So that's what Monday Night Football feels like. In front of a frenzied crowd, the Detroit Lions mauled the Chicago Bears in the trenches and dominated another second half on the way to a 24-13 win over their bitter NFC North rival. Whenever Lions and Bears clash, the hunt is always a toss up, but this round went powerfully to the Lions, who are 5-0 for the first time since 1956. Kid Rock would have described Lions as "American Bad (Expletives)." Tim Allen would have used his popular grunt from "Home Improvement" to show satisfaction with their play and Barry Sanders? Let's just say he probably had his bright smile all night long.
Here's some other observations from an electric Monday night:
The Lions do have a running game. Jahvid Best simply went into beast mode last night, carving up the Bears defense for 163 yards rushing and a touchdown. The touchdown came on an 88 yard scamper that was seemingly over as quick it began. Most impressive may have been how Best gutted out tough yards late in the fourth quarter when the Lions needed to move the clock. The offensive line did a great job with protection and they also did a great job giving Best creases. If you give Best an inch, he can take it a mile. Tonight, he proved what a great runner he can be if given just a tiny bit of time and space.
The defensive can generate pressure without blitzing. The Lions defense was able to generate pressure on Jay Cutler with a four man front. Let me repeat that: a four man front! The defensive line, led by Ndamukong Suh, Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch and even Nick Fairley was not able to be contained at all. They were getting an immediate push on the Chicago offensive line, and Cutler was literally running for his life all night long. He was sacked three times and rushed most of the night. The scariest part? With Fairley healthy, the Lions might have the best defensive line rotation in football. They can throw players in and out who can rush the passer, stop the run and make life miserable for offenses.
Ford Field can be a pretty intimidating place. It was so scary, the Bears false started nine separate times! Early in the game, with the crowd buzzing, the Bears were rattled, and moved too early four times on the first drive alone. As Mike Tirico pointed out, they were even moving too soon out of the punting formation. If Ford Field can affect a veteran team like the Bears in this manner, imagine what is possible late in the season as the games get even more important. It was a beautiful thing for the nation to see Ford Field completely full and at their noisy best.
Jon Gruden is great at what he does. Anybody watching on television knows exactly what I'm talking about. Last night, Gruden seemed particularly hilarious. He was coming up with pithy quotes and comments nearly every single snap. My personal favorites related to the defensive line: "I don't know what they call these guys (the Detroit defensive line), but I'm calling them the Silver Bullet Band!" and "They got these guys (fresh defensive linemen) down in the bullpen, and they throw them at you in waves!" It seemed like Gruden, and the entire Monday Night Football crew genuinely enjoyed seeing the Lions and Bears square off in Detroit on national television with something on the line. This is a welcome change from Lions fans being forced to struggle with the "C" team announcers on telecasts.
How about a hand for Ryan Donahue? The rookie punter was awesome last night on the national stage with one of the league's best returners staring him in the face. When Donahue punted, he kicked the ball out of bounds, angled kicks and gave the ball plenty of hang time. As a result, Devin Hester could never get anything going on special teams. We've seen Hester win games by himself before. In a close game where one play could have changed momentum, Donahue and the Lions' special teams made sure their unit wasn't going to be the one to give up the ship.
Lions? Best was running the ball and hammering out tough yards against a good defense. Calvin Johnson's amazing 63 yard touchdown got the Lions off to a good start early in the game, and Johnson was a supreme possession receiver the rest of the way. DeAndre Levy was a tacking machine, netting 13 total tackles, with one coming for loss. Everyone on the defensive line deserves major credit for the most inspired effort of the season.
Lambs? One play was particularly irksome. Brandon McDonald was on punt return coverage and drifted a bit too far back. The ball came down, hit him and was live. Chicago nearly recovered and received a huge boost in momentum. Those kinds of plays need to be avoided. The referees were shockingly bad for a primetime game. Several calls were botched, leaving both teams to feel like they had been jobbed at times during the game.
How about the Five Things? Before the game started, we wondered if the Ford Field atmosphere would hamper the Bears. It really did. We said it would be important to see if Cutler's offensive line could protect him, and they could not. Hester, maybe the most electric man in football, was a non-factor last night thanks to great defense and special teams play. The Bears could not slow Calvin Johnson down, as he racked up 130 yards and a touchdown. Finally, the kickers did factor in a bit, as Robbie Gould made two field goals and Jason Hanson made one.
Stalking the next prey: The Lions stay at home for a date with the surging San Francisco 49ers next Sunday, October 16 at 1 PM on Fox.
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