This week, the Detroit Lions' offensive line found inspiration in former WWE wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin. They sported shirts with the wrestling personality on it with the slogan "Arrive, raise hell, leave." However, it was Detroit's defense that delivered Stone Cold's patented "Stunner" to the Green Bay Packers offense.
Coming into the game, not many gave the Lions a chance to hold Aaron Rodgers in check this week. The Lions were reeling from an injury report twice the size of the Packers, with the Lions being especially beat up in the secondary. Though the Lions were technically favored, most were picking against them. According to nflpickwatch.com, nearly 70 percent of the experts had Green Bay prevailing, and even Lions beat writers figured the team was bound to drop to 1-2. Just before kickoff, MLive writer Justin Rogers joked around about how bad of a matchup the Lions were in for:
One Detroit Lions reporter (name redacted) is starting Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb on his fantasy team.— Justin Rogers (@Justin_Rogers) September 21, 2014
Then the Lions went out and completely shut down the Packers offense, holding them to just 162 yards passing and 7 points. That's nearly unheard of for a Rodgers-led offense:
Aaron Rodgers threw for just 162 yards, or his second worst total in a game he's started and finished (142 v. MIN in 2008).— Zach Kruse (@zachkruse2) September 21, 2014
If Packers don't score again, will be fewest pts scored in Rodgers era in games he finished (9 @ NYJ 10/31/10). didn't finish @DET gm in '10— Chris Roth (@rothchris) September 21, 2014
Packers: 3 drives into opposing territory today were tied for fewest Packers have had in any of the 97 games Aaron Rodgers has started.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 21, 2014
But for anyone looking close enough, this performance wasn't completely surprising. Though the Lions had a bit of a breakdown at the end of the Carolina Panthers game, they have been quietly dominant on defense through all three games this season.
The Lions now rank first in yards per game allowed, second in rushing yards allowed and third in passing yards allowed. They've allowed the fewest yards per play and the second-fewest points per game. The list of stats I could throw out is endless, and that isn't even the most impressive part. What has been so shocking about this unit is its dominance despite the overwhelming injuries.
The Lions have already seen three defensive players receive reserve/injured designations, their starting strong safety has yet to play in a game this season, nearly everyone on the defensive line is battling through injuries and their secondary is filled with a ragtag bunch of rookies (both drafted and undrafted), free-agent pickups and 34-year-olds. How they've managed to keep their heads above water, much less dominate, is nothing short of a miracle.
Yet through the injury carnage, a few Lions players have emerged. DeAndre Levy continues to build on his legend. Darius Slay is emerging as a possible shutdown cornerback. Nick Fairley is playing the best football he has ever played at the professional level. And they still have a guy named Ndamukong Suh. Throw all of those guys together and suddenly the Lions have a unit filled with playmakers on every level. The supporting cast around them is still figuring things out, but the Lions are getting great efforts from guys like George Johnson and Isa Abdul-Quddus to round things out.
I'm not so sure the Lions have a dominating defense yet. But it cannot be denied that they have had a dominant three weeks, and it's the biggest reason the Lions are sitting at 2-1 atop the NFC North. And that's the bottom line...