Lions face Bears for 151st meeting

There are very few teams in the NFL with a rivalry as rich as the Lions and Bears.  They have been playing each other since 1930 when the Lions were known as The Spartans.  The Bears won that first match up, 7-6 and have a lead in the all time series, 83-62-5.

The Lions are hoping to break a two game losing streak, the most recent loss last week in a 9-34 drubbing by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

This year, the Lions (7-4) are the favorites going into the game on Turkey day with the over/under at 47.5 points but will have to get back on track offensively.

Be sure to get your tickets now and help cheer on your Detroit Lions!

 

Lions’ ‘gamer’ Ricardo Silva stays in thick of action, roster battle


Lions: Notebook

Chris McCosky/ The Detroit News

Detroit — Ricardo Silva, an undrafted rookie out of Hampton, usually stands off by himself during practice.

The rest of the defensive players are in a pack and Silva, invariably, is about 10 yards apart, by himself, often rehearsing the drops or the coverages that are being played out on the field.

It’s a bit ironic a guy so often by himself in practice is so often in the thick of the action during games.

In limited time in three games, he has two interceptions and recovered a fumble.

“He makes plays when he’s in there,” coach Jim Schwartz said.

He picked off Tom Brady late in the second quarter, which was noteworthy for two reasons. One, he picked off Tom Brady, and two, he was in the game in the second quarter.

“The defense did a good job disguising that blitz,” Schwartz said. “We had the same play on earlier but this time the quarterback read it differently. But (Silva) is a little bit of a gamer. He’s always around the ball.”

Silva may have played his way onto the 53-man roster, or onto the practice squad at the very least. After starters Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey, and veteran Erik Coleman, Silva has emerged as the fourth safety.

At least for this week, he was ahead of veteran special teams ace John Wendling and recently signed Aaron Francisco and Michael Johnson.

No excuses

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gave the Lions defense its due credit Saturday.

“They’re a good team,” he said. “They were a good team when we played them last year. It was a close game until the fourth quarter. When we made some plays in the fourth quarter we showed some resiliency, but they are a good team. They’re good on defense, they play well offensively and they’re very well coached. They’re tough.”

As for his own performance, Brady said, “From the first series on we just couldn’t get into a rhythm. It was just a bad night all around. You don’t make excuses for it. We just didn’t play the way we needed to.”

New punter

Signs are pointing to a possible change of the guard at punter. Rookie Ryan Donahue not only started the game but he also held for kicker Jason Hanson.

That’s been Nick Harris’ job the last eight seasons.

“Ryan is part of our preseason rotation,” Schwartz said. “He’s punted well and held well. It’s a different dynamic going out and doing it under the pressure of a sold-out crowd and a nationally televised game. We needed to see him in that situation.”

Donahue handled the pressure. His two punts averaged 50 yards (though on his 58-yarder he might have outkicked the coverage). His net was only 33 yards. He held for two Hanson field goals.

Harris also punted well, averaging 48 yards per boot, and a 43.5-yard net.

Extra points

Hanson has all but secured the kicking job. He booted field goals of 33 and 46 yards, plus he placed his kickoffs at the goal line, forcing the Patriots to return them. Twice the Lions stuffed the Pats inside the 20 on kickoffs. Dave Rayner missed a 48-yarder.

… Rookie receiver Titus Young saw his first game action and caught a 19-yard pass. He was pulled at halftime, though Schwartz said there was no aggravation to the sore hamstring.

… Linebacker Bobby Carpenter continues to have a strong preseason. His seven tackles led the team.

chris.mccosky@detnews.com

Terry Foster: NFL lockout’s fine with us — just don’t dare miss a game


Terry Foster

The reality of an NFL lockout hit full force Monday when I saw Lions kicker Jason Hanson at the drinking fountain at my local Life Time Fitness.

He was doing mostly weight training on a slow Monday morning in the gym.

He’s got nowhere to train because he is not allowed inside the Lions practice facility and cannot talk to coaches and the training staff. The king of sports is shut down. It just hasn’t hit home for the rest of us because we have not missed one game, one hit or another Lions loss.

We haven’t gathered around the water cooler on a Monday morning second-guessing coach Jim Schwartz or wondering if Matthew Stafford will last the season. Everything seems status quo outside of those clips we saw a few weeks ago of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and New England quarterback Tom Brady walking down the street before and after negotiations.

Advertisement



The NFL now is a 365-day-a-year league. The draft is scheduled as normal, beginning two weeks from this Thursday. The draft guides are out. Fans are discussing who the Lions should take with the 13th pick and even the top collegiate athletes will walk across the stage, shake commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand, and wear a cap of the team that selected them.

After that, the league will roll into bubble wrap unless a deal is hammered out.

ESPN is reporting that a judge will impose forced mediation on the NFLPA and the NFL. The two sides both agree that more mediation is necessary, but they cannot even agree where to have it.

I won’t bore you with the details because I get the feeling the public doesn’t really care. ESPN provided wall-to-wall coverage and I admit I often turned the channel midway through it. Now when I see lockout news, I just shut it off.

This is April, not August when training camp begins. Players will miss some OTAs and will be forced to work out with you and me. So what? It just doesn’t hit home yet with the public with what is going on.

For players, it does. Hanson said most of the players he talks to are trying to maintain things now, but at some point they will need to find trainers to push them further. Some guys have returned home while others have found workout partners in the Detroit area.

This whole thing seems ridiculous. The owners are not losing money. The players are not going broke. And the league is the most prosperous in our country. I still am trying to figure out what the point of this lockout is. What you have is a few hundred people trying to figure out how to slice up a multi-billion dollar pie.

Meanwhile, the people who really will get hurt are the little guys trying to hammer out a minimum-wage salary. The people who work concessions and show us to our seats need that money. Sunday’s are always a great source of business for the bars and restaurants in Detroit who need every high-ticket day they can get.

It might just be eight dates, but NFL gameday packs a huge punch that can make a place profitable for the week.

These are the people I think about.

It was great seeing Hanson on Monday but I don’t want to see him in my gym. Get out.

There is plenty of room for him, but he belongs in Allen Park with the rest of the Lions.

terry.foster@detnews.com

Judge gets big test in NFL lockout case


Amy Forliti / Associated Press

Minneapolis— Susan Richard Nelson wanted to make a difference as an attorney. Do something that mattered.

She mentored disadvantaged students and young female lawyers. She was on a team that took on big tobacco and won. As a magistrate, she earned a reputation for her ability to bring parties together and settle cases.

Advertisement



Now, less than four months into her career as a federal judge, she’s responsible for deciding the fate of the NFL’s lockout and, perhaps, the 2011 season — a daunting task with big-shot lawyers on both sides and billions of dollars at stake.

Those who know Nelson say her short time on the bench won’t matter. They note she has decades of courtroom experience and won’t be rattled by the glare this high-profile case will bring.

“There’s no question she can handle it,” said Michael Ciresi, who worked with Nelson for 16 years and was one of her partners at Robins, Kaplan, Miller Ciresi. “As a judge, she’s very smart, savvy, respectful … and she’s not afraid to make the tough decisions.”

On Wednesday, attorneys for Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and other NFL players are scheduled to ask Nelson for an injunction to halt the lockout imposed by owners. The players have claimed the lockout is causing them “irreparable harm” and they want it stopped.

Attorneys for the NFL want the lockout to stay in place, saying players manipulated the law when they decertified as a union in mid-March and filed what the league calls a baseless antitrust lawsuit.

The lawsuit, which also has been assigned to Nelson, accuses the league of conspiracy and anticompetitive practices. A trial on those issues could take years, so Nelson’s ruling on the lockout will be key — and it’s the first big decision in the labor fight.

“That’s the real heart of the case,” said Stephen Ross, director of the Penn State Institute for Sports Law, Policy and Research. “This decision is really, very important.”

“When you consider the $10 billion that sports fans spend,” he added, “anything they do here is incredibly important as to whether there’s going to be a season or not.”

Nelson’s decision will likely be appealed, so she won’t have the final say. Still, her office is gearing up for Wednesday’s hearing, which has been moved to a larger courtroom to accommodate the expected crush of attorneys and media.

Nelson, 58, is no stranger to the spotlight or to complex cases. The native of Buffalo, N.Y., has 22 years of litigation experience.

Bob Wojnowski: Big Bad Ben will beat the warm, fuzzy Packers


Bob Wojnowski

The Green Bay Packers are a nice, warm story straight out of the cold. Aaron Rodgers is a freshly minted star, clean-cut and sharp-throwing.

Fans like the Packers. Experts love the Packers to beat the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV. One ESPN survey of national prognosticators had 31 of 45 picking the Packers.

I’m not here to spoil anyone’s Super fun. You’ll probably ruin it anyhow by serving too many vegetables and not enough meatballs at your party. I’m here to tell you the newest American Anti-Hero is about to be Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, like it or not.

Hate Big Bad Ben if you wish. Some of his alleged off-field behavior has been deplorable. I don’t know if he has become a better person, but it doesn’t really matter today. The man is as tough and clutch as any quarterback ever, and the Steelers are the nastiest bunch in football, which is why they’ll beat the Packers.

Advertisement



This should be a classic because both teams belong, both play great defense and both have tremendous quarterbacks. The Steelers will win 31-24, and that should set up an entertaining dilemma for Disney, which always tapes a post-Super Bowl commercial, asking a star player where he’s going next. To Disney World? Uh, not sure that’d be Roethlisberger’s choice, but if you want your sports stars wrapped in neat, tidy packages, sorry.

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are the NFL’s shiniest long-time stars. Rodgers, playing in his first Super Bowl, probably is next. But guess what? Roethlisberger’s playoff record (10-2) is better than all of them, better than Brady’s 14-5 and way better than Manning’s 9-10.

As you know, the Lions have steadfastly declined to participate in Super Bowls, and the popular theory is, it’s because they’ve never had the quarterback. We don’t know if they have him now, with Matthew Stafford’s shoulder woes. But it’s not that simple. You must have the defense too, and Pittsburgh and Green Bay have the league’s best.

The AFC has been dominated for years by Roethlisberger, Brady and Manning. But you know how many different NFC quarterbacks have reached the Super Bowl the past eight years? Eight. The Lions certainly aren’t ready for that yet, but eventually, it’ll be there for the taking, and it doesn’t just take a great quarterback.

When the Steelers beat the Seahawks 21-10 in Super Bowl XL at Ford Field, Roethlisberger was mostly miserable — 9-for-21 for 123 yards and two interceptions. That was five years ago, and even though he was outstanding beating the Cardinals two years ago, it’s as if Super Bowl XL somehow tainted him.

If the Steelers prevail now, Roethlisberger, 28, officially would rank among the all-time elite, only the fifth quarterback to win three Super Bowls, joining Joe Montana (four), Terry Bradshaw (four), Troy Aikman (three) and Brady (three).

At 6-foot-5, 241 pounds, Roethlisberger sometimes is unorthodox, sometimes inaccurate. But he makes clutch plays and shakes off tacklers better than anyone, and he’ll need to. This won’t be easy, with standout rookie center Maurkice Pouncey sidelined, further weakening Pittsburgh’s offensive line. The blitz-happy Packers, led by Clay Matthews, had 47 sacks in the regular season, second only to — naturally — the Steelers’ 48.

The Steelers’ defense is slightly better, and more punishing. Linebacker James Harrison, who rang up $100,000 in fines this season, spent part of the week mocking commissioner Roger Goodell for cracking down on brutal hits. Harrison’s classic: “I just want to tackle them softly on the ground, and if ya’ll can, lay a pillow down where I tackle them so they don’t hit the ground too hard. OK, Mr. Goodell?”

Niiiice. And nasty.

The Steelers’ ground game, with underrated Rashard Mendenhall, is better. Green Bay won’t be able to run on Pittsburgh, and one dimension just isn’t enough.

That’s my dime-store analysis, and I’m sorry if it’s not as in-depth as the biggest story this week out of Dallas: “Roethlisberger took teammates to a piano bar Tuesday night, warbled a Billy Joel song and ran up a $1,000 tab! Oh no!”

Oh who cares? It’d only truly be a story if Roethlisberger belted out a Josh Groban tune.

Actually, it’d only be a story if Roethlisberger displayed more ugly behavior. He has been accused of sexual assault twice in two years, and although he wasn’t convicted of anything, he was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

No one’s brushing aside disgusting behavior. But just as Michael Vick is entitled to rebuild his image, so is Roethlisberger. He tried mightily during Super Bowl week, answering critical questions with charm and humor.

People shouldn’t be fooled by that, either. Perceptions rightly are forged on the field, and Roethlisberger is one of the toughest, grimiest ever to play quarterback. That’s who he is, who the Steelers are, who they’ve always been. A vivid, vicious reminder is due.

bob.wojnowski@detnews.com

It’s not too early for Lions fans to think draft

Lions: Analysis

Tim Twentyman / The Detroit News

Allen Park– The Lions lost their ninth game in 11 tries over the Thanksgiving Day weekend. With hopes for a playoff spot dashed for an 11th-consecutive season, it’s not too early to start looking at how this team might improve itself in 2011.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew put together a couple of nice drafts the last two seasons, particularly with top picks Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh, and will need to get more help this spring.

Positions in need of upgrades: the secondary, linebacking corps, and offensive line.

So who might the Lions target with another likely top five pick?

After watching Tom Brady slice up the Lions in a 45-24 Thanksgiving Day loss, the early favorite is Louisiana State cornerback Patrick Peterson. Peterson is a true lockdown corner, something the Lions haven’t had in years.

Peterson (6-1, 222) has drawn comparisons to former Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson. Only a junior, he is a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top cornerback. He’s also a productive returner, averaging 27.5 yards per kick return and 19.7 per punt.

Peterson has elite size for the position and runs in the 4.3 to 4.4 range in the 40-yard dash.

Other possibilities

Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara could also be an option. Amukamara (6-1, 205) doesn’t have an interception in 2010, but that’s mainly because opposing quarterbacks rarely throw his way.

Amukamara was a late bloomer, making three starts his first two seasons at Nebraska, but has developed into one of the nation’s top defenders. He’s also a finalist for the Thorpe Award.

The year’s cornerback class is deep by draft analysts, and includes other top-flight corners in Brandon Harris (Miami), Janoris Jenkins (Florida), Ras-I Dowling (Virginia) and Aaron Williams (Texas).

On draft day, don’t be surprised, if the Lions bypass all the cornerbacks and decide early to get help at linebacker, especially on the outside.

Veteran outside linebacker Julian Peterson and his $8 million salary are likely gone after the season.

Zack Follett, who started the season at outside linebacker, was lost for the season due to a neck injury and has an uncertain future.

The unit needs a young playmaker alongside middle linebacker DeAndre Levy.

The two best linebacker prospects, according to Kiper, are Akeem Ayers (UCLA) and Von Miller (Texas AM).

Both Ayers (6-4, 255) and Miller (6-3, 243) have terrific size and speed, but are viewed more as 3-4 rush linebackers at the next level. The Lions run a 4-3 base defense.

Later round talents

Other options at linebacker, later in the first round or possibly early in the second round, are Travis Lewis (6-2, 232) of Oklahoma and North Carolina’s Bruce Carter (6-3, 225).

Lewis and Carter are a bit small for Lions coach Jim Schwartz’s scheme, though.