A gallon of gas cost 30 cents. Elvis Presley was merely an emerging talent in the music industry. My parents weren’t alive.
The year was 1956, and it was the last time the Detroit Lions started a season 5-0. Until now. A few notes on a rather special night in the Motor City…
The Lions are still awful starters. Fortunately for them, Chicago was just as ineffective in the first half. Both teams struggled badly in a penalty-filled first quarter. The Lions may have been skittish due to nerves, while Jay Cutler and the Bears’ offense was under siege. That might be the worst offensive line in football.
But Cutler settled in. In fact, this was one of the best games I’ve seen him play. Without Cutler, the Bears would’ve been blown out. The guy has been hit more than any quarterback in the league this year, but he’s calm, collected and tough. Chicago has the perfect quarterback for a Mike Martz system that gives up a ton of pressure.
The offensive line didn’t cost Chicago the game. No, it was the run defense. Jahvid Best was spectacular, but the guy wasn’t even touched on that 88-yard touchdown run. The safeties are terrible and the front seven isn’t right. The Bears are now giving up 5.7 yards per carry this season — that easily ranks dead last in the NFL.
If Jahvid Best just had his coming-out party…then the Lions might be legitimate Super Bowl contenders. I don’t think Best is as good as the numbers indicate, but the Lions were 4-0 in spite of Best. If he can become a complementary piece of the puzzle, it makes Detroit even scarier. Maybe the scariest.
The game was somewhat marred by terrible officiating. Both teams should be embarrassed by the number of flags thrown. I mean, 26 penalties? Jim Schwartz and Lovie Smith have work to do. That said, the first-quarter “blow to the head” call on Willie Young was another example of officials over-enforcing the rules regarding hits on quarterbacks. And that Brian Urlacher “leading with the helmet” call was equally as bad.
Julius Peppers only missed a few plays with a knee injury. But all it took was one snap sans Peppers for Matthew Stafford to find Calvin Johnson for a game-changing touchdown. Peppers changes the entire Bears defense, and Stafford had plenty of time to go deep on the first play they ran without him rushing. If he hadn’t gotten hurt, that last Chicago series might have mattered and the result could have been drastically different.
Can Detroit make it 6-0? They’ve now won nine straight games dating back to last year, and they’re opening as a 6-point favorite for a home game with San Francisco next week. Interestingly, the last time Detroit started 6-0 (also in 1956), it beat the 49ers in Week 6. San Fran is travelling back across the country for the third time in four weeks after a blowout victory against the Bucs, so they might not have a ton of gas left in the tank Sunday. And it’s 2011, so they can’t fill up for 30 cents a gallon. (Okay, I’ll admit that was weak.)