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Eric Thomas: Can The Lions’ Defensive Line Stay Dominant?

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Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions reacts after a fourth quarter tackle while playing the Chicago Bears at Ford Field on December 30, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. Chicago won the game 26-24. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions reacts after a fourth quarter tackle while playing the Chicago Bears at Ford Field on December 30, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. Chicago won the game 26-24. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Ericface Eric Thomas
Eric Thomas spent most of his career in Flint working as a rock r...
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By Eric Thomas  @etflint

We’ve spent a few weeks lamenting the defense, so lets pause to give them a round of praise. A few in the media (cough, me, cough) questioned the Lions’ strategy in the past few years.

We scratched our heads and wondered why Martin Mayhew would be so hyper-vigilant on a single aspect of the team, the defensive line, while completely ignoring the rest of the field.

Oh, that safety. That was sweeter than a handful of pumpkin pie. Ndomukong Suh somehow managed to be both violent, mature and sarcastic in one swoop.

He grabbed Matt Flynn and spun him, before gently letting him go—an ironic twist on his reputation for late and dirty hits. Consider all his past trespasses forgiven, as the tens of thousands stepped onto a piece of blue plastic and screamed, “Suuuuuuuuhhh”

As it turns out, the Lions coaches were right. If you have a dominant defensive line, you don’t really need a great defensive secondary. Matt Flynn didn’t have time to see it. With bodies flying around and hands dragging him to the ground, the man who once threw for the most lucrative six touchdowns in history was beaten, bruised and humiliated. Six touchdowns became seven sacks.

The Lions’ defensive line had been good up until this point, but they were supposed to be great. The entire defensive scheme is up front, with often waiver wire players roaming the secondary.

Since Nick Fairley’s selection in the first round of the 2011 draft, Lions fans were promised a suffocating front four. They finally delivered on that Thanksgiving Day.

Yes, Thanksgiving matters more. You could see it on the faces of every helmet in the locker room. For most of these players, this was their first Thanksgiving win. Raiola hadn’t won on Thanksgiving since 2003. The annual tradition was beginning to feel more like a Mayan ritual of sacrifice…until yesterday.

Josh Sitton spoke to reporters in front of his locker yesterday, occasionally spitting into an empty water bottle in hand while lightly shaking his head, saying he doesn’t take anything he said on the radio back. Maybe he should think about it. The Lions defensive line had been a sleeping beast, and when they were clawed—they responded in kind.

Hearts worn on sleeves are nothing new in the NFL. The Saints hung a banner on “Who Dat?”. The Lions seem to have embraced the “Dirtbag” title, and if this is how they play, we can stand along side them.

It’s admittedly chilling to think of a stadium full of fans in Detroit chanting “We are dirtbags,” or some variation like that when the city is now internationally famous for blighted buildings and bankruptcy.

Still, the Lions defensive line showed its potential against the Packers on Thanksgiving Day. They proved that the coaches and executives weren’t crazy when they came up with this scheme. There was something to it. The only problem with a performance like this is that it raised the stakes. We’re going to expect this out of them from now on.

The Lions are now firmly in control. They’ll likely win the division. If they can keep the heat up on the defensive line, they could win a playoff game.

To be honest, if they can keep playing like they played on Thanksgiving, they might win more than one playoff game.

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