“Listen to your heartbeat, delete beep beep BEEP...”
The football-watching community got their first taste of who the Detroit Lions are this season, and they got that taste in prime time, on Monday Night Football, in the most popular city in the world:
New York City East Rutherford.
The New York Giants and their vaunted defense, the same unit that brought them offseason adulation and deemed them viable contenders for the NFC East crown, were gashed by the current leaders of the NFC North: The Detroit Lions. It sounds funny, doesn’t it? Get used to it.
Lions-Giants Song of the Game: “Blue Flowers” by Dr. Octagon
Detroit took full advantage of Monday night’s contest, sending a message, and putting the rest of the league on notice: This isn’t the same team from a year ago.
The Lions dictated how this game would be played from start to finish, and they never seemed to stray away from the game plan they put together. Detroit made it a point of emphasis to run the ball, even when they were getting diminishable returns. The offense took vertical shots downfield, not with a huge rate of success, but they kept stretching the Giants’ defense vertically—when it was time to tuck away Stafford’s arm, well, to my last point about committing to the run, the proof is in the pudding. They kept an unrelenting amount of pressure coming off the edge, and Ezekiel Ansah had his best game since Thanksgiving of 2015. They forced the Giants to play the game on their terms, something I hadn’t seen from a Lions team in a long, long time.
Kool Keith is maybe hip-hop’s most enigmatic entity. He’s a shapeshifter, bending around the curves and edges of traditionalist rap in ways no other emcee ever has—or probably ever will. At one moment, he’s so technically impressive it’s hard to find a flaw, almost to a fault. The next, he’s so entirely abstract and surreal that you spend listen after listen trying to bottle him up and make sense of something.
First a member of Ultramagnetic MC’s, Keith’s persona was decidedly New York. The group’s sound—what’s now identified as traditional east coast, boom bap hip hop—was akin to their New York contemporaries: Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, and the tandem of Eric B. and Rakim. However, Ultramagnetic MC’s stood at the forefront of completely changing the landscape for the genre, chopping samples in innovative and unorthodox ways that would surely influence the likes of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, but...
Like all good things, Ultramagnetic MC’s went on hiatus, broke up, got back together, and repeated the cycle for over two decades. Keith, however, managed to carve out such a unique space for himself that no one dare ever question whether or not it belongs to him and him alone. Once the prototypical emcee from New York, Keith developed into something so unique it was all his own.
“Cut the light on the kid, and turn the bright on
Supersonic waves combine and burn as brainwaves”
The gunslinger: A reputation that preceded Matthew Stafford before he entered the league, and stuck around for quite some time after. He was the quarterback with a cannon for an arm and the reckless abandon to throw it wherever he wanted. When the lights cut on Monday night, and Matthew Stafford was under the microscope with all of these “highest paid player ever” graphics stretched across the screen, he was whatever the Lions needed him to be. To be clear, if there was ever a game where Stafford displayed his full range as a quarterback, it was Monday night.
He was diagnosing coverages at the line—“Supersonic waves combine and burn as brainwaves”—making all of the throws we’re accustomed to seeing him make, even from those unorthodox angles, and showcasing his ability to not only improvise with his legs, but make the right decisions: “I come prepared with the white suit and stethoscope.”
The eccentricities of this Lions team aren’t so surreal as the picture Kool Keith aka Dr. Octagon paints on “Blue Flowers.” To be quite honest, as far as art goes, nothing else comes close, but I couldn’t help but think of this song after the Lions’ victory.
On a literal level, I couldn’t help but detach myself from the thought of Ereck Flowers. Dipped in that Giants’ royal blue, he was systematically picked apart by Ansah play after play on a variety of pass rush moves; each sack more devastating than the last: “I'm from the Church of the Operating Room/ With the strikes of force...”
“Blue Flowers” is littered with these concrete images that don’t ever quite come into focus. As soon as they start to take shape, they disappear with Keith introducing you to something you’re sure you’ve seen before, but you most definitely haven’t.
On Monday nights, there were moments where this team looked like the flawed defense from a year ago—Tavon Wilson’s blown coverage on Evan Engram’s touchdown comes to mind. Their inconsistency in the running game looks all too familiar as well. But as soon as you think this is the same team as a year ago just masquerading in a new set of uni’s, you’re introduced to all of these things you’ve been waiting to see from a Lions team.
We’re all in very unfamiliar territory. And while it is unsettling, and a bit unnerving, man, this is going to be a wild trip.