NFC North: Frank Tarkenton

Free Head Exam: Detroit Lions

September, 19, 2011
9/19/11
12:15
PM ET
After the Detroit Lions' 48-3 victory Sunday over the Kansas City Chiefs, here are three issues that merit further examination:
    Head Exam
    Kevin SeifertFollowing their win over the Chiefs, the Lions take their turn in the examination room.
  1. I have a feeling that the NFL world has caught Lions Fever, and nothing is more responsible than the sparkling start of quarterback Matthew Stafford. He's thrown seven touchdown passes in his first two games, the first Lions quarterback to do that since Milt Plum in 1962. But here's my favorite Stafford statistic for this week: Sunday was his third four-touchdown game in a career that has spanned 15 starts. The only other NFL quarterback to throw at least four touchdowns in four of his first 15 NFL games was Fran Tarkenton. I realize it took Stafford three years to get to start No. 15. But remember, Stafford was drafted as an underclassman. He's 23 and, through two weeks at least, we can say he is one of the NFL's top quarterbacks in 2011.
  2. Rookie Titus Young's 43-yard catch was one of the best all-around passing plays we've seen this season. I obviously wasn't watching the game live, so when I saw in the final gamebook that Young had a 43-yard catch on third-and-24, I assumed he had turned some kind of safe pass into a long gainer. How many offenses actually try to convert a third-and-24 from their own 28-yard line? So the aggressiveness was the first thing I liked. The second was how Stafford gunned the ball on a line about 50 yards in the air. The third was the ball skills Young displayed while leaping to make the grab and, with defenders surrounding him, holding on to it between his legs as he fell to the ground. Finally, I think it's worth noting that Stafford, from 50 yards away, saw the ball drop between Young's legs and hustled the team to the line of scrimmage to avoid a potential challenge.
  3. Here's a development interesting at least to me: The Lions have started 2-0 without returning a single kickoff this season. All five deep kickoffs have gone for touchbacks in the first two weeks. I view that as more of a statistical oddity than anything else, but it bodes well for the Lions. Returner Stefan Logan is a legitimate weapon and will get a few chances some point this season. And consider it this way: The Lions have scored 75 points this season despite opening every post-kickoff possession at their 20-yard line. What could they do if they start a few more possessions around the 35- or 40-yard line?
And here is one issue I still don't get:
I wonder if we'll find that in 2011, a team doesn't need a big running game to win as long as it has explosion in its passing attack. Jahvid Best gained 57 yards on 16 carries Sunday and is averaging 3.5 yards per carry this season. None of his runs have gone longer than 12 yards. The Lions gave newcomer Keiland Williams an extended look Sunday in mop-up duty, and it's possible he could provide a different look behind Best. Mikel Leshoure's training camp injury almost certainly will limit the running game's effectiveness this season. But will it matter?

Sunday circle-back

May, 31, 2009
5/31/09
12:00
PM ET
 
  US Presswire
  Comparing Brett Favre and Frank Tarkenton is easier said than done.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

As you might recall, I put out a call Thursday for some longtime fans to help us on a comparison between the playing styles of Fran Tarkenton and Brett Favre. The quick and certain answer from some loyal readers: There is none.

Here is how Richard of Astana put it:

Their styles were very different. Tarkenton was known first and foremost for his scrambling, taking off ... back-and-forth behind the line of scrimmage to avoid sacks. He was short, and never talked of as having a gun for an arm, like Favre. They're both from the south. Personality wise, Tarkenton was all about proving that a small guy like him could succeed, and post-career he's been motivated and successful in business, which doesn't fit with our assumed expectations about Favre, who figures to (someday) disappear to Mississippi, chilling out and mending fences.

Victor of New York wrote:

Favre in NO way "out-Tarkentoned" Fran. Fran's escapability and ability to extend a play were almost magical. You really should watch some older film before saying this. Their styles don't compare in the slightest. I don't think Fran has any grudge against Favre for being a "better" version of him. Totally different, and totally different eras.

I suspect there is some Vikings-Packers emotions at work here, but I nonetheless accept that their styles were dissimilar. I thought Mike of Dumfries, Va., had a particularly strong analysis:

While I think both Favre and Tarkenton "were" great QB's in their prime, there aren't many similarities in their style. I only saw Tarkenton play the last 6-7 years of his career. I do recall watching him in two Super Bowls. Of course, knowing that, I did get to see all of Favre's career and saw him in person a few times, too. When comparing size and agility, Tarkenton was all of 5'10 and could scramble like no other QB I have ever seen. It was maddening watching him run and run and run. I was as exhausted as the defenders were and I was watching on TV. Favre on the other hand is what 6'3" and his ability to take a hit is well known.

Unlike Tarkenton, Favre may be able to shift, slide and elude some defenders, but he "was" by no means a scrambler like Tarkenton. Favre had the stronger arm from what I recall of Tarkenton, but that didn't mean her was a better passer than Tarkenton. Overall, while Favre was a gambler and threw a lot of interceptions and he couldn't scramble or elude would be tacklers like Tarkenton, plus he lost games he could have or should have won, Favre nonetheless has a Super Bowl win, something Tarkenton can't say he was able to do even though he had great defenses year in and year out in Minnesota.

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