Ndamukong Suh wants fans to answer the call on Monday night


Chris McCosky/ The Detroit News

Allen Park— Suuuuuhhhhh!

Get your vocal cords ready. Ndamukong Suh wants to hear you Monday night.

“One thing I really feed off is hearing my name out there,” Suh said Thursday. “Players may say they tune all that out, but when I make a play and hear my name, those things really feel good.”

Suh was in the midst of the din at Comerica Park for Game 3 of the American League Division Series this week, and he’s counting on a similar roof-raising decibel level at Ford Field on Monday against the Bears.

“Being at that Tigers game, that was a great example of feeling that atmosphere,” he said. “I was six rows up and being able to feel the crowd, that noise, I am definitely looking forward to the same type of thing. I really expect nothing less from the Monday night game. I am excited for it.”

Aware of game’s magnitude

Crowd noise, though, is generally proportionate to the quality of play on the field. As quarterback Matthew Stafford said, “We know this game is big for the city, but we also know we have to play well for it to be any kind of fun.”

Suh understands that, which makes him all the more anxious to get at it.

“Probably the most exciting thing about our team is that we have yet to play a perfect game,” he said. “We’ve played very mediocre. With that, there’s a lot of room to improve.”

Suh, an all-Pro and defensive rookie of the year last season, is off to what can be best described as a quietly effective start. He has 11 tackles and two sacks — far from the torrid pace he set last year when he had 10 sacks.

But, in the grand scheme of the defense, he and the rest of the line has keep steady pressure on quarterbacks and been at times overtly disruptive, other times subtly disruptive.

“Any competitive defensive lineman wants a lot of sacks and it’s unfortunate that we are down on our numbers, but we understand we’ve done some good things,” Suh said. “One way to measure us to see the things we’ve done in the backfield, causing pressure and making quarterbacks loft balls up that lead to interceptions. But by all means, we want to get back to sacking the quarterback.”

Revenge factor?

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has been sacked 15 times, second behind Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (18).

Last year in the game at Ford Field, Suh was fined for hitting Cutler with excessive force outside the pocket. He was asked if such a hit might have some carry-over impact on Cutler’s psyche.

“I have no idea; you’d have to ask Jay Cutler about that,” Suh said. “That’s not my concern and it was not the reason for the hit. The reason to hit him hard is to create a play, get him to fumble.”

Suh said the thing he liked most about the defense has been its resiliency and adaptability. He has shown the same traits individually.

Teams are emptying the trick box to find some way to neutralize him, occasionally with some success.

They try to use his penetration against him, either with trap blocks inside, or chipping him with an offensive tackle.

“A lot of teams do that,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “They keep a tight end in and bring a tackle down. But every time they keep a tight end in, it’s one less guy in the route.”

Learning to adjust

As for the trap blocks, that’s a systemic issue.

“We’re vulnerable to trap blocks,” Schwartz said. “You tell guys to get up field and rush the passer, they’re going to be susceptible to the trap. But our linebackers are expected to play that. We don’t want our guys slowing down and playing traps. Suh is an instinctive guy. He’s seen those things before. If we are getting off the line the way we are supposed to, our linebackers should fill those (gaps) up.”

Schwartz would caution against measuring Suh merely with statistics.

“The most impressive thing about him wouldn’t be impressive to other people,” Schwartz said. “But it’s that he’s always in on the play, and it’s because he has great instincts, great balance and he’s so strong.”

He’s so strong, in fact, that even when he’s blocked well, Suh manages to, at the very least, hold his gap most times.

“The great way our defense is set up, when I get penetration, I am doing my job,” Suh said. “Even if they knock me off course — whether they are trapping me from the inside-out, or doing a wham block from the outside-in — a lot of times I withstand those blows and stay in my gap and get my job done.”

Attuned to rivalry

For a guy who grew up in Portland, Ore., and played at Nebraska, Suh seems to have a grasp of the magnitude of a Bears-Lions game, especially one played on the big stage of Monday.

“These were the two top teams in the north back in the day,” he said. “I kind of consider this like going back to the Big 12 — which doesn’t exist any more — and the Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry. I look at it the same way. The Bears are definitely a team we want to get after. They are in our division and they beat us twice last year, and they have a great team.

“For me during big game weeks, I am a little more quiet. I want to make sure I am calm. When it’s the right time and I am on the football field, then I unleash it. This is going to be a great challenge and I am ready.”

Bears at Lions

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. Monday, Ford Field, Detroit

TV/radio: ESPN/WXYT

Line: Lions by 51/2

Records: Bears 2-2,Lions 4-0

Series: Bears lead 91-64-5 (Chicago 24-20, Dec. 5, 2010)

Did you know?: The last “Monday Night Football” appearance for the Lions was Oct. 8, 2001, against the Rams, who won 35-0.

chris.mccosky@detnews.com

twitter.com/cmccosky

Bob Wojnowski: Lions finally have teeth to match their roar


Bob Wojnowski

Detroit — Oh my, how things have changed. At times in Ford Field on Sunday, the crowd was so loud, the Lions’ offense had to plead for calm. At times, the quarterback was so jacked up, he looked capable of firing the ball all the way across the street to Comerica Park.

Something startling is starting to happen at this hot little corner in downtown Detroit, and for their part, the Lions are determined to make it happen. That should be their theme this season, because it sure is Matthew Stafford’s theme — make something happen.

The gamblin’, gunslingin’, gosh-darnin’ quarterback was dominant in the home opener, throwing four touchdown passes in the Lions’ 48-3 blasting of the Chiefs. The Lions spent the offseason collecting players and plaudits, and though it was just one game, they showed it all in the biggest blowout in franchise history.

This is about talent, and the 2-0 Lions definitely have some. It’s also about attitude, and they’re certainly developing some, from the noise in the building to Kid Rock and Bob Seger in the postgame locker room. Going back to last season, this is six straight victories, and it’s happening with aggressiveness on offense and defense, and even with a cutthroat edge.

At long last

Jim Schwartz and his coaching staff are letting the fellas loose, and that’s partly because the Lions finally, finally have the quarterback capable of doing it. Stafford threw soft passes, feathered strikes and absolute lasers. His 36-yard pass down the middle to tight end Tony Scheffler in the second quarter was a thing of beauty — almost as audacious as Scheffler’s touchdown dance.

The Lions are having fun and they should. In an amusing pantomime, Scheffler pretended he was making a fire and sending smoke signals. (They were playing the Chiefs, get it?) Actually, the Lions are using more conventional means to send their signals, and it begins with a franchise quarterback who’s healthy and happy to fling.

“Your radar’s gotta be on high alert when Matt’s got the ball in his hands,” Scheffler said. “On my touchdown, he put some velocity on it and stuck it on my helmet. But we have a lot of stuff that needs to be fixed if we want to be the team we think we can be in January.”

The playoffs in January are a long way off, but not as long as they were two weeks ago. The Lions just hammered a team that was 10-6 last season, one week after handling another 10-6 team in Tampa. Granted, the Chiefs look positively awful, committing six turnovers.

But Stafford is growing rapidly, as he searches for the line between making something happen and needlessly forcing something to happen. Early in the game, the Lions were a bit sluggish. Stafford threw a bad interception instead of taking a sack, although the Chiefs fumbled it right back.

Stafford has shown he can scramble, and he and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan are finding ways to make teams pay. When the Chiefs’ defense loaded up to stuff the run, Stafford hit star Calvin Johnson for two touchdowns. When they adjusted, he found Nate Burleson, Jahvid Best, emerging rookie Titus Young and others.

“The big thing was, Matt took some hits and kept making the throws,” center Dominic Raiola said. “When teams leave Calvin out there one-on-one, that’s disrespectful to me. That’s what happens — you get dunked on. We got an aggressive coaching staff. We’re gonna stay fangs out.”

Fangs out, everyone in. Yep, you can feel something building here, after all the years of misery.

People wonder what spawns confidence. I’ll tell you what does: Talent. Stafford has the smarts, the arm and the leadership, and Johnson has become an amazing weapon.

Here were the Lions, up 20-3 late in the third quarter, facing a fourth down at Kansas City’s 1. Field goal by the ever-dependable Jason Hanson? Aw, boring. As the crowd momentarily quieted, Stafford dropped back, zipped a quick pass to Johnson, and the fans erupted again.

“We’ve been doing it for a while now and Calvin kind of knows what I’m thinking, and I’m the same way with him,” said Stafford, 23-for-39 for 294 yards. “It’s a good start, that’s the way we look at it.”

A ferocious start

It’s only a start, but the Lions attacked with stunning ferocity. This is who they’re trying to become — an explosive passing team that runs to keep the opponent honest. There also was some animosity in this one because defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham was accused in the offseason of tampering with Kansas City players, a charge that really ticked the Lions off.

I’m not saying they ran up the score. The Chiefs were so incompetent, the score practically ran itself up.

I am saying, when Stafford is flinging like this, the Lions are capable of running up points quickly. Through two games, he has thrown for 599 yards and seven touchdowns, with only two interceptions.

“Until we get some playoffs and championships, I’m not gonna walk around with my chest pumped out,” Burleson said. “But I don’t think people truly realize how many weapons we got. That’s the one thing that makes us so powerful. Matt makes throws that a lot of quarterbacks wouldn’t even attempt. We’re a good team, but our goal is to be great.”

They have a good quarterback who’s striving to be great. Nothing really has changed and everything has changed. The Lions’ goals are still the same, but now, early evidence suggests they’re legitimately attainable.

bob.wojnowski@detnews.com

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