Robert Johnson's classic Delta blues composition "Crossroads"... it possibly illustrates the dramatic essence of this upcoming Detroit Lions vs. Eagles clash in Philly on Sunday... One team (the Lions) trying to hitch a ride to better times, the other team (the Eagles) trying to avoid the sinking down...
Sitting at the bottom of the NFC North, the Detroit Lions know they need to come out of their bye week with a much-improved effort going forward.
The visiting Lions try to avoid a fourth consecutive loss Sunday and beat the Eagles for the first time in a quarter-century. After going 10-6 and snapping an 11-year postseason drought in 2011, Detroit (1-3) was widely expected to take a big step forward this year. That, however, has yet to happen, with the Lions dropping three in a row since a season-opening 27-23 win over St. Louis.
"That's our challenge right now to dig our way out of this," coach Jim Schwartz said. "There have been a lot of things that have happened that are not indicative of where this team will be after 16 games and like I said, we need to get those corrected."
The Lions saw their woes continue in a 20-13 home loss to Minnesota on Sept. 30, allowing touchdowns on kickoff and punt returns for the second consecutive game. QB Matthew Stafford, though, is hoping a week off makes all the difference.
"Obviously, you want to head into a bye week with a win," he told the team's official website, "but it's a good time for us to kind of get away from it a little bit, refocus and get ready for a 12-game stretch."
Stafford has been limited to three touchdown passes - he had 41 last season - and his four interceptions equal his total through eight games in 2011. He has yet to find Calvin (Megatron) Johnson in the end zone, though the star wideout ranks second in the league with 105.8 receiving yards per game.
"I'm not real surprised," said Johnson, who had 16 TD catches last year, but whose only one this season came from backup QB Shaun Hill. "We know teams aren't going to let you do what you did last year. We have to find a different way."
The Eagles (3-2) also are in search of better play from their quarterback. Vick's eight fumbles are three more than any other player and his five lost fumbles also lead the league. He put the ball on the ground three times last Sunday in a last-second 16-14 defeat at Pittsburgh, and lost one fumble at the Steelers' 1.
"I wish I could take back the fumble on the goal line, but I can't," he said. "Ultimately, we put ourselves in a position to win this game, but we didn't win. That's how it goes in the NFL. You wish you could have some things back, and there are plenty of things I wish I could have back through the course of this season, but you can't get them. I will do a better job of protecting the football."
While Vick threw six interceptions in his first two games, he hasn't been picked off in his last three - a trend coach Andy Reid hopes to see with his fumbles.
"We've got to go back and work on ball security and he knows that and he's gonna get it right just like he did with the interceptions," Reid said. "We're gonna get it fixed. It won't be the last time he carries the football. He just has to secure it away, keep it high and tight. When he's in traffic, get that thing covered up with the off hand."
Vick could be in for another long day against a Detroit defense that has nine sacks and has allowed five passing TDs. The Lions are surrendering an average of 213.0 yards through the air to rank 10th in the league.
Besides defensive end Cliff Avril (back) possibly returning, Detroit could receive a boost from safety Louis Delmas, who has a chance to make his season debut Sunday following left knee surgery.
"He's a big-time playmaker," defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said of Delmas. "And, he brings an attitude and energy to our team that really picks everyone up."
The Lions could surely use Delmas as they try to snap a six-game losing streak to the Eagles, including playoffs, dating to a win in Philadelphia on Nov. 16, 1986.
Philadelphia took the most recent matchup 35-32 at Detroit on Sept. 19, 2010, behind 120 rushing yards and a career best-tying three touchdowns from LeSean McCoy. Vick threw for 284 yards and two TDs but fumbled twice.
The Eagles, 3-0 when McCoy rushes for at least 80 yards, are looking to open 3-0 at home for the first time since 2005.
Detroit has lost six of seven on the road, including a playoff loss, while allowing averages of 36.6 points and 441.9 yards.
Despite the presence of playmakers such as quarterback Michael Vick, wide receiver DeSean Jackson and running back LeSean McCoy, the Eagles haven't generated many big plays this season as they had hoped.
The NFL defines big plays as those that gain 20 yards or more from scrimmage. The Eagles enter Sunday's game the same as Detroit, having produced 23 of them in five games - 18 passes and five runs - to rank tied for sixth in the league.
"Sixth isn't bad," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said Thursday. "We've had our share of big plays, but not as many as I want. We're usually in the top three, four or five in that category. We're used to having big plays and we're used to scoring some touchdowns on those big plays."
Since the start of the 2010 season, the Eagles have posted a league-high 187 big plays, eight more than the New York Giants and San Diego. The Eagles' 817 big plays since 2000 are also tops in the league.
Conversely, they have had 11 offensive drives of 10 plays or more this season, which is tied for fourth. Their longest drive occurred in the fourth quarter of last Sunday's 16-14 loss at Pittsburgh, when Vick and company used 17 plays to move 79 yards. Vick's 2-yard touchdown pass to tight end Brent Celek gave the Eagles a 14-13 lead.
"Defenses are playing us a little different," Vick said. "They're giving us some things that we can take advantage of and at some point we'll get our shots down the field. We get one or two (opportunities) a game, but it hasn't been like it has in the past."
"We just want to put ourselves in a position to win the game. We don't want to leave any stones unturned, so sometimes we may take our chances in the first half and try to be as aggressive as we can to put points on the board. That's our philosophy. But they may not work, and when they don't, we just take it back to basics and go out and execute the offense."
Jackson, the Eagles' strongest deep threat, has largely been held in check this season. His longest gain was a 49-yard reception in a 24-23 victory over Baltimore on Sept. 16. None of his other 23 catches was for more than 35 yards. Since entering the league in 2008, Jackson had at least one reception of at least 60 yards in his first four years, topped by a 91-yard touchdown in 2010.
His current average of 16.3 yards per catch this season (24 receptions for 391 yards) would be the lowest since he averaged 14.7 yards per catch as a rookie in 2008.
McCoy's longest run this season was a 34-yarder against the Giants. He also had gains of 60 yards or longer in each of his previous three seasons.
"It's pretty obvious that defenses are trying to take away the deep stuff," Jackson said. "The safeties are sitting back and when we do get man-to-man coverage, they're blitzing (which doesn't provide enough time for deep passes). But that opens up all the underneath stuff for us. We just have to stay patient, force them to defend the underneath stuff, and then try to break a long one."
The Eagles don't mind long drives.
The offensive linemen prefer taking a methodical march toward the end zone rather than the one-and-done approach with a deep pass, even if it means being out on the field longer and wearing down as the game progresses.
"I like the long drives," tackle Todd Herremans said. "You do get tired out there, but sometimes I feel like I'm playing my best football in those situations. When we're out there for a long time, it forces you to just focus on doing your job on each and every play instead of overthinking things."
"But the main goal is to put the ball in the end zone and I don't care how we do that."
All I know is the Lions are built to pressure opposing quarterbacks. And with a healthy Nick Fairley, and controlled aggression from a defensive tackle named Suh, and a presumably healthy Cliff Avril combined with a mix of the veteran Kyle Vanden Bosch and reserves Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young, the offensive unit of the Eagles is going to have to rise and shine in order to win this game...because the Lions are going to bring the heat.
Hey Kene.... talking TE... Jace Amaro Texas Tech... wholly dooly he can Run... but can he block?
Looks the Geno Smiffs Defense will give he a big score to chase this game
On a pretty cool bit of movie news... Liev Schreeberer(sic) just finished a movie that was shot partly in my home town... he drowns at the little old Evans Head bridge after jumping in... Funny bit is that you could probably walk across the river/estuary at low tide.... The same director/writer of 'Muriel's Wedding' made a movie about his childhood called 'Mental'. Naomi Watts must have hooked him up with the script and he did the low budget movie for next to nothing to be a part of it. Giving THE most realistic aussie accent from a Merican ever!... After seeing him 'Goon' with Stifler recently... I think Liev is a bit of a Legend for doing these small movies
Interesting....ESPN info button on my remote sez about the game on
'Illinois Vs Michigan: The Teas Longhorns trailed for the entire first half, but grabbed some second half momentum after foiling a fake punt. Colt McCoy, along with the Long defense, took over from there,'
Hmmmm.... Longhorns just got smarshed by the Sooners... Did Colt go back to school and is looking at MLB career?
@sunbutts ha ha...you can kiss Palmy's ass......
Hows THAT for a wise crack????
an Oldie but a Goodie?
Giants should get their heads handed to them by 49ers tomorrow--but those nasty Gmen have a habit of foolin' ya all the time.
Eagles have a serious game to play against an under performing team. In Detroit they'd lose, i guess.
ATV--Yup! Yesterday, just before i posted, I stepped in dog shit and you came to my mind immediately.
@sunbutts That's a flag thrown on Sonny for taunting ...10 yards on the ensuing kickoff.
Bri is riding his bike on St. Michael's island today... thus I keep hearing that "Queen" song in my head..."Bicycle, bicycle,...I love to ride my bicycle..."
@Tom Jackson Oh Nooooo..... not the fluro yellow socks, jocks and Headband again... Fishnets singlet....Faux Zebra skin Fannyback and Back To the Future high cut Marty McFly Nikes
How much of a footy diehard are you... When you wake thinking about big fat ugly blokes and Mudd's Sean Connery beard...
Gotta say, gone are the giggles with Mudd... for three reasons... Vandevelde, B. Washington... and the inadequate Substitution situation and management so far thus year...
Seems like arrogance got in the way of practicality
Livefyre is still talking to Apple about the iOS 6 problems... the iPhone is crucial to much of our audience participation here... I appreciate the patience of our iPhone members, but I also realize that patience has limits...
@Tom Jackson nah... But I would steer clear of 'worm wood juice' and acacia wattle bark if I was you Cuz
@Tom Jackson poor bastard... I bet your kidneys and liver haven't promised to leave if you stop out that ever again....
yawn.....morning.... hey wow... its actually morning when I am waking up!!
Forget Jet-lag... I have hard a chronic case of 'binge-partying Lag'...
My kidneys hate me...
JB - The Tx - OU game keeps up the way it is (36 - 8 OU) you may want to change the worm farms address to S. Oklahoma one. LOL
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA...ahhhhh...hehehe..the Nats SUK...that was extremely fun to watch....I hate the Cardinals buts I loathe the Nats...couldn't have happened to a better team....
Harry)) reading back, you've nailed some guys on the machers. Some of my hits include Nate Allen, JJ, Casey Mathews, Boykins, someone other folks in that Nate draft.....can't remember who, hope not Benny Sapp
These Cardinals just won't go away.....Pujols or not. Thats why they are world series champs. I do think they will fall today though
I picked J Jareett in my Macher. Actually nothing wrong with maching or drafting him.....except when you draft him in the second rather than in the fourth rd.
@Kenemeka I was joking down there, Kene...I had him on my Macher as well....
@Kenemeka HAHA !