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Monday, December 7, 2009
Third and one: Lions

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

After Detroit’s 23-13 loss at Cincinnati, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:
  1. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has shown us how tough he is by making his next two starts after separating his left shoulder Nov. 22. But whether there is a risk of further injury, I don’t see the benefit in allowing him to continue playing when it’s clear his performance has been impacted. In losses to Green Bay and the Bengals, Stafford has completed only 31 of 69 passes (44.9 percent) for 356 yards. He’s thrown two touchdown passes and six interceptions. Before the injury, he was completing 56.3 percent of his passes with a 10-12 touchdown-interception ratio. There is always a long-term value to playing time for a rookie, but the benefit is limited if an injury hampers effectiveness.
  2. The Lions got after Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer more than I thought they would, intercepting him twice and notching a pair of sacks. Palmer’s 65.3 passer rating was by far the worst mark of a Lions opponent all season. And although Cedric Benson had 111 rushing yards, it’s important to note it took him 36 carries to get there. I still think Detroit has a long way to go on defense. But for one day, at least, the Lions held their own.
  3. I know this is the time of year when Lions fans expect their team to throw its hands up and starting playing youngsters to see if they can help next season. Here’s a novel idea: The Lions should play whomever can be most effective at this instant. Instead of continuing to feed a culture of losing, how about making every effort to win? A strong finish to this season, meaningless as it might be in the standings, would foster more momentum for 2010 than some kind of in-season evaluation for younger and/or practice squad players. Just a thought.

And here is one question I’m still asking:
How many Lions fans watched Saturday night’s Big 12 championship game and drooled over the prospect of adding Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh? With the Lions cruising toward a top-5 selection in the 2010 draft, it was hard not to think of the possibilities. If anything, Suh’s performance means he might not get past the or third pick. You never know how a college player will transition to the pro level, but it certainly looks like Suh would give the Lions elite-level disruption in the interior. Detroit hasn’t had that kind of play since … well, let’s not go there.