The monster defensive tackle of the Detroit Lions was rumbling toward the goal line, the football looking like a miniature facsimile tucked inside his massive arm. The Ford Field crowd was beside itself with glee. They roared as his 300-lb.-plus body crossed the goal line, putting an exclamation point on a convincing victory over a Mike Shanahan-coached team.
Shaun Rogers had just put the capper on a win over the Denver Broncos that gave the 2007 Lions a 6-2 record.
Since then, going into Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins, the Lions had gone 4-42. Rogers, a.k.a. Big Baby, is long gone. He chose not to own Detroit, even though he could have. After that game against the Broncos in November 2007, Rogers made like Ted Williams and refused to acknowledge his followers. Rogers zipped his lips and wouldn’t expound on his pick-six interception that caused there to be dancing in the seats inside Ford Field’s grandstands—a rumble that shook the playing surface and had folks whooping, hollering and laughing.
Shaun Rogers, I wrote the next morning, could own Detroit, if only he’d loosen up a little bit and enjoy the ride.
Almost three years later, to the day, another monster defensive tackle is on his way to owning the city.
Ndamukong Suh, though, has the personality, the smile, and the demeanor to sign off on that ownership and take it seriously.
We haven’t heard that vowel sound, NOT associated with booing, around these parts since Sweet Lou Whitaker was doing his thing for the Tigers.
But you’re starting to hear it more frequently at Lions home games, as the rookie DT Suh is laying claim to his place as one of the more dominant defenders in the entire NFL.
Suh isn’t a football player, he’s a demolition derby. He’s more disruptive than a two-year-old on a sugar high.
Suh terrorized the Redskins Sunday, recording two sacks, some tackles for loss, and a 17-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown, that officially turned the lights out on the ‘Skins’ chances for a comeback.
Suh now has 6.5 sacks in seven games. He has a fumble recovery for a TD and an interception. Already.
The Lions haven’t even played half their schedule, and Suh has a season’s worth of accomplishments for a rookie DT.
Suh is making the rest of the Lions’ front four better. He’s drawing double teams constantly, opening things up for guys like veteran Kyle Vanden Bosch and third-year man Cliff Avril.
The Lions d-line was all over Washington QB Donovan McNabb on Sunday, harassing him into seven sacks, several hurries, and a day’s worth of bad memories.
But it’s Suh who will be around long after Vanden Bosch retires, and there’s no telling how good No. 90 will be.
Suh is feasting now, after just seven games, on opposing offensive guards and centers. No one can seem to block him with any regularity or success.
The Lions found him in Nebraska, blocking a wheat silo’s view of the highway.
Eugene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb, the Pro Bowl defensive lineman for the Rams, Colts and Steelers in the 1950s and early-60s (and born in Detroit), used to say that his style was to “tackle everyone and toss players away until I find the one with the football.”
Suh doesn’t even need to do all that; he finds the “one with the football” with shocking efficiency. In Green Bay earlier this year, he lay low on one play, stalking Packers QB Aaron Rodgers like a, well, lion, and then leaped and took Rodgers down. It wasn’t a sack, it was a kill.
Shaun Rogers chose not to embrace his fans, mainly because he was too busy wrapping his arms around unsuspecting women. Then-coach Rod Marinelli all but pleaded with Rogers to get the most out of his awesome talent. Marinelli tried coddling, scolding, browbeating. Nothing worked. It was like trying to motivate a frog.
There should be none of that nonsense with Ndamukong Suh, who’s already doing Nike commercials and acting as a spokesperson for Subway. He was interviewed, courtside, at the Pistons’ home opener on Friday night by FSD’s Eli Zaret. Suh, as usual, came off as personable, smart, and driven.
Then, less than 48 hours later, he unleashed himself on the Redskins, showing why the Lions got it right by picking him second off the board last April.
The Lions won, 37-25, and it’s almost easy to forget that, with just over three minutes to play, the Lions were on the verge of another disappointing loss. QB Matthew Stafford (four TD passes) and WR Calvin Johnson (three TD catches) hooked up for a go-ahead touchdown, and before long the Lions had tacked on nine more points.
Six of those came courtesy of Suh, who picked up a fumble created by the Lions’ manic d-line and skidaddled into the end zone, dancing a bit along the way. A little showboating from the big dude.
Ndamukong Suh can own Detroit, just as Shaun Rogers chose not to. I think Suh is more than happy to assume that title.