Seeing the St. Louis Rams on Monday night takes me back. Back to the last time we last saw the Lions on Monday Night Football. In 2000 the Lions were throughly embarassed by the Rams in what began over a decade without having the coveted game on the schedule again. Luckily, we were all oblivious to what the next ten years would bring to us. If we would have known then, we’d have shut the game off at that moment and not looked back until the decade was over. We wouldn’t have missed anything.
But things are different now. A few years of good personel moves and the right coaching hires have put the Lions in an enviable spot. An explosive offense and attacking defense have giving the 2010 NFL darling Bucs and Chiefs absolute fits through the first two weeks, and are making the NFL take note that the Lions went from an easy victory, to a tough game, to a game you don’t want to play. Even when it feels like the Lions aren’t playing well, you look at the scoreboard and see they’re up 14 points. Will it continue? Maybe not, but there’s plenty of reasons to think it will continue. The next three games see the Lions getting the Vikings, Cowboys and Bears. With the Vikings 0-2, the Cowboys hurting and the Bears making the Monday Night Football visit to the “sure-to-be-insane” Ford Field, there’s reason to think that the Lions will be favored in each of those games.
Which gets me to my point. It’s early now, and I’m getting ahead of myself, but if the Lions pull those three games out, after that October 10th Monday Night game, there will be inevitable comparisons to the last completely out of nowhere team, the 1999 Rams. The team featured a receiving trio of Issaac Bruce, then rookie Torey Holt and Az Hakim. Especially with yesterday’s breakout game by Titus Young, the Lions could feature a similar fearful wideout corp of Calvin Johnson, Nate Burelson and Young.
The Rams had the dual threat Marshall Faulk, it might be a reach, but maybe Jahvid Best will is a poor man’s Faulk. Best already has 237 yards of total offense, only about 50 yards off Faulk’s 1999 pace through the first two game. As for defense, the comparison could begin and end with the Lions defensive line. I’m nearly certain that the Lions secondary got a couple of reputation picks yesterday as a skiddish Matt Cassell was chucking the ball up to anyone whenever he sensed pressure. The 1999 Rams featured an incredibly fearsome front four with some highly recognizable names like Kevin Carter, D’Marco Farr, Leonard Little and Grant Wistrom. Despite the names, I’d put Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Corey Williams and Cliff Avril and the rest of the Lions deep line up against the Rams line.
Where the comparison doesn’t match up is quarterback. Matt Stafford was a highly heralded, number one pick. Kurt Warner was “The Natural” of NFL quarterbacks. An absolute no one from no where who turned into one of the greatest stories in NFL history. But like Warner’s need to prove himself when overlooked by everyone, Stafford might be feeling the need to prove himself like Warner once did after much of the league has labeled him as a massive injury concern.
The Lions have that aura about them now that the 1999 Rams did. Everything they’ve touched has turned to gold. Will it hold up, probably not. They’ll probably comeback to Earth and struggle to finish .500, but it’s nice to dream now while we can.