So something is definitely different this year.
The team doesn’t really look that much different on paper than the the 2010 version, but the results are completely different. The Lions have an invisible aura around them right now. Something that says, no matter what the situation we’re still in a game. The sole, number one reason is big plays.
With a healthy Matt Stafford and Jahvid Best, Calvin Johnson and the rest of the offense is enjoying a tremendous season. They’re a team that may not end up having the most gaudy statistics at the end of the year, but it’s a collection of big play guys. Whether it’s Matt Stafford having the confidence in his top receiver to throw a perfect jump ball into triple coverage, Jahvid Best hitting a hole and leaving Bears defenders in his dust or Calvin Johnson snaring in a bomb over two defenders and finishing it off with a TD, the team for at least one play is able to dominate their opponents. The big plays are defeating to the defense and instill confidence in the young offense. Make no mistake, on offense the Lions are a nightmare matchup for any team. Look at the Vikings game. The Vikings effectively took the WRs and RBs out of the game in the first half. They were hooting and hollering and celebrating their first half victory. How did the offense respond? Time and time again found TE Brandon Pettigrew…to the tune of a career best 11 catches for 112 yards. These were big plays. 3rd down catches. Catches in double coverages. Catches while getting drilled by the linebacker. The Lions have no shortage of big play talent on offense.
But, it hasn’t stopped at offense. The defense has made huge plays this season as well. None more apparent that the interception return for touchdowns by Bobby Carpenter and Chris Houston against the Dallas Cowboys. With the offense Joe Namath worthy “stuuuugggling” a garbage heap linebacker and bust cornerback made big plays to save the game, while the offense eventually got back on track in time to win the game. What we’re learning is that Carpenter and Houston are not garbage or busts–they’re guys that never fit in anywhere until now. Sure the defense has the monster, all-world defensive line, but it’s the much less heralded guys like Carpenter and Houston (and Tulloch, Delmas, Levy…etc) who’ve rounded this defensive team into form. Outside of their blue chip talent on defense, Martin Mayhew clearly targeted guys who have a knack for the ball. It’s paying dividends and the Lions are rolling.
So while you’re watching the Lions win again on Sunday against the over-confident 49ers, count the big plays by each team. Not just 50 yard touchdowns, but a batted ball on 3rd down, catching a slant while taking a hit, sacking the quarterback to make it 3rd and 15. You’re going to see a lot more check marks on the Lions side.