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Monday, December 27, 2010
Free Head Exam: Detroit Lions

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

After the Detroit Lions' 34-27 victory over the Miami Dolphins, here are three issues that merit further examination:
    Head Exam
    The Lions take their three-game winning streak with them into the examination room.
  1. Most Lions fans in recent years probably couldn't wait for the season to be over. For the first time in a while, I'm guessing they'll be disappointed to see this one end. The Lions have won three consecutive games for the first time in three years. They'll return home Sunday to host a Minnesota Vikings team that will have four days to prepare for the game. A victory would ensure the Lions a 6-10 record and a third-place finish in the NFC North. Anyone want the 18-game season to start immediately? We've been talking all year about the Lions finding a way to make the key play in the fourth quarter. Sunday, they got two: middle linebacker DeAndre Levy's athletic return of an easy interception, and cornerback Nate Vasher's stop of Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown short of the sidelines on the final play, forcing the clock to run out with the Dolphins on the Lions' 28-yard line.
  2. Barring a late run by a distant competitor, Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is going to finish his rookie season with more sacks than any other defensive tackle in the NFL. Suh picked up his ninth in Sunday's game and now leads the Oakland Raiders' Tommy Kelly by two. The Green Bay Packers' B.J. Raji has 6.5. Suh was already a shoo-in for the Pro Bowl, and his sack total makes him a highly recognizable and credible name for All-Pro voters as well. Those statistics and the context only back up what the NFC North community has known as all season: Suh has been every bit the beast he was advertised to be.
  3. I'm sure there was some grumbling about the Lions' decision to start Shaun Hill over Drew Stanton, who had gone 2-1 as a replacement starter. But let's be clear for a moment: Stanton suffered a significant left shoulder injury last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and needed a pain-killing shot at halftime to continue. That made the decision to turn to Hill obvious, at least for me. And Hill did nothing Sunday to dispute that notion, finishing with a 108.2 passer rating. There was every reason to trust Hill heading into this game.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
I'll be interested to see if the Lions project Jahvid Best as their every-down back for next season, or if they'll look at his body of work this year and see him as a pick-your-spot player who can make a bigger impact in perhaps 30 plays than he might if he's on the field for 60. Best seemed to have turned the corner from his turf toe injuries Dec. 5 against the Chicago Bears, ripping off a 45-yard reception and a 32-yard run. His rushing totals since then have mirrored his season average -- 74 yards on 25 carries -- but his 53-yard touchdown reception Sunday was a thing of beauty. Just a thought.