Saturday, November 15, 2014

Under the Golden Dome

By Sunday evening, the Lions could have the best record in the NFL.

I had to go back and check the standings a few times just to make sure that was right. The last time writing a sentence like that in November would have even seemed plausible was before I knew how to write, so the very idea will take some getting used to. If sudden superstar Golden Tate and finally healthy Calvin Johnson can get the best of the Arizona's vaunted secondary, despite my justified skepticism, I might even have to admit that the DTLs have finally become valid contenders in the NFC.

I'm still not convinced in the slightest that this run is going to hold up, but the past month has definitely been fun. Stafford, while putting up some of the lowest numbers of his career for about the first 3 1/2 quarters of games, continues to build upon a growing collection of thrilling comeback victories, while the best Lions defense of any of our lifetimes keeps the team in games long enough for Staff and the offense to finally wake up in crunch time. With the return of Calvin last week, one can make a strong case that Bromo now has the best receiving combo in the league, as Golden creates big play after big play. I can't understand how the offense continues to struggle so much for the majority of games; the irony of the Jim Caldwell hire is that the offensive-minded coach can't get more output out of his star-studded offense, while the defense has soared to heights far beyond anything they ever did under the defensive-minded Schwartz. Then again, 7-2 isn't the time to complain or to wax paradoxical.

Welcoming Back an Old Friend

Almost as unlikely as the significance of the match-up against the 8-1 Cardinals is the quarterback who Dom and Co. will be lining up against; with Carson Palmer's ACL tear late in last week's game, Drew Stanton will be thrust into the starting spot for Arizona.

While Stanton never got any higher than third on the Lions' QB depth chart, I've always been impressed with his gamer mentality at MSU (there's no way Michigan wins the famous Braylon Edwards game in 2004 without Stanton getting injured), and his steady play for the games in 2010 when he was forced into action. Despite limited traditional quarterbacking skills, Stanton is truly a gamer, and has already gone 2-1 starting in place of Palmer earlier this year. I don't think Palmer's absence will make this one any easier.

Stanton may or may not have history on his side in coming back to face the Lions for the first time since leaving the team. The much-maligned John Kitna, Joey Harrington, and Rodney Peete all came back to embarrass the Lions in this situation (Joey had probably the best game of his career for Miami on Thanksgiving, Rodney put up 51 points on the DTLs in less than 3 quarters in a playoff game). Then again, Stanton wasn't very maligned while in Detroit, and neither was Erik Kramer, who lost his first 6 games to the Lions as a member of the Chicago Bears.

I Like Notre Dame.

I know this isn't exactly befitting of 'Michigan Men', and my friend H is going to skewer me for this. However, with the recent play of Golden Tate and Theo Riddick, now seems as good of a time as any for this admission. I like Notre Dame, and have since about 2002. The history, the mystique, the mythology, the life and lies of Knute Rockne, the fight song, the occasional green jerseys, the Navy rivalry, the exclusive contract with NBC, the awesome players that they're suddenly giving to the DTLs. It's fun when they win big games, and it's even more fun when they lose big games. I've seen Rudy about 20 times. I find it awesome that Joe Montana seems to be jealous that a movie was made about his shitty walk-on teammate instead of him. I've watched them rip MSU's heart out plenty of memorable times. Denard Robinson had 950 yards and 8 touchdowns in two games against them.

As long as they're not playing against Michigan, I generally root for Notre Dame about 75% percent of the time. As long as Golden and Theo keep saving the day for the Lions, that number might rise.

I was recently reading Murray Sperber's Shake Down the Thunder, a book that chronicles the early years of Notre Dame football, and was struck by just how similar college football still is today as in the 1920s: Recruiting violations, NCAA reform, innovative offenses that open up the field for smaller and quicker players, lucrative neutral site games, conference realignment, oversigning, early season cupcake games, coaches making more money than university presidents, right down to the crappy Grantland articles every week. I highly recommend the book for anyone looking for some perspective to the current changes in the college football landscape.

On the Horizon 

The Lions potentially have 2 consecutive road games that could be battles for the best record in the NFL; first against the Cardinals, then coming out to my stomping grounds in Boston next week against the Pats. That weekend I'll be going to the Harvard-Yale game instead, but like last year I've already booked a flight back to Michigan for the final home game against the Vikings.

There are still 4 remaining games on the schedule that are automatic losses in most years (8-1 Cards, 7-2 Pats, late season game at Chicago, Packers at Lambeau), so any talk about home field advantage or even a playoff spot is still preposterously premature. Regardless, this has all the makings of a very exciting remainder of the season, and I can't wait to head back to Ford Field in a month, either to watch a 10-3 squad wrap up a division title, or a 7-6 team hanging on for dear life.

Find @HBromo1 on Twitter starting at 4:25 tomorrow for commentary on the Lions' first clash for NFC supremacy in over 20 years.

Forward down the field...