By Ashley Dunkak
FORD FIELD (CBS DETROIT) – Instead of emerging from the tunnel one by one in pre-game introduction, the Detroit Lions defensive line came out as one unit.
A few days before the Thanksgiving Day game, Green Bay Packers tackle Josh Sitton had called out the Lions, particularly that line, in a radio interview, calling them “dirtbags,” “scumbags” and accusing them of cheap shots.
Many of the Lions said they did not care about the comments. What happened as both teams entered their respective locker rooms after the game, though, showed that Sitton’s insults might have fired up Detroit more than players admitted.
As players streamed from out of the tunnel and into the area outside their locker rooms, several Lions players jawed at the Packers players filing in. As Sitton stormed toward the visiting locker room, anger on his face and blond hair streaming behind him, he responded to the Lions mocking him by yelling, “You didn’t do s— to me, motherf—–!”
C.J. Mosley did not notice who all was talking because, well, he was talking too.
“I had my own exchange going on, probably at the same time,” Mosley said. “They tried to make it a chippy, personal game, but that didn’t matter to us. At the end of the day we’re all men out there, and if it’s that, it’s that.”
Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who had a sack for a safety in the game, said Sitton’s comments had not really meant anything to him. Suh said the idea for all the linemen to come out of the tunnel together came from Andre Fluellen and simply represented the group sticking together.
As far as whether Sitton’s comments spurned that entrance, Mosley said, “Nah, not at all.”
Then Mosley winked.
Cornerback Rashean Mathis loved the gesture of solidarity, and his interpretation of it also seemed to confirm that the move came partly in reaction to Sitton’s words.
“That shows what they were thinking coming into the game. You talk about one of us or two of us, you talk about all of us,” Mathis said. “That’s how you want your d-line. You want them together. You want them of one accord. They played great football today.”
The Lions certainly got the last laugh. Their seven sacks of Green Bay quarterback Matt Flynn were the third-most by any NFL team this season.
Rookies Ziggy Ansah and Devin Taylor each had two sacks. Suh had the one big dramatic one in the end zone. Linebacker Stephen Tulloch had one, and safety Louis Delmas had another.
The Lions ranked low in the league in sacks going into Thursday’s game, but Thursday nothing could stop the defensive line. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson, for one, was not surprised to see the breakout performance.
“We know what they can do,” Johnson said. “We see it in practice, we’ve seen them do it in games, and then you go and upset a group like that through the wire as Green Bay did? You’ve got to deal with it on Sunday.”
Indeed, while Sitton’s comments were hardly the compelling factor behind Detroit’s excellent game, they might have contributed. One would think that realization might be a hard pill to swallow for Sitton.
“He’s got to live with that,” Mosley said. “That’s what happens when you put bulletin board material out there. He’s got to live with that.”
Sitton did, answering several queries about those earlier comments and refusing to answer similar ones later in his interview. He gave the defensive line credit but also declined the chance to back off his characterization of the Lions.
“I said what I said,” Sitton said. “I’m not taking it back, but I’ve moved off of them, and I don’t want to sit here and talk about it all day.
“They played good up front,” Sitton added. “No one ever said they’re not a good front. We know that. I think they’re probably the best inside front probably in the league, but like I said, I don’t take anything I said back.”
Despite Sitton’s evidently unchanged impression of Detroit, the Lions played in a way that did not match the description Sitton gave. When Suh snagged Flynn in the end zone, he had an opportunity to slam Flynn to the ground or pancake him. Instead, Suh carefully wrestled him out of bounds in a way that looked so unlike Suh that it appeared almost gentle.
“It was what it was supposed to be because if he had slammed him it would have been a penalty, so I’m glad he did what he did and he didn’t bring him all the way to the ground,” Mosley said. “He wanted to, because Suh, man, he’s a competitor and just a very ferocious guy. He’s very ferocious and I’m just glad he held himself down and very kindly didn’t slam him.”
Cornerback Rashean Mathis said the restraint showed a great deal about Suh.
“That’s smart,” Mathis said. “That shows maturity. That shows growth. You have to commend him for it because he’s an aggressive guy. He only knows one speed once he’s out there. I even commented on it to the players that it shows growth. It shows that he’s grown as a player. He’s already a great player, but to be smart like that, that could put you on another level. It makes people respect you a little more, so that’s huge.”
Between the importance of winning Thursday with first place in the NFC North on the line, the special nature of the traditional Thanksgiving Day game and of course Sitton’s comments, the Lions knew the game could be emotional. They made sure to check any such feelings, a level of discipline incongruent with any claims that these are the same old Lions.
“We talked about it,” Mathis said. “We knew going in that this was a big game for us, so being a game on this level, we knew that we couldn’t do anything crazy out there to hurt our team.
“We weren’t going to respond to it negative, going out there throwing punches,” Mathis added. “We were going to respond to it physically and go out there and try to hit someone in the mouth between the whistles. We responded today.”