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Monday, October 11, 2010
Free Head Exam: Detroit Lions

By Kevin Seifert

After the Detroit Lions' 44-6 victory Sunday over the St. Louis Rams, here are three issues that merit further examination:
    Head Exam
    The Detroit Lions cheerfully take their turn in the exam room.
  1. In this instance, at least, I'll give the Lions a pass on just about everything. When you've only won three of your past 44 games, you get to call a halfback pass midway through the fourth quarter. Nate Burleson gets to raise the ball in the air 10 yards before crossing the goal line, narrowing avoiding having it knocked out of his hand. You get to punt the ball into the stands after said touchdown. Rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh gets to do a stomp-and-grind after tipping an interception to himself and following up with a nifty 20-yard return. Cornerback Alphonso Smith gets to do his own dance after returning an interception 42 yards for a touchdown. At some point, the Lions will want blowout victories to be routine and their reactions will follow accordingly. But on Sunday, the Lions got to have some fun.
  2. I can't imagine Smith losing his starting cornerback job anytime soon after picking up his third interception in five games since the Lions acquired him from Denver Broncos. There is much more to playing cornerback than making interceptions, but one big play can compensate for a slew of coverage issues. To this point, I think we can agree that Smith is around the ball a lot. That's a good sign. Another good sign: The Lions got a winning performance out of rookie Amari Spievey, who started at safety for the injured C.C. Brown. When young players like Spievey and Smith contribute to a victory, it offers another level of satisfaction.
  3. Nate Burleson
    Nate Burleson and the Lions were in a celebratory mood after notching their first win of the season.
  4. It goes without saying that the Lions are holding their breath on receiver Calvin Johnson's shoulder. Coach Jim Schwartz said "we'll see where it is" after tests Monday. Initial reports suggested the injury wasn't serious, but it would be an awfully crushing blow for him to miss any time after seeing what can happen when he's on the field at the same time with Burleson, who returned after missing most of three games because of an ankle injury. Quarterback Shaun Hill targeted either Johnson or Burleson on 15 of his 32 passes, and they combined for eight catches, 110 yards and two touchdowns. Burleson's effectiveness on third down was especially notable.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
What is it about Hill and the Rams? Hill has made 19 starts in his NFL career and is 4-0 against the Rams. In his past two starts against them, Hill's teams have won by a combined score of 79-6. Sunday, Hill had his best all-around game for the Lions this season -- completing 66 percent of his passes and throwing three touchdown passes without a turnover. His 117.6 rating was the second-highest of his career.