Well, dare I say it? Will the Earth stop suddenly if I were to say this? Will children eat their veggies and clean their rooms without being asked? Here goes.
The Detroit Lions are 5-0. Yes. It's not a misprint.
The once-doormats of the NFC North are tied for first place with the defending Super Bowl champions Green Bay Packers. 5-0. This team hasn't been 5-0 since 1956, when Ike and Mamie were in the White House and Nixon talked about Checkers. While I'm not quite ready to declare them Super Bowl bound, I can finally say that this is a pretty good football team. It seems that the Tigers are no longer the big cats in town. After so many years of being really bad, so bad to the point of most Lions fans came to Ford Field wearing bags over their faces to hide their shame, the Lions are starting to roar back (pardon the pun). The Lions have won five in a row and their last nine games in a row, having won their last four in the 2010 season.
Head coach Jim Schwartz said that “Detroit is a blue-collar town. Detroit has been through tough times before. Tough times don’t last but tough people do. We feel a very strong bond to this city. Our work ethic reflects the city of Detroit’s.” Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson leads the NFL with nine touchdowns and is the first player in NFL history with nine touchdown catches in a team’s first five games. Quarterback Matthew Stafford ranks third in the league with 13 TD passes and his 19 touchdown passes over his last seven games are tied for the most by any Lion over a seven-game span. That was last achieved by Pro Football Hall of Famer Bobby Layne, who did it in 1951.
“We know we haven’t played our best football game yet,” says QB Matthew Stafford. “We’ve had some moments here and there. But we’ve got to keep working on executing and playing as well as we can. We know what’s gotten us to this point and we need to keep that going to continue succeeding. We’ve got a big game on Sunday and we’ve got to try and do it again. That’s the way this league is. There are 16 games and we’ve only played five. We’ve got to keep grinding and get back to work. We’ve got a tough team in San Francisco coming in.”
The crowd that saw the Lions play their first Monday Night game since the Clinton administration at Ford Field was loud. They were bousterous. They had the Bears where they wanted them. This was a team that was not interested in playing dead. Granted, like Stafford said, it's only game five with 11 to play but when you haven't played a game with such importance since 2001 and haven't won on Monday night since 1995 and you win your first game not against a cupcake but against the defending NFC North champions and a team in your division, people are going to take notice. It's sort of like the kid at school that gets beaten up by the school bully until the kid goes Libery Valance on the bully.
The Lions' last season before their slide into the bottom of the NFL barrel was a 9-7 mark in 2000 but they failed to make the playoffs. Their last trip to the postseason? 1999 as a Wild Card team that faced Washington at RFK and lost 27-13. While Barry Sanders no longer runs amok in the Detorit backfield, they can run the ball. Jahvid Best is no Barry Sanders but if the rushing game can improve game by game, the defense, led by Ndamukong Suh, does what it needs to do to win and Stafford can stay healthy, Detroit could contend for a playoff spot.
The Lions. Once the laughing stock of the NFL and the butt of many a joke of Jay Leno and David Letterman. Right now, they've got the last laugh in the NFL. I wouldn't put in the big game yet but if they make it, that would be great not only for Detroit but for the league. Can the Lions keep the pace up? It's up to them. Even if they don't make it and finish .500 or better, that to me would be a winning season.
That would be purrrrfect.
(Logo courtesy the Detroit Lions and the National Football League)