and have shutdown the Packers' running game. The Lions offense has been the lesser of the two units the last two games.
- I've got news for you all: DeAndre Levy, not Ndamukong Suh, is the Lions' best defensive player. Levy was brilliant last season. If anything, he's been even better this season. It was yet another terrific play by Levy when he garnered a safety early in the second half. It changed the course of this game dramatically.
- I take back what I wrote about Corey Fuller. That was a outstanding play on the 52-yard reception near the end of the half. Maybe it was a good evaluation by the Lions' coaching staff after all.
- I don't see the need for Matthew Stafford to try to force the ball deep to Calvin Johnson in double coverage. The idea was to get more weapons surrounding Stafford and Johnson so that would no longer be necessary. Yet, for the second straight week what did we have in the first half Sunday? Stafford picked off throwing deep to a well-covered and double-teamed Megatron It's nonsensical.
- Loved the crossing route out of a tight formation to Calvin Johnson early in the second quarter. It was a creative way to get Johnson the ball in space and take advantage of his under-utilized ability to run after the catch.
- Lions' fans everywhere were holding their breath when Nate Freese lined up for a mere 30-yard field goal. They had a sigh of relief when he made it. Not very comforting, is it?
- The Lions got little creative on defense, too, looping Suh and Nick Fairly on third-and-long for the Packers late in the second quarter. The result. A sack for Suh, his first of the season.

My column. The handwriting is on the wall for Brady Hoke and Michigan: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140920/pat-caputo-for-brady-hoke-and-michigan-handwriting-is-on-the-wall

Thoughts after first quarter Packers, Lions

- That touchdown drive by the Packers to end the first quarter was on Aaron Rodgers. What a terrific job he did scrambling to buy time and hit Jordy Nelson on third-and-long for a first down. There are many terrific QBs currently in the NFL, but I'm not sure if Rodgers isn't the best.
- My initial impression of Lions' safety Don Carey as a player was not very good. But he played very well last season in a couple late games. His tackling became sure. And that was a huge play he made, picking up a loose ball and rolling in for a touchdown, in the first quarter. There is something to be said for a player who works hard and improves. Carey is one of those players. Good thing for the Lions, too. With their secondary so injury-depleted, the Lions desperately need Carey to be a player for them. The fact Carey is out of the game right now with an apparent leg injury is not a good thing.
- The Packers got the one-on-one matchup they wanted with Lions cornerback Danny Gorrer on Randall Cobb. Aaron Rodgers made a terrific throw, but Cobb dropped what likely would have a been a TD pass. Good break for the Lions, but they can't hide the many holes in their secondary for long.
- One very noticeable difference between the Lions' defense this year compared to their previous regime is they blitz a lot more. They simply did not blitz their inside linebackers in the past. Today, middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch has a sack.
- Matthew Stafford didn't make a good throw. That's understood. OK, the interception is on him. But what is Corey Fuller doing on the field. He did nothing to help Stafford on that play. I don't understand why the Lions would release Kevin Ogletree. I thought he was a good route runner, who made some plays. I have seen nothing from Fuller.

My column. Handwriting is on the wall for Brady Hoke and Michigan: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140920/pat-caputo-for-brady-hoke-and-michigan-handwriting-is-on-the-wall

Saturday, September 20, 2014

My thoughts on the Michigan football program and Brady Hoke following the Wolverines' 26-10 loss to Utah

Thoughts after 3 quarters Utah, Michigan

- That fourth and three play that didn't work for Wolverines near the end of the third quarter summed Michigan football as it stands these days. Devin Gardner, running aimlessly and without and blocking and getting crush. This game is danger of turning ugly.
- Michigan's only hope may have been that Utah starting QB Travis Wilson didn't return to this game, but he did. It was also just a matter of time until wide receiver Dres Anderson, who may be a first-team All-Pac 12 selection, made a play. He is remindful of Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, who is playing so well for New Orleans in the NFL as a rookie, after being taken in the first round of last spring's draft. You can't give a player like Anderson the ball in space like that. His catch-and-run quickly turned the course of this game.
- Anderson was a three-star recruit. Wilson was a three-star recruit. Utah does recruit well, especially in California, but not to the same level as Michigan. That's why it is puzzling they look much more athletic than the Wolverines. That's especially true of the skill personnel on the offensive side of the ball.
- Michigan's defensive line is playing a pretty well for the most part. The offensive line, typically, hasn't been so good.

Thoughts halftime Utah, Michigan

- Obviously, it wasn't a wise move by 6-foot-7 Utah QB Travis Wilson to try to hurdle a defender. It wasn't near the goal line. It wasn't for a big first down. It's understood backup Utes' QB Kendal Thompson is a one-time blue chip recruit, who transferred from Oklahoma, yet the Utes' offense was rolling pretty well with Wilson at the controls. Give Michigan credit for a big hit, but Wilson essentially took himself out of the game. And for what? It's doubtful big lineman Willie Henry makes a pick and returns it for a TD for Michigan if Wilson is in the game. Michigan's chances are now better of winning this game. Having stated that, it was a pretty play by Clay. And very much needed by the floundering Wolverines.
- Look, the turnover was more on wide receiver Devin Funchess than Devin Gardner. But it does seem like a costly turnover is always about to happen under Gardner's watch, doesn't it?
- Utah has great special teams. Tremendous return for a TD by wide receiver Kaelin Clay. The Wolverines better reel that part of their game in, or they will lose this game.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Utah, Michigan

Time of possession, which Michigan is winning by a wide margin so far, is a huge in this game. If it turns into a track meet, the Wolverines will lose. Utah seems kind of loose with the ball. The opportunities are there for UM to create turnovers.
Devin Gardner vs. Utah
- Devin Gardner's 18-yard scramble on Michigan's first drive was a good sign. They need him to make plays with his legs. He is an excellent runner with a knack for picking his way through space. That had been missing in the last couple games. Having stated that, though, Gardner must take good care of the ball when running. In the past, fumbles on those scrambles have been part of his downfall.
- There is a noticeable section of empty seats in one corner of the end zone at Michigan Stadium. I have never seen that to the same degree in all the years I have been covering games here, including the first two this season.
- Michigan's Matt Wile is going to have to make his field goals today. Andy Phillips of the Utes is one of the best in the nation.
- It's amazing how much more threatening the Wolverines are offensively with Devin Funchess in there. But it remains like he is their only weapon. They really need to get Jake Butt involved.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

My thoughts and column on the Lions' 24-7 loss to Carolina Sunday

Thoughts halftime Lions, Panthers

- The Lions should be leading this game 13-6 instead of trailing 6-0. The Lions very much in this game, but that fact is profoundly disappointing. The defense deserves better.
- Calvin Johnson needs to catch and secure that football. He was open. The ball was delivered on time and on target. And he missed it. That's on him, and similar to three catches he dropped at key times last season.
- Nate Freese has turned from question mark into disaster very quickly. He has been a differencemaker so far, but for all the wrong reasons. Evidently not a good draft evaluation by the Lions' staff.
- We've just seen a glimpse of what Eric Ebron is capable of accomplishing. His size-speed equation is off the charts. The Lions need to take more advantage of it. He is going to be open with all the attention given the Lions' other so-called weapons.
- Panthers' linebacker Luke Kuechly is anything but overrated. What a terrific player.

My column. Despite the victory, the big block "M" stands for "mistakes" these days: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140913/despite-michigan-win-the-block-m-still-standing-for-mistake-pat-caputo-says

Thoughts after 1st quarter Lions, Panthers

- The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Lions aren't having any problem hanging with the Panthers on the road. The problem remains a lack of fundamental football. A lost fumble. Missed field goal. Yuck.
- I like everything about Joique Bell as an NFL running back except for his ball security. That fumble was not a good sign.
- The missed field goal try by Nate Freese was awful. A dependable kicker is a must in the NFL. It's like every team has one, except, evidently, the Lions. The good part from the Lions' stand point is the defense stood up on the ensuing series. It could have been a very early turning point to the game, but wasn't. It was costly, though, in regard to field position.
- There is a big difference for the Lions on third down if for no other reason than Golden Tate not only has excellent hands, but he able to get some yards after the catch.
- That was classic Calvin Johnson on the back shoulder catch for a first down. Too bad it went for naught.
- The Lions' secondary may be considered undermanned, but it has performed very well so far today.

My column. Despite the victory, the big block "M" stands for "mistakes" these days: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140913/despite-michigan-win-the-block-m-still-standing-for-mistake-pat-caputo-says

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My thoughts as the Tigers head down the stretch of the AL Central race vs. Royals

Thoughts after 8 innings Royals, Tigers Wednesday night

- This is classic Kansas City Royals baseball, both good and bad. They have played very good defensively (especially two plays by third baseman Mike Moustakas) and pitched well by starter (James Shields was very good). But the Royals can't come up with the big hit to break game open (all singles). Why it is still close.
- Good pitching beats good hitting. Shields was outstanding in his most recent two starts. Royals are going to beat you some nights simply because they pitch so well. Their team ERA is a half-a-run per game less than Tigers.
- Great work by Al Alburguerque in the eighth. Another reason the Tigers are still in this game..
- It was a very good outing by Rick Porcello. He did what he does, get ground balls. A couple got through that's all. He did his job.

For the Lions, the test really begins in earnest this week

Everything that could go right, went right for the Lions during their season opener vs. the New York Giants Monday Night at Ford Field.
But was it because the Lions were that good or the Giants that bad? Obviously, the Lions, with more weapons offensively and healthy, were better prepared for this game than late last season when they suffered an epic collapse in a loss to the Giants. However, offensively the Giants are just terrible. Their revamped defense is not outstanding, either. It's been awhile since their Super Bowl titles for the Giants.
The Carolina Panthers on the road this week present a much more difficult challenge for the Lions. The Panthers won 12 of their final 13 regular season games last season, finished 12-4 and made the playoffs.
Calvin Johnson, Lions: Schedule gets much tougher
They won a division road game last Sunday at Tampa Bay without multi-dimensional QB Cam Newton, who will be back this week. The Panthers led the NFL in sacks last season with 60. Their defensive ends, Greg Hardy (15) and Charles Johnson (11) both hit double digits in sacks last season. Linebacker Luke Kuechly is genuinely great player. He was in on nine tackles, had a sack and forced a fumble on Tampa Bay's late drive to try to tie the game last week. Rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin from Florida State, the Panthers' first round draft pick from Florida State, is a top candidate for Rookie of the Year.
This also a road game, on natural grass, in a very hostile environment. The forecast is suggesting rain. If the Lions were to win this week, it would be a more genuine sign they are turning the corner. Also, Green Bay at home the following week is another pivotal game.
Given the Lions end this season with road trips to Chicago and Green Bay, getting off to a fast start is of paramount importance.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

My thoughts on the Tigers' 4-2 victory over Kansas City Tuesday

Thoughts after 5 innings Royals, Tigers Tuesday

- I think the Tigers got a break on the apparent home run by Alex Gordon. If that ball was hit lower, my guess it would hit the right field foul pole. But give Max Scherzer credit. He doesn't have his best control, he was still in a nasty jam, and he got out of that jam. Excellent way to react in a tough situation. Great pitch to fan Eric Hosmer.
- Rajai Davis can be frustrating at times, but can you imagine where the Tigers would be without him? He doesn't always play effectively, but he grinds it out well. He has a very good season under the circumstances. That was a massively huge home run.
- This is not Jason Vargas at his best. The Tigers are taking advantage of it. By the way, can we finally quit holding our breath waiting for J.D. Martinez to slow down. It's unlikely to happen.

Monday, September 08, 2014

My thoughts on the Lions' 35-14 victory over the Giants Monday night

My column. Why Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions were so impressive in their season-opening victory over the Giants Monday: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140908/pat-caputo-matthew-stafford-calvin-johnson-detroit-lions-open-season-very-impressively

Thoughts after 3 quarters Giants, Lions Monday Night Football

- When the Lions made progress in 2011 and actually made the playoffs, forcing turnovers was a big, big factor. Of all the good things that have happened so far for the Lions tonight, probably the best has been the interceptions by DeAndre Levy and Glover Quin. Eli Manning has become a turnover machine for the Giants. Actually, it's been ridiculous.
- It's difficult to find too many things to pick at about Matthew Stafford tonight. He has played an excellent game. His ability to scramble has been huge, his TD run impressive.
- Big Joe Fauria showed surprising ability to gain yards after the catch on that one reception.

Thoughts halftime Giants, Lions Monday Night Football

- There were a lot of things about the Lions in the first half that were very, very impressive. Calvin Johnson was brilliant. They did a lot of good things defensively. Matthew Stafford threw for a zillion yards. The Lions have the lead. It's just the Lions are still displaying a propensity for shooting themselves in the foot figuratively with mistakes. This is an obviously talented team, but it is not going to make the desired headway until it starts playing sound fundamental football consistently.
- That was best kind of sack young Lions' defensive ends Ziggy Ansah and George Johnson shared during the second quarter. It was the oldest defensive play call in football, "Lets meet at the quarterback." Johnson has been an unexpected surprise and apparent find for the Lions. He is proving his excellent preseason was no fluke, as he literally played himself onto the squad. He had 1 1-2 sacks in the first of his first game with the Lions. On Monday Night Football, yet. That definitely falls under the category of "unexpected."
- The Giants are clearly going after Lions' cornerback Darius Slay, but he's held up pretty well.
- Ah, kicker is a huge concern for the Lions. That FG miss by Nate Freese couldn't have been more disappointing.

Calvin Johnson: Big-time 1st half

Thoughts after 1st quarter Giants, Lions Monday Night Football

Matthew Stafford vs. Giants
Matthew Stafford carries a reputation for not being athletic. It isn't true. He does have good straight line speed. He ran a 4.81 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. It was third-fastest among QBs that year. Yet, he has never been a very good runner. Actually, when he was a rookie, he seemed uncomfortable running the football. It just hasn't been a part of what he is expected to do going back to high school. I think it was one of the reasons he got injured early in his career. One of the times was on a relatively routine tackle, while he was scrambling. But as time has moved on, Stafford has developed better pocket presence and he can make a defensive lineman or linebacker miss in space. It was the key on his 67-yard TD strike to Calvin Johnson to open the scoring. He also moved well on the Lions' second TD, as well. To say the least, Stafford displayed excellent athleticism on both plays.
- Horrible penalty by the Lions to end the quarter.
- Johnson has been remarkably open in the first quarter of this game. I think it has a lot to do with the number of different personnel groups the Lions are deploying. I know the Giants' defense expected it given new Lions' offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's background with the Saints (they run a zillions personal groups), but it has still put them more back on their heels.
- The Lions' secondary is already depleted. Safeties James Ihedigbo and Don Carey didn't dress. Cornerback Bill Bentley injured his knee during the first quarter. It is alarming. Defensive back is obviously the Lions' biggest weakness and their least position of depth. I don't think the Lions really wanted rookie fourth-round pick Nevin Lawson on the field this quickly.
- Quarterback Eli Manning looked extremely uncomfortable in the Giants new West Coast Offense during the preseason. He still does. It wasn't until the Giants' went into their hurry-up offense that Manning got untracked.
- Big sack by George Johnson. Maybe the Lions have really found something in this kid. He was the surprise of the preseason.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

MSU, Michigan losses present two very different tales

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Thoughts halftime Michigan, Notre Dame

Well, lets see, Michigan has allowed pass interference penalties, missed a couple field goals and their offense has been decidedly bland. And they are getting drilled at halftime at Notre Dame because of it. Brady Hoke's teams just don't travel well. I'm not sure they ever will.
- Never has a college football program ever recruited so many highly-regarded defensive backs, and still presented as bad a secondary as the Michigan Wolverines. It's unreal.
- Come on. Who has the better quarterback in this game, if you are really honest about it?
 Everett Golson is widely outplaying Devin Gardner, and he has lesser weapons working with him offensively. Oh, I know, Gardner has a very good completion percentage. But where are the big plays? The Wolverines haven't converted on third down.
- Michigan's offensive line doesn't look any better this year than last year to me. How about you>

My column. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions have run out of excuses: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140906/pat-caputo-matthew-stafford-detroit-lions-have-run-out-of-excuses

Thoughts end of 1st quarter Michigan, Notre Dame

Not a promising start for Michigan. The pass interference penalties were killers on Notre Dame's scoring drive.
- The short passes to Devin Funchess are a good thing. He is impressive running with the ball after the catch. Notre Dame's secondary is vulnerable. So is its defense overall. The Wolverines should be exploiting it more..
- The Wolverines need to play quicker. They are playing a very slow pace offensively.A track meet against Notre Dame isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Thoughts halftime MSU, Oregon

 What a terrific second quarter by the Spartans. But I don't think the Ducks will roll over, though. This has the makings of a classic. Connor Cook is starting to roll.
MSU QB Connor Cook
- It's simpler said than done, but the Spartans needed to avoid allowing turnovers and big plays today. So far, they have not. A turnover and two big plays turned the course of this game against MSU. But they hung in there very well vs. the Ducks. A turning point was the Spartans' defense imposing their will at the end of the second quarter, which led to their second TD. Also, the Spartans have avoided penalties, another good thing.
- Spartans' defensive lineman Marcus Rush is one of the most underrated players in the nation. He often plays at the level of All-American. He is so far today.
- An underrated aspect of Mark Dantonio's coaching has been in-game adjustments. His staff already made a big one with the Spartans switching to a hurry up offense. It was a big factor in the Spartans improvement offensively during the second quarter.

My column. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions have run out of excuses: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140906/pat-caputo-matthew-stafford-detroit-lions-have-run-out-of-excuses

Thoughts after 1st quarter MSU, Oregon

The Spartans have a genuine chance in this game, but it is not going to happen if they turn the ball over. You saw how quickly Oregon turned the tables on MSU after Connor Cook threw his interception. The Ducks can turn this game into a rout quickly. The dam is always on the brink of breaking against these guys. It's disappointing the Spartans didn't get the lead. It was a key factor.
- Nick Hill looked terrific for the Spartans in their season opener vs. Jacksonville State. It wouldn't surprise me if he becomes a factor in this game.
- The Spartans looked clueless on the two-point conversion. That extra point could mean the difference in a close game.
- The Spartans are matching up well with the Ducks athletically. They have been closing very well while tackling in space. If anything, they are more athletic upfront on both sides of the ball.
- I thought that pass down the sideline to wide receiver Aaron Burbridge was interesting. He is MSU's most talented receiver when it comes to size, speed and athleticism combination. The Spartans should make an effort to get him the ball.

Tigers continue to find inventive new ways to lose

The Tigers' season has morphed into a collection of heartbreaking defeats, which suggest they somehow, some way find a way to lose.
It hasn't really been true. Despite Saturday's 5-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants, the Tigers have played above .500 baseball so far in August and September (19-18). They have not become the mounting disaster that is the Oakland Athletics. While they haven't exactly surged, they haven't collapsed, either.
It just feels like it.
Two things are very true:
1. The Tigers' losses have been so individually painful they have not been nearly been negated by their wins, which have often been ugly in regard to style.

David Price: Another tough outing
The latest example of the losses was Saturday. You'd think if the Tigers would get 10 hits off one of the top left-handers in MLB, the Giants' superb Madison Bumgarner, they'd be in terrific shape. That'd be especially true with David Price on the mound. Add in the fact, Miguel Cabrera hit two home runs, and Victor Martinez his 30th homer of the year, and you'd think the Tigers would win.Yet, somehow they lost. It was a terrible fate in a bounce-back attempt following Rick Porcello's disappointing outing in the defeat to the Giants Friday.
2, The Royals have been exceptionally hot. The Tigers haven't collapsed as much as the Royals, who visit Comerica Park this week, are taking it away from them. Yet, it's not like the Tigers have been standing up to the challenge, at least not yet.
"We have another chance to win tomorrow," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "This race is far from over."What you see as danger, we see as opportunity."
Yeah. There is still a lot of baseball left to be played for the Tigers. But eventually these goofy-type of losses will catch up to them.
Especially if they continue next week when the Royals visit Comerica Park.

My column. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions have run out of excuses: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140906/pat-caputo-matthew-stafford-detroit-lions-have-run-out-of-excuses

Thoughts after 7 innings Giants, Tigers Saturday

- David Price has done an excellent job settling down and giving the Tigers a fighting chance in this game. His pitch count is still manageable. It hasn't been a good outing by any means, but it hasn't been the disaster it appeared to be after the first inning, either.
- The Tigers got a lot of good swings off Madison Bumgarner today. He's one of the top left-handers in the game, but have 10 hits and two home runs, and still just three runs, is kind of odd and disappointing. It speaks volumes of the Tigers' problems lately coming up with timely hits.
- You can help but looking at this series so far and being reminded about what happened to the Tigers during the 2012 World Series.

My column: There are no more excuses for Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140906/pat-caputo-matthew-stafford-detroit-lions-have-run-out-of-excuses

Thoughts on David Price and Giants, Tigers after an inning Saturday

- A banged up Miguel Cabrera has been having trouble catching up with top-end fastballs this season, but Giants' lefty Madison Bumgarner fed him a cookie with that 88 mph low, cut fastball during the first inning. To his credit, Cabrera didn't miss it. That thing was out of the park in an instant. Cabrera has been hitting much better since resting his ankle, but it would be naïve to believe he is "back" yet
- The Giants had a smart approach against David Price in the first inning. They have mostly been taking the ball up the middle and not trying to pull the unnecessarily, using his control against him by swinging early in the count. But still, Price is making too many pitches cutting the middle of the plate. None of the Giants hits were cheap. There is a certain tone to this game, which is similar to the start Pirce had at Comerica Park in which he allowed nine straight hits vs. the Yankees. The first inning pushed Price's ERA as a Tiger above four, and this is seventh start with the club. It's not what the Tigers expected when they traded for him, obviously. Rick Porcello's start last night was also disappointing. The Tigers will go nowhere if those two don't pitch more effectively.
- An underrated fact: Kansas City's team ERA is more than a half-a-run per game less than the Tigers.

My column. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions have run out of excuses: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140906/pat-caputo-matthew-stafford-detroit-lions-have-run-out-of-excuses

Friday, September 05, 2014

My thoughts on the Tigers' 11-4 victory over Cleveland Thursday

My column. High risk, high reward weekend finally arrives for MSU Spartans and Michigan Wolverines: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140903/pat-caputo-high-risk-high-reward-weekend-arrives-for-msu-spartans-michigan-wolverines

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Thoughts after 7 innings Tigers, Indians Thursday

- I don't have any issue with the pitching change by Brad Ausmus. It didn't work out. Hardy has held left-handed hitters to below .200 batting average. It was a bad pitch to Michael Brantley, though.
- This game may have been lost on two fronts. The Tigers poor defense did push up Max Scherzer's pitch count. Also, they should have scored more earlier in the game.
- A lot of times defense is little more than effort. The Tigers usually play hard, but they haven't tonight in the field. Bottom line.

My column. High risk, high reward weekend finally arrives for MSU Spartans and Michigan Wolverines: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140903/pat-caputo-high-risk-high-reward-weekend-arrives-for-msu-spartans-michigan-wolverines

Thoughts after 4 innings Tigers, Indians Thursday

- Is Michael Brantley a terrific player or what? I know he has no chance of winning the AL MVP this season, but he'd definitely be in my top 5 if I had a vote. The Indians would be a below .500 team without him, and not even be on the fringes of the playoff race.
- The Tigers are often abysmal defensively. Ian Kinsler makes a lot of very good plays on ground balls, but there have been too many miscommunications on pop ups for a such a top-notch veteran infielder. That was a brutal defensive mistake by Kinsler and Tyler Collins in the fourth inning.
- The Tigers didn't take enough advantage early in the game against struggling Indians starter Trevor Bauer. The Indians have driven Tigers' starter Max Scherzer's pitch count up, so it will be necessary for the Tigers to use their bullpen extensively tonight.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

My thoughts on Justin Verlander and the Tigers' 7-0 loss to Cleveland Wednesday

My column. High risk, high reward weekend finally arrives for MSU Spartans and Michigan Wolverines: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140903/pat-caputo-high-risk-high-reward-weekend-arrives-for-msu-spartans-michigan-wolverines

Thoughts after 4 1-2 innings Tigers, Indians Wednesday

- I don't know if James McCann is a regular MLB catcher. I just know he can't be any worse and is probably an upgrade from Bryan Holaday. People ask me all the time why the Tigers are handling the situation with McCann this way. I have no idea. Their explanations make no sense to me. He is not a kid. He is in his mid-20s. He does have sufficient minor league experience and he did have a good year at Triple-A Toledo this season. I mean, the guy hit .342 against lefties with a big sample size. He might have made that play at the plate tonight Holaday didn't. What do you think?
- Justin Verlander competes. He just isn't himself. There isn't the same zip on his fastball this season, and it hurts his secondary pitches. But I do believe, with a full off season of rest and workouts, he will return to full form in '15.
- At times, honestly, the Tigers look like the Keystone Cops defensively. Did Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez butcher that popup or what? The Tigers defensively sure aren't helping Verlander's cause.

My column. High risk, high reward weekend finally arrives for MSU Spartans and Michigan Wolverines: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140903/pat-caputo-high-risk-high-reward-weekend-arrives-for-msu-spartans-michigan-wolverines

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

My thoughts on the Tigers' dramatic 4-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians Tuesday night

Thoughts after 6 1-2 innings Tigers, Indians Tuesday

- One run on 12 hits? Seems to me that falls under the category of impossible. Ooops. Guess not.
- Blaine Hardy to the rescue. Again. Can you imagine where the Tigers would be without him? He has definitely been one of the things that has gone right for the Tigers so far this season. We'll see if he can keep it up.
- Victor Martinez has been truly amazing this season. It wouldn't surprise me, even though he can't run a lick and gets virtually no infield hits as a result, if Martinez wins the batting title. It's especially impressive considering how the exaggerated shifts have impacted the game.
- The Tigers would have been better off with James McCann coming up with two and two out in the seventh rather than Bryan Holaday.

My column. Four things that must go right for the Tigers to make a postseason run: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140902/pat-caputo-four-things-that-must-transpire-for-a-postseason-run-by-detroit-tigers

My thoughts after 3 1-2 innings Tuesday night Tigers, Indians

Kyle Lobstein vs.  Cleveland
- All the complaining about how inconsistent the Tigers are offensively rings hollow when it is considered they entered tonight ranked first in the American League in most key offensive categories, including runs scored, OPS, OBP, slugging percentage and batting average. It also speaks about how far off the Oakland A's have fallen off since trading Yonis Cespedes to Boston at the trade deadline. But it doesn't make it feel any better the Tigers have made so little of their considerable chances tonight. It's a shame they don't have the lead right now.
- Honestly, I didn't think Kyle Lobstein was capable of striking out this many hitters at the MLB level. It says a lot about how the Indians hitters keep getting themselves out. Home plate umpire Mike Everitt's generous strike zone for the pitchers tonight has helped Lobstein.

My column. Four things that must transpire for the Tigers to make a run in the postseason: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140902/pat-caputo-four-things-that-must-transpire-for-a-postseason-run-by-detroit-tigers

Forget Bobby Layne, this has been the real curse of the Detroit Lions...

When running back Mikel Leshoure was released and linebacker Kyle Van Noy underwent surgery for a core muscle-related injury last week, it continued the Lions' long-standing issues with their second-round draft picks.
Lions' linebacker Kyle Van Noy
Since 2005, the Lions have selected a dozen players in the second round of the NFL Draft. Of those players, they have chosen no Pro Bowlers and just one long-term starter, recently departed safety Louis Delmas.
It doesn't appear to be a career-threatening injury for Van Noy. There is still hope for cornerback Darius Slay, the 2013 second-round pick. He is starting and certainly being counted on, but he did have a disappointing rookie season. Wide receiver Ryan Broyles (2012) has had significant knee ailments, but is obviously talented.
But the rest of the list is very telling about the Lions' struggles, and how they have been very much draft related. Wide receiver Titus Young and Leshoure were second-round picks in '11. The Lions actually traded up to get Leshoure. The fifth-round pick they traded to Seattle in the deal was used by the Seahawks to select All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman. Delmas was the '09 second-round pick and linebacker Jordan Dizon in '08. The Lions had three second-round picks in 2007, quarterback Drew Stanton, defensive Ikaika Alama-Francis and safety Gerald Alexander. In '06, it was safety Daniel Bullocks and in '05 defensive tackle Shaun Cody.
It's well established how the Lions have rarely found gems later in the draft, but their run during the second round is utterly ridiculous.
We'll see if it changes with Van Noy, Slay and Broyles, but it hasn't exactly been a promising start for any of those players.

My column. Four things that must transpire for the Tigers to make a long postseason run: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/sports/20140902/pat-caputo-four-things-that-must-transpire-for-a-postseason-run-by-detroit-tigers