Changing The Mantra

Did you believe the hype in the offseason? Do you trust this team now that they are 3-1 and first in the NFC North?

You’re apprehensive, it’s understandable, you’ve been hurt by this team in the past. You have seen a 6-2 record turn into 7-9, and a team who lost 20 straight games.  If you are a longtime faithful of the Honolulu Blue, you’ve seen it all.

“This season is different however, it’s a new year.” It’s the classic line at the beginning of every season. It’s that happy feeling you get when you make your New Year’s resolution, when you get the gym pass and think, “This is the year I drop that beer belly.” Similarly, we think, “This is the year the Lions don’t lose players to injuries. This is the year we don’t make dumb mistakes.”

Then they lost Nate Burleson to the great sliding pizza incident, out for six to eight weeks. Ndamukong Suh’s illegal block in week one cost the team six points and Suh $100,000. You can decide which one is worse. It looks like the Lions that fans are all much too accustomed to. In the first three games of the regular season, Detroit was penalized 27 times for 260 yards, and that doesn’t account for penalties declined by the opposition. Jim Schwartz had been criticized in the past for not disciplining his team, and it looked like that didn’t change this year. Somehow, Detroit escaped that stretch 2-1, but barely.

Last week things changed. This team was different. The offense clicked, as the team ran and threw the ball with efficiently.  The 40-32 victory against the Bears was a more lopsided game than the score indicated. Detroit dominated on both offense and defense against the previously undefeated Bears.

There is a magic word that Detroit has been searching for, and last week against the Bears, they found it, maturity.  The Lions only committed three penalties for 25 yards. No taunting, unnecessary roughness, or boneheaded plays. Suh and Fairley combined for zero penalties, four tackles, two sacks, and a touchdown. Discipline. The defensive line played hard, but not dirty. In a league that is getting more strict on defensive players, the team finally seems to understand.

It’s easy to talk about how good Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush have been. The trio of Stafford, Johnson, and Bush has turned heads recently, even landing Bush in fourth in ESPN’s MVP Watch. Through three games, Bush has 254 yards rushing on 48 attempts and a touchdown. They are not Pro Bowl numbers, but the potential is there. In a league that that’s evolved to become more pass heavy, Reggie Bush may have been the best acquisition by the Lions in the last ten years.  The goal now is to stay healthy.

Sunday’s game against the Packers will define the Lions’ season. Green Bay is a division rival and Detroit hasn’t won at Lambeau Field in 22 years. A record of 4-1 makes a much bigger difference in the locker room than 3-2.

Are the lovable Lions finally growing up? Detroit is finally starting to act like they’ve been there. The question is, do there know where that is?

Aaron Jordan is the host of Lions Den for Impact Sports.