1. Mike McCoy And The Two Point Conversions
Yes, I used the plural. The first thing that came to my mind when thinking about 3 things I did not like seeing on Sunday was another instance of game mismanagement by the team's 3rd year head coach. Lost in the shuffle of the failure to get a play into Rivers in time to execute a 2 point try at the 11:53 mark in the 4th quarter, was the earlier decision to go for one and that was the one that drove me nuts.
At the 4:09 mark in the 3rd quarter, Stevie Johnson had just scored on a 12 yard pass play, after Patrick Robinson's interception had given the San Diego Chargers a point blank shot from the Detroit Lions' 16. At the start of the drive, not after actually scoring, the team's head coach needed to decide what to do if the team got a TD. The obvious correct answer in the situation was to "go for two".
With 19 minutes of game time left, a coach cannot assume any future scoring by either team. The choice at that point between one or two points becomes stark; lose by 2 (on ANY unsuccessful conversion), lose by 1 (on a successful 1 point try), or have a shot at a win in OT (on a successful 2 point attempt). The possibility if you choose to go for 1 (which became obvious later) is narrowed down to losing by 1 or losing by 2.
McCoy, for reasons known only to him and God, chose to go for 1. This provided exactly no benefit to the Bolts at that point and was a horrible decision in terms of game management. The choice to go for one and that decision not costing the Chargers a win was a prime example of "bad process / good result = blind, dumb luck". I hated seeing it.
To exacerbate this decision was the keystone cops sequence at the previously mentioned 11:53 mark in the 4th quarter when the Bolts took the lead. Once the drive had started with the last play of the 3rd quarter, a head coach (again) should have had his mind made up. A lot of coaches (good ones) would have even had a thought or two about which play to run for the try. McCoy did make the correct decision in this instance, but could not get a play into Philip Rivers in time to run it, leading to a Delay of Game penalty.
The 5 yards was run off from the 15 (by rule) and McCoy inexplicably chose to go for 1 at that point, even though a successful 1 point conversion would have (again) accomplished exactly nothing for the team. Josh Lambo, not mentally prepared for the try, blew the 37 yard PAT attempt.
Once again, the thought process was deeply flawed and only looked better than the NY Giants fiasco later that night because the Bolts added another score with 2:37 left to go in the game. When a big item on the off-season punch list (for me at least) was "better game management by the coaches", this was the worst of the Bad Things from the first game.
2. The Special Teams Were Not
While certainly not rising to level of 2010, the Bolts special teams provided way too much excitement (in a negative way) last Sunday. There was a near disaster in the first quarter with a short punt that somehow managed to not touch a Charger punt receiving team member, which the Lions thought had been a muff and a recovery by them. Watching the replay, I am still not certain how that punt managed to not be called a muff. Blind, dumb luck strikes yet again.
Kick coverage was iffy. I got the feeling too many times during kick and punt returns that one was going to the house. Abdullah was able to return 3 kickoffs for 105 yards, with a long one of 48 that was nearly busted for a coast to coast trip. Golden Tate returned two punts for 34 yards. One was returned for 20 yards and another for 14. This reduced Mike Scifres' net punt yardage to 70 total yards for his two punts.
Special teams play and penalties add up (ether positively or negatively) to what is known by knowledgeable observers as "hidden yardage". Losing the hidden yardage battle makes winning games more difficult. Winning in the NFL is a difficult enough proposition already without the added burden of adverse field position. I miss Seyi Ajirotutu and Andrew Gachkar already.
3. Dealing With The Run
Had the Lions continued feeding Ameer Abdullah, the game might have turned out a lot differently. The rookie had 50 yards on 7 carries. Between his contributions on special teams, his pass receiving and the 7.1 YPC he put up, he was the most effective weapon that Detroit had last Sunday. When a back averages 7 yards a carry, he is usually on a winning team that day.
This needs immediate attention. The Bolts will soon have to deal with Jeremy Hill, Leveon Bell, Matt Forte, and Eddie Lacy. All of these guys are legitimate rushers with enough pass catching ability to make them dangerous in that phase of the game, too. This game is on tape now, and offensive coordinators are going to prepare their game plans accordingly.