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Diner morning news: Lions have a foundation

Stafford gives them a start, but the defense needs help. Michael Lombardi

Print This November 25, 2009, 10:30 AM EST

QUOTE: “Give thanks for what you are now, and keep fighting for what you want to be tomorrow.” -- Fernanda Miramontes-Landeros

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, and if travel is in your plans today, please be careful. Enjoy the day of giving thanks tomorrow. High school games and then three pro games follow. Is there anything better than Thanksgiving and football?

The first game Thursday features the Packers and Lions. As I wrote on NFL.com this week, I love the fact the Lions have the game as part of league’s annual tradition. Now, I do wish the Lions would stick with the tradition and not change their uniforms by adding colors that don’t belong in their color scheme, but that’s an argument for another day. The Lions finally have hope, and it’s based on the play of quarterback Matthew Stafford, their rookie first-round pick. Stafford has had his ups and downs, but the come-from-behind win he orchestrated this past Sunday has endeared him to his coaches, his teammates and most of all the fans. They can finally see that the Lions are making progress, albeit slow, but progress nonetheless.

Stafford injured his non-throwing shoulder, and if he can handle the pain, he’ll try to play tomorrow. He has flashed moments of brilliance this year, and he has also played like a true rookie — which is to be expected. But every pass he throws, every repetition he takes, will only speed up his progress for a better season next year. And leading his team to a come-from-behind victory is a trust-building factor with his teammates. He now has the locker room believing in his skills and not envious of his contract. He also has given the offensive coaches a true indication of his skill level, and they can continue to tailor the offense around his skill set. Bill Walsh would always say that the first year for any player was learning the system, and the second year was dedicated to developing his skills within the system. Stafford is ahead of the curve right now, and as the Lions improve their team, he will allow them to be competitive.

The Lions are so bad on defense that they could cut half their starters, and there’s a good chance they wouldn’t get picked up by another team. Defensively, they have a minimum amount of team speed and no playmaking ability, which forces them to take a beating every week. In the past two weeks, they gave up more than 490 yards to the Vikings, one of the top offenses in the NFL, and 439 yards to the Browns, the league’s worse offense. So it doesn’t matter who the opponent is -- the Lions are doing their best to just hold on. With defensive tackle Sammie Hill and rookie safety Louis Delmas, they have two legitimate starters to move forward. Now they need to rebuild their defensive line and could actually use an entire draft just on that area.

But at least with Matthew Stafford as the foundation, our TV viewing on Thanksgiving the next few years will be much better.

NFL thoughts…

1. There are many executives in the NFL who think the Bills will pay huge money to entice a big-name coach. But the fundamental problem in Buffalo will be selling a new coach on the future as it pertains to owner Ralph Wilson, who is 91 years old. That question is more topical than the amount of money being tossed around.

2. Spent the day in New England interviewing Bill Belichick for NFL Network’s Sunday Morning Game Day. He was great and, as always, very interesting in his thoughts about the New Orleans game.

3. I’m sure the Bears ownership group is frustrated with the season, but knowing how patient they’ve been in the past, it would appear to me that they would want to wait until the end of the season before making any decisions on staff. It would behoove them to sit down with their staff to determine if their views of the problems are the same as the coaches and front office.

4. The Broncos had a players-only team meeting Tuesday. I’ve never been a fan of these, believing that problems aren’t solved by meetings but by better execution on the field. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Well done is much better than well said.”

5. Happy 76th birthday to my mother. May she have many many more!

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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