Detroit Lions' Domination of Rams Validates Roster Moves, Team Improvement

Dean HoldenAnalyst IOctober 11, 2010

Do I detect a hint of swagger in the Lions' defense?
Do I detect a hint of swagger in the Lions' defense?Leon Halip/Getty Images

Anybody who has watched the Lions for the past decade likely had the same question Sunday afternoon.

"What is this team, and where have they been hiding it?"

The answer, of course, is that this team has been here all season, they just hadn't gotten to play the Rams, or any other team at their skill level.

They've been close, everybody knows that. But they've played teams with more talent and better records than them, and they just didn't have enough to pull out the victory.

In fact, the Bears are the only other team the Lions have played that wasn't a 2009 playoff team, and they're now 4-1 this season. The Lions finally got to play a lower-tier team, and they dominated.

Frankly, the only thing that could have made this victory sweeter is seeing Matthew Stafford outplay Sam Bradford head-to-head. But watching Stafford's backup beat him in every statistical area worked too.

Speaking of which, remember a couple of weeks ago, when everybody wanted to start Drew Stanton in front of that bum, Shaun Hill? You know who you are, and you may rescind your error in the comments box.

Now before I get too far ahead of myself, a word of respect for the Rams. Though Detroit smoked the St. Louis Rams in just about every facet of the game, the Rams are still a team on the rise. They're rebuilding just like the Lions are, and they're going to have games like this, but they'll get better.

It isn't as though Stafford lit up the Rams last year, when the situation was reversed, so don't think one bad game is going to derail the promising career of Sam Bradford.

That being said, this victory in particular highlights all the things the Lions have done right since the departure of Matt Millen, especially in terms of this last offseason.

The fresh faces made all the difference. Nearly all the big performances in this game were the result of players not with the team in 2009.

For instance...

Alphonso "Carlton" Smith: Scored six points with a interception return, and about six million views of the highlight, simply to watch him dance in the end zone. Also recovered a fumble. Was received on cut day in a trade for Dan Gronkowski.

Ndamukong Suh: Consistent pressure on the pocket, and his first career interception. Drafted second overall this year.

Corey Williams: Six tackles and an assist, two for losses, and a huge forced fumble on a hustle play in the red zone that prevented the Rams from tying the score at 10. Received in a trade for a fifth-round draft pick with Cleveland.

Shaun Hill: 21/32, 227 yards, three touchdowns, no turnovers. Spread the ball around effectively, five receivers tied for the most team receptions with four each. Received for a seventh-round pick from San Francisco, who now probably wishes they had him back.

Nate Burleson: Led all receivers with four catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Two of those catches were for first downs. Signed in free agency.

Amari Spievey: Set the tone early by staying home on a trick onside kick to open the game, resulting in Detroit's first three points. Drafted in the third round.

Stefan Logan: Longest kick return in franchise history, and the longest so far this season. Broke a 3-3 tie to give the Lions the lead for good. Picked up off waivers after he was cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I know it's only one victory, and the Lions can't be satisfied with that. They have to instead use it as a springboard to future victories.

But the fans can use it as proof that the Lions aren't just spinning their wheels this year. No longer do we look like victims of Stockholm syndrome, telling anyone who will listen that the Lions are a much better team, even though they continue to string together losses ("but look, they're close losses! We only lost by two!").

This is a real, tangible victory in which the difference wasn't one play or a questionable call by the refs, it was Detroit being the better team and playing like it.

And it's about time.