It was a tough weekend if you were a Lions fan or a Michigan Man, but let’s start with something nearly as painful.
Did you catch the Houston Astros dramatic Game 6 win over the New York Yankees in Saturday night? The Astros punched their ticket to the Fall Classic where they will face the Washington Nationals, with a 6-4 walk-off win over the Yankees. Jose Altuve sent the Astros to their second World Series in three years with a two-run homer off Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the ninth inning.
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Your probably saying: who cares? The Tigers season was over, in what, mid-May?
Well, this World Series will be littered with former Tigers, sad to say. Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, and Fernando Rodney are all on pitching staffs of the World Series participants. Verlander, will look to win his second World Series ring as a member of the Astros. Scherzer and Sanchez will both start games for the Nationals in the World Series, while Rodney will be an important bullpen piece for Washington. What is disappointing is that three of the four where part of the 2013 Tigers pitching staff that lost to the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series. Verlander, Scherzer and Sanchez, all pitched in that series against the Red Sox. Still to this day, probably one of the most talented pitching staffs to never win a World Series. Throw in Astros manager AJ Hinch, and coaches Gary Pettis and Don Kelly, and the World Series will have a distinct Tigers connection. We could see a Verlander vs. Scherzer pitching match up, which is a punch in the gut to Tigers fans. Pitching should dominate in a World Series, which I see the Astro winning is six games, much to the dismay of Tigers fans.
Even if you don’t have a dog in the fight, concerning the World Series, I am sure many of you are fans of the Michigan Wolverines and Detroit Lions. Let’s start with the Wolverines. What you heard Saturday night was the Wolverines title hopes come crashing down in a 28-21 loss to Penn State. Just seven weeks into the most hyped season of coach Jim Harbaugh’s five years in Ann Arbor, Michigan is officially out of Big Ten title contention. With its season on the line, Michigan had a fourth-and-goal from Penn State’s three yard line with less than three minutes left, the Wolverines trailed by a touchdown. What happened next is what has typified Harbaugh’s tenure in Ann Arbor.
Receiver Ronnie Bell dropped a potential game-tying touchdown pass. Another game against a ranked team in prime time and Harbaugh’s Wolverines couldn’t get it done. The Wolverines are staring at a four-loss season with a top-10 Notre Dame on deck next and top-five Ohio State at the end of the season. And for Harbaugh, the question of whether he can win the biggest games will continue to follow him.
Has anybody seen the Lions defense? A Lions defense, which was thought to be one of the best in the NFL entering the season, had no answer for former Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday falling to their NFC rival 42-30. Cousins completed 24 of 34 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns and hit Stefon Diggs on a key 67-yard pass with just over 2 minutes to play that sealed the game for the Vikings. The Lions have lost three straight since starting the year 2-0-1, and are in danger of falling out of playoff contention in a very tough NFC.
On Sunday, it wasn’t a lack of offensive production that cost the Lions, as Matthew Stafford (364 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT) was neck and neck with Cousins in terms of performance for much of the day. The defense on the other hand, got torched by the Vikings. Detroit allowed more than 430 yards of offense for the third straight game, the first time since 2008. Yes, there were some injuries as the Lions lost Darius Slay to Snacks Harrison as well as Rashaan Melvin, Jarrad Davis and Tracy Walker. But ultimately the guys who were out there couldn’t tackle. They couldn’t cover or rush anyone. Injuries are part of the game and the next guy up needs to get the job done.
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The good news for the Lions, and right now there isn’t much, is that the schedule gets easier next week with a game against the New York Giants. The bad news is they need a win more than ever after losing three straight games, because after a promising start the season could be on the verge of slipping away.