Monday night madness

Monday night madness

Mitch Albom takes a look back at the Lions’ previous two Monday night games at Ford Field

Oct. 10, 2011

Lions 24, Bears 13

Jahvid Best, loud crowd spark Monday night return to Detroit

Reprinted from Oct. 11, 2011.

Change. One minute, the Lions didn’t have a rushing game. The next minute, they had an 88-yard touchdown run.

Change. One half, they didn’t have enough points. The next half, they had more than they needed.

Change. One season, they couldn’t keep the Bears from knocking out their quarterback. This season, Matthew Stafford raced past Chicago defenders to high-five teammates.

Change. One decade, the Lions didn’t have a team worthy of a prime-time performance. This decade, well…

When are you coming back, ESPN?

Change. On a sports night of epic proportions – playoff baseball team in action, undefeated football team on national TV – it was the Lions who provided the exclamation point, staying perfect by taking down the rival Bears, 24-13, the way they’ve taken down a lot of teams this year, emerging at halftime, righting the sails, sinking the battleship.

Are you ready for some Prime Time?

Because this was a real performance. Worthy of the TV slot. Chocked with highlight plays:

This was Stafford laying a feather bomb into the hands of Calvin Johnson, who lost two defenders en route to a 73-yard touchdown. This was Jahvid Best taking an underneath handoff, cutting back and going 88 yards untouched. This was the defense flying like a fleet of loose jackhammers, throwing Bears to the turf with hustle, with muscle and with a little bit of attitude.

And this was Detroit – 67,861 fans, the largest Lions crowd in the history of Ford Field – making the place so insanely loud, a Metallica fan would ask for earplugs.

Amid all that first-half hysteria, the Lions neglected to do some basics things – stop the run, sack the passer and avoid mistakes that prolonged drives. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, moving like a man being chased by lions (the other kind), managed to slip tackles and flip passes with stunning accuracy, finding a leaping Devin Hester between two defenders, finding Kellen Davis in the back of the end zone.

Chicago had the ball more than twice as long as Detroit. By the halftime gun, the Lions had won the noise, energy and passion battles, but they were losing the scoreboard one, 10-7.

But as Barry Sanders said on the ESPN intro to the game, “Detroit doesn’t pat itself on the back. It gets the job done.”

And who’s gonna argue with Barry?

So despite a Houdini performance by Cutler, the defense caught him eventually, sacking him several times in the second half, thwarting drives, chucking receivers and running backs to the turf. Detroit played sloppy (way too many penalties), but it played mean, and mean was enough.

Finally, with 4:07 left and the Bears within 21-13, Stafford handed off to Best, and off he flew – racing 43 yards, stomping any Chicago comeback ideas, bringing the crowd again to its feet and earning his first 100-yard running game.

Change.

They shut the door. They won by 11. And just shy of midnight (on a school night!), fans were still rubbing their eyes, screaming themselves hoarse, and the Lions are 5-0. I’m not kidding; they’re not kidding. They may not be a perfect team, but they’ve found a way every week. And Monday they turned baseball heartbreak into football exhilaration.

At one point in the dramatic ESPN opener, the announcer acknowledged previous years of Detroit gridiron frustration, but added the sweetest words you can hear in Motown: “Those days are gone.”

So gone, they’re now nights.

Change. It’s a good thing, no?

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