The Lions have a shiny 7-3 record because of a quarterback who came to Detroit after 0-16 and a defensive tackle who came a year after that.
The Lions are 7-3 because of a GM who followed the abysmal Matt Millen and began cleaning up almost as soon as Millen was fired.
The Lions are 7-3 because of a head coach who came from Tennessee, where he learned under the consistent and tenured Jeff Fisher.
The Lions are 7-3 because of three successful drafts and some deft personnel moves by the aforementioned GM.
The Lions are 7-3 because they have infused their roster with talent not seen in Detroit since the jolly Wayne Fontes coached here.
The Lions, though, are not 7-3 because they make it a habit of signing re-treads and bringing back reminders of that ghoulish 0-16 record.
Kevin Smith, you could say, is both of those things—a re-tread and a sour reminder of that dreadful 2008 season.
Smith, the running back who ran wild over, around and through the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, was a Lions rookie in 2008—the season of OH! and 16.
A couple weeks ago, Smith was a running back in training, and a doting father. He was watching the Lions from his sofa, like so many of us.
On Sunday, Smith was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Lions.
You could practically hear the Lions fans weeping in thanks.
A running game!
Smith gashed the Panthers for 140 yards on 16 carries. That’s an 8.8 yards per carry average. The last time a Lions running back had numbers like that, he was wearing No. 20 and taking our breath away.
Smith scored two TDs on the ground and a third via pass. He was heaven sent, really. It’s an old joke: the Lions have wanted to run the football in the worst way—and that’s exactly how they’d been running it (cue rim shot).
I’ve had my eye on Steven Jackson, the bruising runner for the pathetic St. Louis Rams, a team beneath his talents. Jackson is someone who would look delectable in Honolulu Blue and Silver.
But that’s food for thought sometime in the future. Next year, maybe. For now, Kevin Smith looks to be the man lugging the football for the Lions the rest of the season, with Best apparently nowhere near ready for clearance.
If Sunday was any indication, the Lions may not miss Best at all.
Smith isn’t as quick or explosive as Best, but he can run between the tackles better and the man looks energized and fresh—which you would expect of someone who has been playing with his kid, not with a football.
“Get up at 7 a.m., train till noon, play with my son,” Smith told the media afterward about his daily regimen this autumn, before the Lions brought him in for a workout during the bye week.
Unless that kid of his hits like a 265-pound linebacker, you had to be surprised to see what Smith did on the gridiron on Sunday.
“I think the NFL would be hard-pressed to come up with a better storyline than Kevin Smith,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz told the press after Sunday’s game, in what surely must be considered a candidate for Understatement of the Year.
This performance of Smith’s was about as unexpected as Clam Chowder served on a Tuesday.
But this is the NFL, which has a shelf life of seven days. The league is as crazily unpredictable as it’s ever been. A team can look wretched one week and then look like Super Bowl contenders the next.
The NFL might not hear of Kevin Smith the rest of the season. In the Lions’ remaining six games, Smith’s production may turn pedestrian and insignificant.
Sunday’s game might be it for Smith as far as productivity. Who knows?
But if it’s not, and if the Lions have stumbled upon a Godsend here, then all of a sudden the team’s one-dimensional offense in Jahvid Best’s absence isn’t so one-dimensional anymore.
If the Lions can somehow turn Kevin Smith from Flavor of the Week to the Special of the Month, then the running game may be solved—or at least just good enough to make Matthew Stafford and his receiving crew dangerous enough to be playoff-ready.
Which means that despite all the Lions’ offensive weapons, their playoff fortunes might be resting on a player who was running Daddy Day Care just two weeks ago.
The NFL is a funny, funny league.