Saturday, November 30, 2013

My thoughts on Michigan's 42-41 loss to Ohio State Saturday

Thoughts after 3rd quarter Ohio State, Michigan

- What would a Michigan game, circa 2013, be without Devin Gardner not losing a fumble? Michigan's offense has been plagued by two things which have been alarming. One is the inability to run the football, the other ball security. Again, a Gardner fumble has turned the course of a game against Michigan. Adding to the problem is Gardner tends to come unglued after turnovers. He doesn't shake them off like the better QBs do.
- The Wolverines' defense is now completely overwhelmed by Braxton Miller and the Ohio State offense. Can't say it's a surprise. But in the second half, it's been like stealing candy from a baby. Just too easy.
- Nice run by freshman De'Veon Smith. Maybe there is something there. If there is, how come we haven't seen it sooner than this?

Thoughts halftime Ohio State, Michigan

- Bo and Woody would have hated this type of game, but it certainly is fun.
- I'm sure there are many people who loved the aspect of the fight, but it wasn't a good thing in any way, shape or form, in my opinion. Emotions are high, and that's a good thing, but the fight did show a bush-league aspect, especially in regard to Ohio State. Urban Meyer has a long of history of coaching players with behavioral issues. You can understand why, given that, why his players came flying off the bench onto to the field. It escalated the incident. Ohio State deserved having two players were ejected from this game. Buckeyes' offensive tackle Marcus Hall flipping off the fans as he walked off the field was another deplorable moment. I am not trying to sound naïve here. I understand tempers flare, but when it starts to move into thug-like behavior, its disappointing. It tends to get overlooked that these teams are representing academic institutions of higher learning, not street gangs.
- Everything about Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner has been better today than in recent weeks. He has thrown the ball with more authority and accuracy. His been much better scrambling. This is the Devin Gardner we saw early this season. Michigan fans must be hoping against hope this is the Devin Gardner they will see next season, too.
- Count me among those who thinks Braxton Miller will be an excellent NFL QB. I think he has been hurt by those who insist on comparing him to Terrelle Pryor. He is a much better passer than Pryor at this stage of his career. There don't seem to be any throws he can't make. And, as we saw near the end of the half, he is a tremendous runner.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Ohio State, MIchigan

- There is a ridiculous amount of red in the seats at Michigan Stadium today. It's even worse than in 2009, the year of Rich Rod's 5-7 team. Thing is, you won't see the opposite of it at Ohio Stadium. Makes you wonder about Michigan fans, sometimes. It's not something you'd want to paint a broad brush on, but a large segment of Wolverines' fans are of the bandwagon variety, especially those who didn't actually go there. There were tickets for sale everywhere before this game, and evidently most of them were gobbled up by Buckeyes.
- Getting a big play early in this game was absolutely huge for Michigan. Somehow, some way they got the ball in space to Jeremy Gallon. Why that hasn't happened more often is one of the great puzzles about Michigan's offense. How come Jeremy Gallon is such a huge force in some games, and disappears in others? Same with Devin Funchess. And they don't utilize freshman tight end Jake Butt enough. He is obviously talented. It all goes along with the inconsistency of Michigan's offense overall.
- The big difference between the Ohio State of Urban Meyer and that of Jim Tressel is how explosive the Buckeyes are offensively. You saw that when Braxton Miller hit Devin Smith with that long TD pass. Ohio State used to win with a plodding offense that looked like something out of the 1970s high school ranks. Now, they have all the bells and whistles to go along with the athletes.
-The pace of this game is of a shootout. It's not surprising on the Ohio State end. It is on the Michigan side. The Buckeyes don't have a great defense, but it's surprising Michigan has been able to move the ball this well.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Extreme measures should be playoff formula for Lions

My thoughts on the Lions' 40-10 victory over the Green Bay Packers Thursday

Thoughts after 3rd quarter Green Bay, Lions

- Anybody still fearful Matt Flynn is going to light up the Lions' secondary like a pinball machine today? It wasn't going to happen. Flynn had his 15 minutes of fame vs. the Lions in the '11 regular season finale at Lambeau Field. The stars just aligned for him that day. His performance vs. the Lions in relief of Aaron Rodgers at Ford Field in '10 was more indicative of what Flynn is as an NFL QB.
- Everybody talks about Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Ndamukong Suh, but the Lions' player having the best season is DeAndre Levy. There isn't a linebacker in the NFL playing any better. He is not only playing at the level of a Pro Bowler, but a first-team All-Pro. Maybe his performance today, with the nation watching so intently, will get Levy the recognition he deserves.
- Calvin Johnson has not made a number of catches he usually does today. He dropped a ball wide open in space, one at the back of the end zone and was uncharacteristically beat on a jump ball in the end zone by Packers' cornerback Sam Shields. But you know, that touchdown catch-and-run in which he made Green Bay safety Morgan Burnett seem like a bug hitting a windshield at 100 mph made it all worth it.
- I don't know whether the Lions' defensive line is that good or the Packers' offensive line that bad, but it is the key matchup of the game so far. I suspect it is a little bit of both. The Lions have gotten a lot of production today from rookie defensive ends Ziggy Ansah and Devon Taylor. In fact, their 2013 draft class, with the exception of Sam Martin and his out of bounds kickoffs, has shined today. Rookie cornerback Darius Slay today compared to during his first two starts to begin this season are like night and day. He is vastly improved.
- I thought the penalty call on Levy for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Packers' tight end Ryan Taylor was unfair. He did get some of Taylor's helmet with his helmet, but it was unavoidable. The vast majority of Levy's hit involved his shoulder. It was actually a classic example of how to tackle. He did not lead with his head. I don't blame the officials for being confused on these issues, and I'm all for protecting the players. But come on, that was just football. They start calling that, they should play with flags in their pockets and call it what it is.

Thoughts halftime Packers, Lions

- If Aaron Rodgers were quarterbacking the Packers today, this game would be over. The Packers were 0-3-1 in their four games without Rodgers. They have a poor defense. The Lions should be throttling these guys by two TDs. But at least they have done enough, despite their three turnovers, to get in position to win this game.
- David Akers as the Lions' kicker could ultimately be their undoing.
 The Lions continue to be amazingly mistake prone. One of the big advantages the Lions have compared to their first meeting with the Packers is Randall Cobb is not playing because of injury. He has been replaced as a returner by the far-less-threatening Micah Hyde returning. So when Lions' rookie Sam Martin put a kickoff out of bounds, it set up Green Bay at the 40 anyway. A short drive later, the Packers had three points. Then Riley Reiff got burned for a sack, leading to a Matthew Stafford fumble. The Lions are averaging three turnovers, and apparently counting, in their last five games. Unreal. This game was looking like a repeat of the Tampa Bay game for awhile
- Maybe it's just me and a faulty memory, does any kicker ever miss a 54-yard field goal attempt against the Lions?
- It was a wise play by the Lions to dial up a blitz on third and six against an unsure Matt Flynn. That linebacker Stephen Tulloch got home wasn't an accident. In that spot, Flynn isn't going to risk a turnover. The Lions wouldn't dare blitz Rodgers in that situation.
- The sellout crowd here at Ford Field holds its collective breath every time Reggie Bush gets the ball. Wonder why? Ah, but Bush has played extraordinarily well since the turnover. He appears motivated by his failures, not discouraged by them. That's a very good thing. The Lions, collectively, should follow his lead. It's far more important than any team meeting they've had.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Packers, Lions

-  The Lions did a wonderful job of picking up the tempo offensively during the first quarter. They had fallen back into the bad habit of moving too slowly in recent games at the start.
They have been in and out of the huddle quickly today. They have been sharp throwing the ball and running it, and have the Packers' suspect defense on its heels. But then the turnover card came up. Again, it was Reggie Bush. This is ridiculous. It was his third fumble in the last four games. All of them were inexcusable and costly. Joique Bell is running very well today. Ball security is perhaps the biggest issue of all for a running back. It's getting to the point where it might better serve the Lions to see more Bell and less Bush for awhile.
- Ziggy Ansah has six sacks in his 10 NFL games. That makes him an impact rookie by any definition. He has made his presence known since returning from an ankle injury.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lack of faith in Lions understandable

My column:
Stafford, Johnson, Lions: Way too short Sunday vs. Bucs

My thoughts on the Lions' 24-21 loss to Tampa Bay Sunday

Thoughts after 3rd quarter Tampa Bay, Lions

- The inconsistency of Lions' QB Matthew Stafford is puzzling. He has made some brilliant throws today. The sidearm shot to Calvin Johnson for 21 yards and a first down, which set up an 18-yard scoring pass that was threaded to Brandon Pettigrew, in the third quarter...that's the good part. The bad was the poor decision making on the interception in the end zone. It's amazing, as experienced as Stafford is at this point, he didn't see the safety playing center field and just waiting for him to throw that pass. Also, it was underthrown because he didn't step into the throw. Stafford will end up with a lot of passing yards today, but this is the second week in a row he has lacked consistency. This is the time of the year the Lions' need him to progress, not regress.
- The Lions' pass rush has been much better today. It's not a coincidence so has their defense overall. The two go hand-in-hand with all NFL defenses, but especially this one
- Reggie Bush still has a lot of speed and quickness in the short areas, but he has not been breaking away from the secondary when he gets into space. He's a better player than Jahvid Best was overall. Certainly, he is a better inside runner. But he doesn't have the same breakaway speed at this stage. Of course, it might be the wear and tear of the season. Bush looked like he had that breakaway speed early in the campaign, before he suffered a knee injury.

Thoughts halftime Tampa Bay, Lions

- Some fans will blame TE Brandon Pettigrew for a lack of effort on the Pick 6 by Bucs' cornerback Leonard Johnson, but that's all on Lions' QB Matthew Stafford. The pass was thrown behind Pettigrew, and badly. In fairness, how was Pettigrew supposed to know the pass was intended for him?
- Having a secondary target for Stafford other Calvin Johnson is huge. I wondered if Nate Burleson, at 32, would still have much left in the tank coming off a broken leg. He does. He proved it earlier in the season before his off-the-field mishap. He is proving it again today upon his return to the field.
- The Lions' defense isn't playing poorly, but the offense needs to pick up the pace. Shortening the game like this plays in the hands of the Bucs. If this becomes a shootout, it plays into the Lions' hands. The Lions' would be wise to come out in the second half in a no-huddle offense. Right now, they looked like a fastbreak basketball team playing at a slow-down, half-court pace.
- The Lions rarely blitz their secondary. Yet, against a rookie QB indoors with the noise level high, it was appropriate. And it worked when Lions' safety Glover Quin sacked the Bucs' Mike Glennon. You'd also have to believe it had a bearing on the false penalty which followed on the ensuing play. It goes back to the point of aggressiveness. Force the issue. Right now, the Lions are sitting back too much on both sides of the ball.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Tampa Bay, Lions

- If what Nick Fairley did to Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon, drawing a roughing the passer call, a penalty, then it really isn't football any more. He didn't hit him in the knees unnecessarily. It was above the knees, The hit wasn't late. There was no reason to make that call unless you want to put a flag in the QB's back pocket and have him act like Brett Favre in a commercial for blue jeans.
- There was nothing to like about the way the Lions opened this game offensively. There just isn't wasn't much tempo. They have been oh-so-slow getting to the line and getting out of the huddle.
- Obviously, the Lions missed Ziggy Ansah. He's their one defensive end capable of getting home and sacking the QB. We've seen it already today.
- Jeremy Ross equals a big upgrade returning kicks from Michael Spurlock.
- Guard Carl Nicks, safety Dashon Goldson and linebacker Mason Foster are three of the Bucs' best players. The Lions should win this game based on that alone.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

For Michigan, MSU it's all about Ohio State at this point

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dislike of Prince Fielder aside, his trade creates big hole for Tigers

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

On Prince Fielder being traded to Texas for Ian Kinsler

People are going to look at this trade as a total win for the Tigers. It probably isn't. Ian Kinsler isn't the same player he was a couple years back. His OPS is down well below .800 (.755 and .749 in '12 and '13). His power numbers have dwindled. He hasn't been effective stealing bases (15-of-26 in '13)and hasn't been the same kind of leadoff hitter.
Prince Fielder might very light it up in that left-hander's delight in Texas.
But I do believe the Tigers did the right thing by trading Fielder to the Rangers Wednesday night for Kinsler.
Fielder's contract was ridiculous and hindering the Tigers as they try to retain priorities as potential free agents Max Scherzer and Miguel Cabrera the next few years. Nick Castellanos, the Tigers' top young prospect, is a third baseman, and he was blocked by the combination of Fielder and Cabrera. The Tigers can simply move Cabrera back to first, put Castellanos at third. Kinsler is technically a downgrade not an upgrade from Omar Infante (.795 OPS in '13), but Infante, like Fielder, hasn't played well in a large sample size in the postseason. Kinsler has been a solid postseason force.
But the key to whether this really is not being done this off season. If the Tigers are going to effectively re-tool themselves, they still need a nearly complete overhaul of the bullpen, fill an outfield spot in left and look at upgrading in center fielder and catcher, with a Austin Jackson and Alex Avila at points nearing free agency where the Tigers either sign them long term or trade them.
But it's very good start, one that, frankly, is a better outcome for moving Fielder than could have possibility been imagined.

It's not the loss at Pittsburgh, but how Lions respond

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

There is a real easy way for the Red Wings to deal with their "slump"

The NHL, evidently, likes it this way. Everybody gets a point. Few teams separate themselves one way or another. It creates a log jam in the middle. Practically every team is in the playoff race. It makes late March and early April compelling for teams which would, otherwise, be bottom feeders.
There are times, however, when the NHL's overtime rule, which allows for a point for a tie, and an extra point to be decided in overtime or a shootout, is just annoying and not particularly telling.
The Red Wings will head into their game tonight at Joe Louis Arena vs. the Nashville Predators with a 9-5-7 record. They have 25 points, which is tied for fourth-most in the Eastern Conference. They are just three points behind Atlantic Division leader Tampa Bay with equal games played.
Yet, if you look at the standings, under the NHL's system under streaks, it says "L6," suggesting the Red Wings have lost their last six games.
Technically, they have. Well, technically, they haven't. It's bizarre.
Five of those six losses were in overtime or a shootout, meaning the Red Wings got five out of a possible 12 points. So, in a sense, they have been essentially .500 in those games.
It's the same with the Red Wings so-called "seven-game losing streak at home, their worst since 1982."
The Red Wings have lost six of those games in overtime or a shootout, meaning they have procured six of a possible 14 points. In 1982, before overtime was implemented, those seven losses meant a big zero.
Gustav Nyquist: Every goal, assist at Grand Rapids needed in Detroit
Now, a case can be made the Red Wings gave extra points to Eastern Conference foes like the NY Rangers, Tampa Bay, Washington and the NY Islanders over this span. True. But the damage isn't nearly as severe as the losing streaks suggest. For example, the fact Pavel Datsyuk scored with 42 seconds left in regulation Saturday vs. the Islanders to secure a point was far more important than the Red Wings eventually losing in a shootout.
Meanwhile, the NHL gets what it wants. Parity. A playoff atmosphere in many cities near the conclusion of the regular season. It was pretty exciting around here last year when the Red Wings roared back to secure a playoff spot during the last week of the regular season. However, a more equitable system in regard to fairness would be three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime/shootout victory and a point for a regulation overtime/shootout loss.
What's the answer to all this for the Red Wings currently? Win a game. Not in overtime or a shootout. How about in regulation.
The Red Wings haven't played particularly well and need to start gathering points so they aren't fighting for their playoffs lives again this March. Count me among those who feel the Red Wings shouldn't be keeping Gustav Nyquist in Grand Rapids because of waiver issues when he is scoring far more than a point per game, was stellar in the playoffs last spring and would clearly be an upgrade in a couple of spots.
The Red Wings are fortunate they are in the Eastern Conference because right now they would be falling behind in the Western Conference.
Nashville, which visits Joe Louis Arena tonight, and Carolina, on Friday, are both floundering around .500, which in the NHL these days means they are actually something less than that.
Getting two points in these type of home games early in the season would make it much easier late in the season.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

No excuse for Lions turning big win into disappointing loss

Thoughts after 3rd quarter Lions, Steelers

- Big third quarter by DeAndre Ley. He has displayed a rare nose for the ball this season. His interceptions are not a coincidence. He is always seems to be around the ball in pass coverage. He is also a sure tackler. Loved the big (and clean ) hit by Stephen Tulloch along the sidelines of Le'Veon Bell. There was an inordinate amount of concern about the Lions' linebacker play this season. It was unfounded.
- The goal line stand by the Lions was an example of what is different about this team this year compared to many years in the past. That simply doesn't happen on the road in years past. But it did help the Lions a great deal when Ben Roethlisberger missed a simple TD pass.
- A TD on this drive would mean much, much more than a FG. Key moments coming up

Thoughts halftime Lions, Steelers

- Calvin Johnson dropped a pass in the first quarter and Matthew Stafford missed with multiple passes he should have made, but they displayed how quickly they can turn it around on the 79-yard TD connection. The play featured the best of both players, Stafford's arm strength and awareness, and Johnson's strength, hands and ability to make a play after the catch. It was an oasis in an otherwise desert of mediocre play by the Lions in the first half to that point. It changed the course of the game. The Lions' defense started to get its act together, too.
- There are a lot of things to like about Reggie Bush, but ball security lately isn't one of them. It was his second fumble in the last three games, and neither was excusable. These type of playing conditions are ready-made for Joique Bell's skill set.
- It would be naïve to believe David Akers isn't a concern for the Lions. It's getting to the point where each of his field goal attempts seems to be an adventure.
- Larry Warford belongs in the Pro Bowl this year. He has played outstanding football for the Lions from Day 1. What a terrific third-round draft pick, and perhaps the most underrated factor in the Lions' turnaround this season.
- Awful offense at the goal line to end the half by Detroit..What kind of play calling was that? Brutal. Talk about poor play design. Yikes.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Lions, Steelers

- The scoring drives by Pittsburgh were just too easy. The Lions' defense reacted as if they had never seen a no-huddle offense before on the first one. The missed tackles by Glover Quin and Chris Houston on Antonio Brown's scoring reception were uncharacteristic, but disappointing nonetheless. The second scoring pass to Brown was as if the Lions were playing flag football. A terrible display of defense in the tackle realm.
- Reggie Bush was wide open. The course of this game might be different if Matthew Stafford hit him for a touchdown. Same with the deep pass to Kevin Ogletree. He has missed a couple other throws nearly as badly. Stafford's lack of accuracy so far has been surprising and somewhat alarming.
- The Steelers' retro uniforms are unbelievably ugly. They look like something that should have been in the prison-football movie "The Longest Yard" or something. They look they were designed by the Hamburglar.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

MSU Spartans a genuine reflection of Mark Dantonio

Thoughts after 3rd quarter MSU Nebraska

- This is a weird game, isn't it? Just when the Spartans seem to be in control, they aren't. These are two very evenly matched teams, and an example of why the Big Ten is overrated. These are conference title contending teams? In the SEC, they'd be lucky to be .500.
Nebraska's turnovers today fall under the category of pathetic.
- There will be people who will say Michigan State has been more lucky than good today. But teams make their own luck. The last two times Nebraska turned the ball over, the Spartans capitalized with touchdowns quickly. It's what top teams do.
- This is the first time MSU's defense has been seriously challenged this season. So far, anyway, it hasn't been up to the challenge. If anything, Nebraska's defense, poor by reputation, has been better.

Thoughts halftime MSU, Nebraska

- Nebraska has been a comedy of errors. The Spartans finally took full advantage of it at the end of the first half. It was good offense with limited time left in the half and a lack of timeouts by MSU. Excellent competitive character displayed by the Spartans
- Connor Cook has an underrated arm and good mobility. The 3rd and 19 throw for a first down to Tony Lippett was a gem. It makes you wonder what the coaching staff saw for so long in Andrew Maxwell they didn't see in Cook.
- "Rocket," "Little Giants," "Mouse Trap" - MSU coach Mark Danontio is known for naming trick plays. Those worked in the past. The ones this year haven't been successful. The halfback pass vs. Notre Dame was a disaster. That reverse, wide receiver pass today in the scoring zone was "The Mess." The Spartans have missed a lot of scoring opportunities in this game. Too many for comfort, until the very end of the half.

Thoughts after 1st quarter MSU, Nebraska

- The Spartans aren't exactly rolling offensively. Nebraska has turned the ball over three times. That, alone, should dictate MSU will win this game. The fact the Spartans are only up 10-7 at this point is disappointing.
- I don't believe the turnovers are a coincidence. MSU's defense puts a lot of pressure on opposing offenses. The key for the Spartans will be stopping Ameer Abdullah. He is easily the best back MSU has faced this season.
- Jeremy Langford is a far better back for MSU than I could have ever imagined. Great job of finding a diamond in the rough by MSU.
- Tommy Armstrong Jr. is not a good passer, but he will be effective if MSU must load up and pay extra attention to Abdullah. What Nebraska was able to passing the ball on its scoring drive all was because the Spartans are so concerned about the option and Abdullah gashing them with runs inside. MSU's safeties are overcommitting to the run.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Underrated? Overrated? We're about to find out about MSU Spartans

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Why Rick Porcello has as much trade value as Max Scherzer, and more than Doug Fister

There is a collective cringing in this town at the thought the Tigers would consider trading Max Scherzer. Not only was he 21-3 last season and about to be named as the American League Cy Young Award winner, but he couldn't be a more popular figure in this town. It's a great-pitcher-even-better-person type of thing.
Scherzer is eligible for free agency after next season. His stock has never been higher in regard to drawing a huge, long-term contract. But his trade value isn't as much as might be expected. A team trading for Scherzer isn't going to want to give up that much unless they are assured he is signed long-term.
A lot of people have looked at this and come to the conclusion the Tigers won't be able to sign Scherzer to a long-range contract before the start of next season because reputed high-line negotiator Scott Boras is his agent. I don't feel that way. For one thing, the Tigers will be generous with their offer. For another, Boras represents his client. Scherzer clearly likes it here and is very bright. And it should be understood, if Scherzer goes into next season without a long-term contract, he will be gambling mightily. If he were to get hurt, or go through the type of struggles which hindered Justin Verlander last season, the pot at the end of the rainbow won't be nearly as big as the one he can collect now from the Tigers.
Scherzer, Tigers would both win with long-term deal
The only way it would make any sense are if the contract demands are so outrageous even the Tigers don't bite on it.
The Tigers need to re-tool their roster. It begins with trading one of three starting pitchers not signed long-term, Scherzer, Rick Porcello or Doug Fister, to balance out their pitching staff and roster overall. Porcello and Fister are arbitration eligible and rapidly approaching free agency in two more years. Porcello has the most trade value of the three because of his age (25 next season compared 30 for Fister and 30 for Scherzer in July). Few starting pitchers in baseball have the combination of velocity and off-speed pitches as Scherzer, but Porcello does have a four-seam fastball he threw consistently in the mid-90s last season, which is tremendous compliment for his two-seamer (sinking fastball). Fister is a No.3 starter on a good staff. He doesn't have nearly as high a ceiling as Porcello, who is still younger than when Fister made his MLB debut.
This is what my educated guess is going to happen here:
- Porcello will be traded as part of the Tigers' big off-season move,
- Scherzer will sign a contract extension sometime in late January or early February.
- Fister will sign a deal which takes him though the year he is first eligible for free agency, 2016.
The Tigers do have flexibility here. They have Drew Smyly to fill a fifth starter role. They don't necessarily need to get another starting pitcher back in return in a trade.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ugly win has Lions sitting pretty

My column:

Our FOX 2 SportsWorks discussion on Lions' win over Bears:" title="Fox 2 News Headlines">Fox 2 News Headlines

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thoughts after 3rd quarter Lions, Bears

- The Bears' defense just isn't what they used to be without Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher at linebacker. They are extremely vulnerable to the run and the Lions' exploited it with the some nice runs by Reggie Bush and Joique Bell during the third quarter.
- It's amazing how fans love the backup QB, especially if he has played well lately. There were online polls this week, and Bears' fans wanted Josh McCown to start instead of Jay Cutler. It's not that Cutler doesn't have a few issues, but McCown is not nearly as good as Cutler. He's a short-term solution if there is an injury. Nothing more. However, having written that, the Bears would likely be better served with McCown in this game. Cutler is obviously ailing and is a sitting duck in the pocket for the Lions' pass rush. Cutler was ripped for not playing in the NFC title game a couple years ago because of an injury, but it's selfish for him to stay in this game.

Thoughts halftime Lions, Bears

- Ndamukong Suh and DeAndre Levy with a huge play to keep the Bears out of the end zone. Both might find themselves as teammates again, in the Pro Bowl.
- Rashean Mathis is playing another really good game for the Lions today, but the Bears are clearly looking to pick on Darius Slay any time possible. The Lions are trying to help him as much as possible with a safety. You can clearly see the Lions' miss both Ziggy Ansah's pass rushing skills and Bill Bentley at nickel back today.
- The Lions; offense is explosive, but it hasn't been on the field much today. The Bears are doing a good job of time possession. The Lions being turned away on fourth-and-one hurt. Horrible play call.
- The first half of this game was a little tepid, but the second half will present a lot more emotion. It's like each team is feeling out the other like a heavyweight fight. Should be great stuff.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Lions, Bears

- The Bears have struggled against the run this season, and especially since Lance Briggs went out with an injury, and seem to have overcompensated for it by placing an extra player in the so-called box. They had six instead of seven in the box during the first meeting between the two teams, and Reggie Bush ran for 159 yards. Chicago had seven in the box on the Lions' first drive. The Lions took full advantage of it by passing their way right down the field.
- Both offensive lines are handling the other's pass rush. It's not surprising from the Lions' standpoint. Detroit QB Matthew Stafford entered the game with the lowest percentage of sacks per attempt this season, but the Lions need to pressure Jay Cutler more. Even without Ziggy Ansah, the Lions should be generating a better pass rush. Ndamukong Suh dominated Kyle Long the first time the teams met. Not happening so far today.
- The Bears run screen passes better than any team in the NFL, both with Matt Forte out of the backfield, and their wide receivers.
- Suh with the facemask on Cutler was, unfortunately, typical, and so unnecessary.
- Cutler always has been, and always will be, a turnover about to happen.

Hoke's right, he must coach better - or he won't be coaching Michigan

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Thoughts after 3rd Quarter Nebraska, Michigan

- Gosh, wonder who is more nervous about the outcome of this game: Michigan or MSU fans. The Spartans would benefit SO MUCH by a Wolverines' victory today.
- The one play that stood out to me more than any other on Michigan's impressive scoring drive (a long time since you could say that) to start the second half was the screen pass. It's one of those plays, and there seem to be others, which have simply been missing from the Wolverines' play menu. Why? It's like half the playbook has been used. Another play they rarely use are drag passes to their receivers to get them the ball in space. Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess, in particular, have the ability to make plays after the catch. It's strange, too, because Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges has a background in the West Coast offense. The bread-and-butter passing plays in the West Coast system involve on-time, and on-target shorter passes and running after the catch.
- Rarely, in this day and age, do you see a team struggle with a shot gun snap as much as Michigan has lately.
- Freshman tight end Jake Butt is a good possession receiver. He has been under-utilized lately.
- It's easy to praise Michigan's defense for what it is doing so far today. It's also easy to point out Nebraska's passing attack is woeful and the Wolverines big problems this season have involved getting burned deep on passing plays. Still, a solid effort. James Ross is playing very well at linebacker today. Defensive end Brennen Beyer is playing well today, as well. Cam Gordon has made a couple big plays.
- If Nebraska coach Bo Pelini wants to change the course of this game, he'd insert Ron Kellogg III at QB. He is a better passer than Tommy Armstrong Jr. It was Kellog III would let the big comeback last week vs. Northwestern

Thoughts halftime Nebraska, Michigan

- Always a bad half offensively when a punt is considered the best play. Not an encouraging display of football by the Wolverines, although the defense is doing reasonably well and Michigan has stayed in the game. And this game is far from over. Nebraska is the classic college football enigma team. The Cornhuskers rise and fall on a whim, and it's quarter-by-quarter and half-by-half.
- Everybody who blames Rich Rodriguez's recruiting classes for Michigan's woes should consider a one of his small receivers, Jeremy Gallon, is the team's best player.
- Nebraska's defense is doing a very good job of "spying" Michigan QB Devin Gardner. The Cornhuskers are not biting on the Wolverines' misdirection plays or play fakes designed to free Gardner to make plays with his legs. Of course, you'd think while doing this, it would open up Wolverines' running back Fitzgerald Toussaint to make big plays and the intermediate passing routes. It hasn't.
- Horrible play call by Nebraska having QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. drop back into the end. He scrambled his way out of there, but a safety might have changed the course of this game.

Thoughts after 1st quarter Nebraska, Michigan

- Nebraska has an outstanding running attack (5.4 yards per carry coming into today). Michigan has a poor running attack (running backs averaging under four yards per carry). The wind is nasty today. That gives the Cornhuskers a decided edge.
-  Most of the discussion regarding concerns about Michigan earlier in the season were based on a porous defense and a turnover-plagued offense. But right now, the Wolverines offense just looks bad in overall conception. Nebraska has a mediocre defense, but is just schooling the Wolverines upfront. This isn't just about blocking. It's like the offense has totally gotten out of sync. It operates with no purpose. Michigan doesn't have the "Denard Robinson does not fit the offense" excuse anymore. Devin Gardner has good traditional QB skills. The coaching staff is not making the most of them. Look at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers came out in a no-huddle offense and trying to force the tempo. Michigan came out and what? Nothing. The Wolverines have fundamental blocking and tackling issues, no doubt, but their game plans and approach each week have been poorly conceived and are obviously lacking.
- It was smart to get the ball into the hands of Jeremy Gallon late in the quarter. It's like the Wolverines are OK, at times, with defenses taking him out of the game. How about coming up with some creative ways to get the ball in his hands? That jet sweep was a good start.
- Ameer Abdullah getting 18 yards on a third and three situation was disappointing. The good part: Michigan's defense did get off the field, albeit after allowing a field goal. It didn't go so well on the Cornhuskers second drive, though.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Ausmus won't succeed unless Dombrowski gives him the right ingredients

Monday, November 04, 2013

Pistons will only go as far as Brandon Jennings takes them

Replay of our live chat Monday on the Tigers' hiring Brad Ausmus as manager and the Michigan-MSU game." title="Fox 2 News Headlines">Fox 2 News Headlines

Sunday, November 03, 2013

On Brad Ausmus, new Tigers' manager

This I know about Brad Ausmus. He is a exceptionally smart guy. He was a very good catcher defensively, who thought through the game exceptionally well. He was an outstanding teammate. Ausmus was an excellent leader as a player.
He also has a very similar background as Mike Matheny, the St. Louis Cardinals' manager, who has done well replacing Tony LaRussa, despite not having managed before.
Methany and Ausmus are so similar, they even look alike in ball cap. So there is a blue print in recent years, by the Cardinals, suggesting the Tigers are on the cutting edge by hiring Ausmus.
The flipside is the unknown. Can he actually manage? I have no idea this is going to turn out.
There isn't even a minor league transcript on that one. For a team, whose expectation is winning the World Series like the Tigers, it represents considerable risk. albeit calculated.
Ausmus definitely looks the part. It doesn't, however, guarantee he will fit it.
And are the Tigers really on the cutting edge here or repeating a couple of their most costly mistakes - hiring Alan Trammell and Buddy Bell, each within the last 20 years, when they didn't have an experience, at any level, managing.
Those two had every bit the resume of Ausmus in terms of baseball background. Actually, more. Yet, they each looked mostly deer in the headlights when it came to managing a Major League Baseball team.
Both were lacking in the strategy area, and each lost their clubhouse. Neither came in with the expectations facing the Tigers with Ausmus at the helm, either.
Dave Dombrowski has been a terrific team president and general manager. If he has an Achilles Heel down through the years, it has been missing on managers. He hired Trammell and Luis Pujols. Remember Felipe Alou being brought in as Pujols' experience in the dugout?
I don't know if this is history repeating itself. I just know the managerial savior in Dombrowski's life has always been Jim Leyland. He is the only manager Dombrowski has ever hired at the major league level who has delivered as much as a winning record in a quarter of century.
We'll see if he is right this time. It could go a long way in determining Dombrowski's legacy in Detroit.

MSU's elation is Michigan's utter embarrassment

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Thoughts after third quarter Michigan, MSU

- Clearly, Michigan has schemed in this game for taking away the run and making the Spartans' beat them with the pass. MSU QB Connor Cook had been cool under pressure and made some excellent throws earlier in this game, but started to come unglued in third quarter. The interception was just a bad throw. It wasn't long ago the Spartans' QB play was brutally awful. Can't say that anymore. Although, Cook's missed a couple receivers today, he's rapidly becoming a solid QB. With the Spartans' defense being so dominant, that's pretty much all MSU needs from its QB to be a force, at least in the Big Ten. That's what made the interception so disappointing.
- This game does remind me a lot of the 2011 Michigan-MSU game here at Spartan Stadium. Only insert Devin Gardner for Denard Robinson, both being put in what seem like impossible situations.
- Gardner has enough problems against MSU's defense without his receivers dropping passes. Michigan really needed a big game from tight end Devin Funchess today. So far, at least, he hasn't delivered.
- I don't see how Shilique Calhoun can be denied first-team All-American honors this season. What an impact-making defensive end he has become.

Thoughts halftime Michigan, MSU

- This is the type of game there might only be one touchdown. Huge drive at the end of the half by the Spartans.
- The Spartans' offense has been better lately, but that hardly qualifies it as an artwork. There have been too receivers open today missed by MSU QB Connor Cook today. It looked like Bennie Fowler should have had a TD reception. In fairness to Fowler, he broke open, but the ball was underthrown and delivered late. The touchdown drive late in the second half more than up for it. This time Cook connected with Fowler.
- MSU tailback Jeremy Langford with more authority each and every week, a sign he is gaining confidence.
- Michigan hasn't scored a touchdown against MSU defense in more than six quarters. It's one thing to struggle offensively. It's another to look completely ridiculous offensively. Michigan State's defense is doing to that the Wolverines' offense. Devin Gardner goes back to pass. Devin Gardner is sacked. It kind of sums up the first half offensively for UM. It's incredible how many of Michigan's plays today have netted negative yardage
- You kind of wondered when Jehu Chesson would do something for Michigan. Certainly, the ability is there. That was a terrific adjustment with the ball in the air between two defenders to set up the Wolverines' game-tying field goal.

Thoughts after first quarter Michigan, MSU

- The 49-yard catch-and-run by MSU fullback Trevon Pendleton, setting up a field goal, was symbolic of what the rivalry has become. Pendleton was a 3-star recruit. He was a highly-regarded fullback, but there was no buzz about his recruitment on signing day. MSU QB Connor Cook was also a 3-star recruit. So was defensive end Shilique Calhoun. He has scored three defensive touchdowns this season and sacked Michigan QB Devin Gardner for an 11-yard loss in the first quarter. It's the three-star recruits of MSU beating the Wolverines' four- and five-star recruits which has made this rivalry so rare. It's a testament to MSU coach Mark Dantonio and an indictment of Brady Hoke, and his predecessor at Michigan, Rich Rodriguez. We'll see how the rest of the day plays out.
- Gardner has taken a number of sacks today, and it's a sign of his maturation as a QB. Today is the last day he should take chances unnecessarily. Today is the day he should make taking care of the ball his No.1 priority. The fact the first quarter ended in an exchange of field goals is hardly a surprise. This figures to be a very tight, defensive-oriented football game. One really good TD drive, making field goals and taking care of the ball might be enough for either offense to win it.
- What do I think of MSU's all green uniforms? I think they are hideous. I liked their Pro Combat uniforms for the 2011 Michigan game much better.
- Does Michigan ever get production from the tailback position anymore? It's like the Wolverines don't even try to establish a traditional running attack. It seems so unlike Michigan, given its tradition. It's like MSU's front seven knows Michigan is going to pass and is teeing off both on the Wolverines' offensive line and Gardner.