Best Intentions

by | Sep 20, 2010 | Detroit Free Press, Sports | 0 comments

On another doomed Sunday in Detroit, the Best part was a guy named Best, first name Jahvid, the rookie running back you’ve heard so much about. In his first official game at Ford Field, he finished with 232 yards of offense. He scored his third touchdown of the day with less than 5 minutes left. And on the next drive, he chewed up 30 yards to help the Lions close the gap to 35-32. They got so excited, they tried an onside kick!

Now, these things never pay off. They’re like scratch cards at a fast-food joint. But – holy unpredictability! – the Lions recovered. And out raced the offense, led by their Best player of the day (first name Jahvid) with 1:50 on the clock.

He never touched the ball again.

The Lions tried four straight passes. Only one was aimed at Best, and it was badly thrown. Amazingly, after this furious comeback, the Lions surrendered the ball on downs, without earning a single yard, without trying a single run, without getting it into the hands of the man who’d worked magic most of the day.

“You want to give balls to your playmakers,” Jim Schwartz said. “But you also want to not try to press it.”

And so the Lions’ Best player on the day (first name Jahvid) couldn’t help when they needed him most. This connects him with the best player on the roster, Calvin Johnson, who often gets erased on Sunday afternoons, under the argument “you don’t want to force it.”

This leads us to one place. The guy who can force it. Vick still has it for Eagles

And again, we’re back to the quarterback, where, let’s be honest, Sunday’s game was won and lost. Philadelphia and Detroit were starting their backup QBs, Michael Vick and Shaun Hill. I don’t want to say their backup outplayed our backup, but no one in Detroit is screaming for the backup to take over the starter’s job. In Philly, they’re doing that nonstop.

That’s because Vick may be unlikable, an ex-con, a loose cannon – but he still can play football. He confounded the Lions for 284 yards and two touchdowns passing, another 37 yards rushing, and enough escape moves to make Houdini come back to challenge him.

“He can scramble around and kill you,” Kyle Vanden Bosch admitted, and Vick did that just enough, escaping Lions who had clear shots at him, ducking a grasping hand, eluding an outstretched arm.

Vick made the plays, avoided the turnovers and allowed his offense to convert on big moments to marquee players. The Lions, meanwhile, couldn’t find Best at the end, and struggled to get Johnson the ball until the next-to-last drive. This is happening way too much. It’s as if Calvin is underwater; you see his body, but he’s not making noise.

If CJ is that big a weapon, he must do more than make four catches for 50 yards (Sunday’s total) or four for 45 yards (last Sunday’s total), even if each week there is one spectacular play. Why just one a week? Are the Lions so good they don’t need more? Defense yields far too often

The answer you hear is “we’re taking what the defense gives us.” I prefer making the defense take what you give IT. But this requires talent everywhere, especially at quarterback. Admit it, you wonder what Matthew Stafford could have done Sunday.

Hill is not Stafford. Hill is tough, a gamer. But when Schwartz was asked to evaluate him Sunday, the coach said, “He battled.” This is like the teacher writing on your son’s report card, “He does his best.”

But look at the bright side. Best did his Best. He scampered, he motored. He proved a pass-catching threat – especially on a 75-yard screen that saw him shred the defense virtually untouched. Yes, he was stopped on a fourth-and-1. Hey. It’s his second NFL game.

“Last week, I was nervous,” he said. “This week, I was calm and confident.”

Hmm. The Lions may have really found a running back. Unfortunately, they’ve lost their quarterback and their No. 2 receiver (Nate Burleson). If all the pieces ever get on board, this offense may indeed be strong enough to overcome a defense that gives up way to many big plays.

For now, the Lions tease, but their record after two games is the same as last year and the year before. And their dreams of being The Best are limited to a name on a running back’s jersey.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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