Just when I thought the DTLs couldn't get any dumber, they go and do something like this...
And TOTALLY REDEEM THEMSELVES!!!
DE-TROIT LIONS! DE-TROIT LIONS! DE-TROIT LIONS! DE-TROIT LIONS!
I missed the first half of the game today, being up in the mountains for my first ever day of snowboarding. Which is fitting, because the Lions didn't show up until the second half either. Thanks to some swarming defense, a red-hot quarterback, and some inspiring play from an old friend, the boys put together their best all-around half of the season, scoring 35 second half points, 7 touchdowns in all, and a much-needed 7th victory. The 49 points was the most in a single game for the franchise since 1997.
Matthew Stafford picked up right where he left off last week, starting off 3 of 8 passing and chucking two early interceptions. With Cam Newton looking strong and three forced turnovers from the defense, Carolina jumped out to a 24-7 lead. However, after Staff's second pick, backup QB Shaun Hill came over and reminded him that the Chicago game was over.
Oh yeah. Thanks for the reminder.
From that point forward, QB9 played almost as well as one can possibly play. He completed 25 of his final 28 passes for 300 yards. His 5 passing touchdowns matched my own record-setting performance in the 2009 Harbor Springs Winter Football Classic. He threw TD passes to 5 different players, none of them named Calvin Johnson. Stafford now has 25 touchdown passes through ten games, more than Drew Stanton, Shaun Hill, Daunte Culpepper, Dan Orlovsky, Daunte Culpepper, Dan Orlovsky, Jon Kitna, Jeff Garcia, Joey Harrington, Mike McMahon, Ty Detmer, Charlie Batch, Stoney Case, Gus Frerotte, Frank Reich, Don Majkowski, or Rodney Peete ever had in a season as the Lions' QB. He is only 7 behind Scott Mitchell's team record of 32 touchdown passes (Mitchell's lasting legacy is of being a very poor QB, but he actually had a great 1995 season).
Even overshadowing Staff's dazzling final 45 minutes was the return of a familiar face, Kevin "Millen
used to tease me, give it to 'em now nice and easy" Smith. Smith's outstanding stat line, getting jiggy to the tune of 142 rush yards, 61 yards receiving, and 3 touchdowns still doesn't do justice to just how impressive and inspiring his performance today was.
Drafted out of Central Florida in 2008, Smith was known more for his work ethic than his talent. After 3 somewhat productive but average seasons with the team, Smith was essentially told last spring by the front office that he simply wasn't worth a roster spot anymore. Jahvid Best and Uncle Mikel LeShoure had been drafted in consecutive years to replace him. The Lions didn't renew his contract, and Smith was left without a job. Summer training camps came and went, and he was still left unsigned by the Lions and unwanted by any other team in the NFL.
Though this is all speculation, I can picture Kevin Smith's last three months or so going as follows:
The former NFL starter trudges his way to some health and fitness club in the metro Detroit area every single day and works his tail off in the weight room, with no idea if it will even pay off in the future. At least once per day, his workout is interrupted when someone, be it a meathead high schooler at the bench press, a soccer mom on the elliptical, or a runty accountant at the leg extension machine, notices that Smith is both black and completely ripped and strikes up a conversation.
Runt/Mom/Meathead: Excuse me, but do you play Foot-ball?
Runt/Mom/Meathead: Ooo, Foot-ball players! What team are you for?
Smith: None... I'm just staying in shape, tryin' to get picked up by someone.
Runt/Mom/Meathead: Ohhh...never mind, you're not as interesting as I thought.
Until November rolls around, and suddenly an opportunity opens up. The Lions' running back corps is depleted by injuries, and Smith is given a tryout again. A mass tryout, not even an individual workout, but it's something. Smith seizes his chance, outshines all the other applicants, and earns a spot as a Detroit Lion once again. Then, less than two weeks after returning to the team, he has the game of his life, with his fantastic play leading the team to a crucial comeback victory. I can do nothing but respect and applaud the resiliency of this young man, best exemplified by his determined 19-yard "you thought I took a spill...but I didn't" touchdown run to put the game out of reach. That's Smith for you.
OTHER KEY PLAYS
-Down 27-14, the defense starts the second half with stifling stops on consecutive series to take the air out of the Panther offense and open the door for a Bromothymol comeback. Rookie QB Cam Newton is later forced into 3 second half interceptions.
- Down 27-21, Staff connects with Tony Sheffler, who then adds to his repertoire of hilarious TD celebrations (I think he was imitating that cell phone commercial where the guy does a goofy dance by himself in public only to find that the flash mob had been moved to 12:30. Or something like that.) In typical fashion, the Best in the Business breaks the tie with a picture perfect boot through the posts.
-Leading 28-27, DeAndre "Eugene" Levy picks off a pass in the red zone to shut down yet another Carolina drive.
-Tied 35-35 late in the game, Brandon "Wormtail" Pettigrew displays his polished silver hands with a go-ahead touchdown reception, PrettyBoy9's fifth of the game. This was sweet redemption for Wormtail, who was called for a false start on an earlier drive, trembling as if the Dark Lord himself had lined up at defensive end for the Panthers.
-Leading 42-35, "Cupps" Tulloch tips a Newton pass into the arms of recent cornerback addition Ahh Chreese Harris, putting an end to Carolina's final chance to tie the game.
READY TO GIVE THANKS
Gotta say, my first day of snowboarding was successful in all aspects, even though I got knocked on my butt more times than Cam Newton. Next up for the DTLs is a highly-anticipated Thanksgiving clash with one of our oldest and fiercest rivals. Outside of Ford Field last year, I saw a t-shirt vendor peddling "Green Gay Packers" shirts, but I think they're actually called the Green BAY Packers. The atmosphere in that building on Thursday ought to be a throwback to the raucous days back in the Pontiac Silverdome, where it was once so incredibly loud that Jets QB Neil O'Donnell begged the ref to please make the crowd quiet down because he couldn't even get a play called. The defending Super Bowl champions and 10-0 Packers will be heavily favored; But as the venerable Mr. ______ once told me, I must remind you all that "the Lions are a different team on Thanksgiving".