Sunday, September 25, 2011
Lions Are Roaring to Scare Rest of the League
The afternoon was a wave of satisfaction, building upon an identity on the road as the Detroit Lions played perfectly and validated a renaissance in the Motor City, and finally fans grasp a sense of aspiration.
The wonderful thing is, the Lions are no longer helpless, no longer the biggest disgrace or the worst franchise, stealing money from the hometown supporters willing to witness the Lions be ridiculed and lampooned. The unbeaten franchise of the league for the first time in 31 years is 3-0 and, for once, the Lions are not burlesque but are alarming and considered among the NFL's elite, flourishing more than the worthy franchises.
It might be the feel-good story, an amazing tale written by the Lions, who finished winless to become the second team in the modern-age of the NFL to lose every regular season game and the first completing a 0-16 season in NFL history. Yet, nothing is more gratifying than a turnaround for the worst-ever franchise, reaching a peak in a torpid, dampened town that had quickly misplaced loyalty and became disengaged with the mediocrity the Lions produced in the forsaken past. The future of the Lions is radiant and now fans back home in Detroit can widened the smiles and invest an enormous amount of money to support the new-look Lions.
Each week, it seems, the Lions are gradually growing and improving as a unit, a bottomless core of consistent winners and honestly Detroit is not bullied or shoved around, standing its ground against each opponent on Sundays. This was never, however, imagined even after the Lions were deemed as the NFL darlings, entering this season with logic of Detroit rising into a preeminent NFL team.
The welfare of the winningest team in the meantime is uplifting for nationally a dysfunctional, unemployment sports city unfairly hit with indignities no other community experienced. But these days, the Lions are a remedy and have soothed a doleful population to rid the misery and promote sanity for dispirited citizens afflicted by the downtrodden burdens, hovering over a city that suddenly feels a wave of humanity.
It's pretty much a surprise to see the Lions rank higher than the projected NFL teams, quickly transforming into a dynamic competitor in the NFC North, scarier than ever and maybe stronger than the Bears or the Packers. Who ever thought the Lions would be the talk of the week??
Who ever imagined the Lions potentially beating the Bears or the Packers?? We'll soon find out whether it is possible or impossible, but at this rate, it is possible to witness the Lions beat every opponent within their path. And, for the moment, no team can beat the red-hot Lions. It wasn't pretty, because the Lions needed a comeback in the 26-23 overtime thriller, because they needed a game-winning field goal from Jason Hanson and because they needed Matthew Stafford to connect with his go-to receiver Calvin Johnson for the 40-yard completion to set up Hanson's game-winner.
It was a throw and catch, all while Stafford was under pressure on second-and-10 at the Lions' 46 in a critical situation when the Lions rallied and were resilient in the end. It turns out that the Lions really aren't a fluke, but are truly sufficient and one of the deepest teams to finally make noise in the NFC, reducing the futility and turning into the toughest powerhouse in the NFL.
Though he was sacked five times and had no protection from his lineman -- hit seven times on the afternoon -- Stafford is the more impressive pass thrower on the planet, assuming he handles the pro-style offense remarkably, the defining portrait he has painted in the Lions' drastic turnaround. He is the Lions quarterback, and never stood petrified, playing with lots of emotion and physical toughness to prove unflappable and not weakened.
As it happened, he came through in the biggest moment and never rushed a pass, never was careless with the ball and never had a costly mistake, but wonderfully kept his composure and led the Lions after trailing 20-0 in the first half. Before it all ended, the Lions rallied from a large deficit and dominated the second half and won on the only possession in overtime.
When it began early, the Lions were terrible until late in the second half, and Stafford looked for other options if the coverage was tight on Johnson, his targeted receiver with acrobatic tricks on the field. With many options, he shared the ball with tight end Brandon Pettigrew for 11 completions and found rookie Titus Young on four passes. From the start of the first half, he was 10 for 16 for 64 yards. But then in the second half, he was a mere 22 for 30 for 314 yards and had two touchdown passes, finding Johnson for each touchdown.
This is really the moment, though, for Detroit to adjust its flaws and realize the problems they have at tackles on the offensive line, and even in the ground game, deficiencies that need to be retooled before the next game in Dallas. The thing is, it doesn't matter now that the Lions are a perfect 3-0 for the first time since 1980, celebrating Sunday after Hanson nailed a 32-yard field goal.
This team is different, far different, potent and sturdy, and some of it is because of coach Jim Schwartz, who was so elated he removed his head phones and celebrated wildly with an animated fist pump. The best of all is that the Lions are relieved and pleased after snapping a 13-game losing streak on the road against the Vikings, and Schwartz is absolutely successful turning around a deflowered team.
There's a plan, and it's working in which the Lions are currently riding a seven-game winning streak. That is because Detroit won the last four games of last season, and hasn’t played horrendously but nicely. What you can see, of course, if the Lions continue to dominate, is the defense making plays and Stafford delivering to Johnson to slaughter the Vikings in the second half. The story here, no doubt, was the Lions slowly cutting into the lead before tying it 20-20 on Hanson's field goal.
Yes, the running game was a non-factor, but there was the Lions' franchise quarterback to keep the offense afloat, and that someone was Stafford, who has evolved into one of the NFL's best quarterbacks. With a handful of stars, one of his targets is Johnson, who had 7 catches for 108 yards.
And more importantly, though the Lions had to crawl back into the game, Stafford led Detroit to another win. The truth is that the Lions are roaring and this should scare the rest of the league.