Make no doubt about it, the 2011 Lions have been a warm and cuddly story this September. Outside of the current media lovefest going on around the Bills, there’s been no better story than the kids in Detroit. 3-0 for the first time since 1980, Jim Schwartz’s young squad has won three games in three completely different fashions: once after nearly surrendering a huge lead in Tampa, once in a blow out of the Chiefs and once in a miraculous second half comeback in a building they haven’t won in since 1997. Their young quarterback is finally healthy and earning his gargantuan paycheck, their star defensive tackle is manhandling opposing centers and guards on a weekly basis, and their number one wideout is the first player ever to catch two touchdown passes in each of the first three games of a season. Yeah, he’s pretty talented.
And that’s all good and well.
But Raymond James Stadium ain’t JerryWorld, that 32nd ranked Chiefs D isn’t Rob Ryan’s 3-4 scheme, and washed up McNabb and the Vikings are a far cry from Romo and the Cowboys. Sorry Lions fans, but the fairytale start to the season in Motown is about to get a Texas-sized dose of reality.
Matt Stafford returns home to Dallas, where he was a 3-time All-State selection and led his Highland Park high school squad to the Class 4A championship as a senior. But, this isn’t Stafford’s backyard anymore; it’s Tony’s.
Romo’s having an incredible season, playing through injuries, completing wild third-and-18 passes, and proving that he’s one of the game’s elite quarterbacks. Stafford? You can have your fantasy stats, Adam. Let’s see him win in Dallas in front of a nationally televised audience before we crown him as “The Next Big Thing”.
Lost in all the media hoopla around Romo (I believe Ron Jaworski referred to Monday night’s win as “THE RIB GAME”), is just how dominant the Cowboys defense been. Dallas leads the NFC in total defense, giving up just 288 yards per game, and DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer have been two of the best linebackers in the league. Perhaps even more impressive than Ware and Spencer is middle linebacker Sean Lee, who not only leads the team in tackles, but also two interceptions and two fumble recoveries this season.
As I expected when I picked them as a Wild Card team out of the NFC this year, Rob Ryan’s changed the ethos of the D and they’re playing at an elite level. Alan Ball’s having a big year, Terence Newman appears to be back, and hey, even Gerald Sensabaugh’s played well. The Lions offense has been lights out. This D can stop them.
Am I scared of the Ndamukong Suh-Phil Costa matchup? Of course I am. Am I worried about Doug Free and Tyron Smith containing Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril? Absolutely. I simply don’t see it happening. But I thought Brian Orakpo was going to eat Tony Romo for dinner, too. I thought Ryan Kerrigan would feast on ol’ number 9. But Romo’s got something special going on, and the more adversity facing him this season, the better he’s been. Who are we to question him now?
Felix Jones will break a big one early, Dez Bryant will make a big play and Jason Witten will expose the Lions back seven for the frauds they are.
Adam, I like you and I like your confidence in the young Lions. There’s a lot to be excited about.
But let’s calm down. They’ve played some nice games with few folks actually watching. All eyes will be on them on Sunday.
If their recent Thanksgiving Day performances are any indication, I have good reason to be skeptical.