Lions’ Suh crashes car in Portland; not injured


Portland, Ore.— Police in Oregon say Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh crashed his car into a tree in downtown Portland, but was not injured.

Police say Suh was not impaired and was cooperative with officers following the accident at about 1:15 a.m. Saturday. Suh lost control of the 1970 Chevrolet Coupe he was driving, which then hit a curb, light pole, drinking fountain and tree. His vehicle was towed from the scene.

Suh had two passengers in the vehicle. They were not injured.

Suh is a graduate of Portland’s Grant High School. He was the NFL’s 2010 defensive rookie of the year. On Tuesday, the league suspended him for two games for stomping the arm of Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith.

Perception of ‘evil’ Lions doesn’t match reality


Chris McCosky/ The Detroit News

Allen Park — For a 5-2 football team, there sure are a lot of critics trying to pick the Lions apart.

Even the league’s own website got into the fray. They have billed the Lions game Sunday against the Broncos as Good vs. Evil — the good being Tim Tebow and the bad being Ndamukong Suh.

“I don’t know if that’s appropriate,” coach Jim Schwartz said.

It’s not appropriate, or accurate. But don’t think it won’t be used as a motivator this week. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham posted the headline and artwork from the NFL.com piece in the defensive meeting room.

“Yeah, I guess evil’s coming to town,” middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. “The media likes to portray us as a dirty team, but that’s not the way we play. We’re just physical, we play hard and we hold everybody accountable.”

The critics aren’t letting the facts get in their way. Case in point — the accusations made by two Falcons players last week. No matter how much evidence is compiled — video and audio — that Suh and Cliff Avril were several yards away from fallen Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and didn’t kick him or taunt him, the perception they did won’t go away.

Lions myths are mounting by the week. It might be a good time to debunk a few of them.

Myth : Suh is going through a sophomore slump and he isn’t having the kind of impact he had last season.

Sports Illustrated poured gas on this one, naming Suh to their midseason all-underachieving team. It doesn’t pay to get too upset with these types of lists. Their intent is to stir debate.

But there is a growing perception that Suh is somehow not impacting games like he did last season.

“He is playing some kind of football and if anybody wants to deny that, they don’t know what they’re talking about, and probably never will,” Cunningham said. “He’s playing outstanding football.”

Critics point to his three sacks and 22 tackles as evidence that his impact is less. Certainly they are off his 10-sack, 66-tackle pace last season. But for one, those numbers don’t begin to measure his impact; and two, to expect him to duplicate or surpass 10 sacks is unrealistic.

“You can’t measure everything on a statistic like a sack, because I can take each stat that you have and turn it upside down for you,” Cunningham said. “He’s been very productive, very explosive. He’s played more physical this year than he did last year.”

Here’s a mini-myth: The Lions sack numbers are down. Really? They have 17 as a team, four behind the league leaders.

Schwartz just shook his head at the SI jab at Suh.

“He’s an impact player,” he said. “Everybody has a plan for him. Everybody tries to take him out. We are very satisfied with his production. He plays hard and he affects the game. We will worry about what our expectations and evaluations are, not those from people outside this building.”

Myth : The Lions can’t stop the run.

This one is a little trickier to defend. The Lions do rank 29th against the run, allowing 129.4 per game.

They have also allowed three consecutive 100-plus games — Atlanta’s Michael Turner (122), San Francisco’s Frank Gore (141) and Chicago’s Matt Forte (116).

“According to a lot of people, we can’t stop the run,” Tulloch said. “That is false. We’ve had some lapses lately but we are back in tune to what we need to do.”

What would be a more accurate criticism is the Lions have given up too many big plays in the run game.

Turner broke a 50-yarder. Gore accumulated 102 of his 141 yards in two carries.

There have been some major breakdowns in the back end — either at outside linebacker or safety.

But to say their run defense is bad seems harsh.

“That’s everybody else’s opinion,” Suh said. “I personally don’t think you can line up and run the ball on us all day. That’s one of the things we pride ourselves on. We’ve let out some big runs, which makes it look a lot worse than it really is.

“But perception is reality some times.”

Here’s a reality: Nine times the Lions have stoned a third-and-1 or a fourth-and-1 play. Suh stopped a third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 back-to-back against the Bears.

They stopped a fourth-and-1 at the goal line in Dallas, a fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter in Minnesota, a third-and-1 in the fourth quarter against the Chiefs, and a huge fourth-and-1 from their 11 in the fourth quarter at Tampa.

They can stop the run.

Myth : Matthew Stafford struggles to throw accurately on underneath routes.

This one came out of the blue and from a surprising critic — former quarterback Kurt Warner. He told NFL Network the reason the Lions’ offense struggled the last two weeks was Stafford’s inability to connect on those short passes in front of the linebackers.

A quick review of the numbers shows that Stafford has completed 73.5 percent of his throws behind the line of scrimmage (36 for 49 for 204 yards) and 67.4 percent of his throws from 1 to 10 yards (91-for-135, 805 yards).

Combine those and he’s hitting 69 percent of his underneath routes with five of his 16 touchdowns and two of his four interceptions.

It’s not Tom Brady-like by any measure, but it’s hardly a red flag. If Warner or anybody else wants to nit-pick at the sixth-best quarterback in the NFL, he could have pointed out his struggles with passes in the 21- to 30-yard range.

He’s hit only 4 of 16 there.

Stafford has struggled the last two weeks, no question. But to single out his accuracy on underneath routes seems random — just like a lot of the attempts to deconstruct the Lions’ 5-2 start.

chris.mccosky@detnews.com

(313) 222-1489

Bob Wojnowski: Lions tough to figure out, but let’s try


Bob Wojnowski

Allen Park — Finally, you can do it without being mocked. You can wear your tattered No. 20 jersey in public and loudly suggest this is the year, and not everyone chuckles now.

The debate is legitimate, not merely the slurred rants of Lions fans. You don’t have to be drunk or delusional to suggest this is the year the Lions return to that strange, mythical place known as the playoffs. Lots of people more respected than me have suggested it.

Nothing is more deeply craved in this town than a Lions playoff berth, and like many, I’ve spent the past month batting the idea around. It’s not an easy thing to grasp. The Lions are three seasons removed from 0-16, and are 8-24 under Jim Schwartz. But they finished last season on a 4-0 run, and Matthew Stafford is healthy and so hungry, he might eat the Curse of Bobby Layne.

The Lions hear the playoff talk, appreciate it, but steadfastly decline to wallow in it.

“Honestly, it doesn’t make any difference,” Schwartz said Wednesday. “Does it make it easier to watch TV? Maybe. We have a lot of expectations, we just choose not to make them a big deal. All that stuff is nice, it’s good for our city, it’s probably nice for guys’ moms. But we’re gonna let Sundays speak for themselves.”

Well, let me speak for Sundays then. One moment, I’m positive the Lions will be in the playoff hunt. The next moment, I’m thinking they’re a year away.

At least they’re no longer a decade away. The last season they made the playoffs was 1999. Since their 1957 championship, the Lions have one measly playoff victory, and grown men still shed tears of joy recalling that 38-6 pummeling of the Cowboys on Jan. 5, 1992.

We’ll know something about these Lions right away Sunday in Tampa, where they open against a Buccaneers team that also will scrap for a playoff spot. A year ago, the Lions pulled a 23-20 overtime stunner that essentially knocked the Buccaneers out of the playoffs, even though they finished 10-6.

Playoff debate will rage

Buck up and buckle in because this will be an unpredictable ride, starting in the heat of Tampa and ending in the cold of Green Bay. In between, the debate will rage:

The Lions will make the playoffs because: Stafford’s shoulder is healed, and in fact, surgery and rehab made him stronger. He could be great, as long as his mishaps are quirks of misfortune, not proof he’s injury-prone.

The Lions won’t make the playoffs because: Technically, Stafford is injury-prone. Sorry, but the numbers don’t lie — he’s played in 13 of 32 games.

The Lions will make the playoffs because: Have you seen their defensive line?! Ndamukong Suh is a behemoth, Corey Williams is terrific and Cliff Avril gnaws on quarterback limbs.

The Lions won’t make the playoffs because: Opposing teams will counter their fierce pass rush with quick passes and draws. That will frustrate Suh to the point he swings a quarterback over his head and flings him through the goalposts, earning a $20,000 fine.

The Lions will make the playoffs because: They have stars or potential stars in Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Suh and Williams. That’s a nice core.

The Lions won’t make the playoffs because: You still have to run the ball and stop the run, and they haven’t proven they can do either. The offensive line pass-protects better than it run-blocks, and the loss of rookie back Mikel Leshoure is huge, putting a lot on Jahvid Best.

The Lions will make the playoffs because: GM Martin Mayhew has significantly upgraded the talent by making shrewd acquisitions, drafting well and not being Matt Millen. Linebacker Stephen Tulloch is a crucial addition.

The Lions won’t make the playoffs because: This year’s top rookies — DT Nick Fairley, Leshoure — won’t make an immediate impact due to injuries. And the secondary still lacks big-play talent.

The Lions will make the playoffs because: Lots of NFL teams leap up suddenly. Last season, Tampa Bay went from 3-13 to 10-6. Why not Detroit?!

The Lions won’t make the playoffs because: “Why not the Lions?!” is a mantra passed down from generation to generation. This franchise long has defied all statistical trends.

The Lions will make the playoffs because: NFL experts such as ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and SI’s Peter King say they will, and both sound very authoritative on TV.

The Lions won’t make the playoffs because: Most Las Vegas books still have the over-under on Lions victories at 7.5, and Vegas is a more-authoritative king than King.

The Lions will make the playoffs because: The NFC requires six teams to qualify. Four are quasi-givens — Green Bay, Atlanta, Philadelphia and whatever slug wins the West (St. Louis, maybe). That leaves New Orleans, the N.Y. Giants, Dallas, Chicago, Detroit and Tampa Bay battling for two wild cards, and none are especially imposing.

The Lions won’t make the playoffs because: Green Bay, Atlanta, Philadelphia, St. Louis, New Orleans and New York will.

The Lions will make the playoffs because: They’ll go to Green Bay for the Jan. 1 finale 9-6 and the experience and swagger to finally smite the ghosts of Lambeau Field!

The Lions won’t make the playoffs because: Green Bay doesn’t need ghosts when it has Aaron Rodgers. The Packers will win 20-14 to end the Lions season at 9-7.

That’s not what you wanted to hear, I know. But take solace in this: The mocking is over, and the debating has just begun.

Bet on it

Bodog.com odds for the NFL season:

Super Bowl XLVI

NFC

Lions’ Suh apparently fined $20,000 for QB hit


The Detroit News

Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is used to hitting quarterbacks. Wednesday, he apparently was hit by the NFL with a $20,000 fine.

In Friday’s exhibition game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Suh slammed quarterback Andy Dalton to the turf after Dalton released a pass in the first quarter.

Suh posted on Twitter Wednesday: “$20,000REALLY??? #NFL #BIGFAIL”

Last season, Suh got a $7,500 fine for a hit on Cleveland Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme during an exhibition matchup and $15,000 for hitting the Chicago Bears’ Jay Cutler during the regular season.