First Look At: Detroit Lions

The Lions host Green Bay on Sunday, fresh off another disputed, game-turning call against the Bears.

Pretty soon there will be an entire glossary of new phrases in the NFL rulebook spurred by Bears-Lions games.

In Week 1, we were treated to, "complete the process," — as in, wide receiver Calvin Johnson did not complete the process of a catch on what would have been a game-winning touchdown against the Bears.

Last week, in another Lions' loss to the Bears, we get "an unnecessary non-football act," — as in defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was called for unnecessary roughness for a non-football hit on quarterback Jay Cutler.

The explanation, by referee Ed Hochuli after the game Sunday, sent coach Jim Schwartz to the rulebook.

"I don't really know what the definition of that is," he said. "I've not seen a definition of that. But it was more of a push in the middle of the back."

Defensive end Cliff Avril put it like this: "It looked like a legal hit to me. I didn't know you could hit guys too hard in football."

Schwartz and the players were quick to point out that the call, which wound up costing the Lions 7 yards and helped set up the Bears' game-winning score with 8:39 left in the game, wasn't the reason for the loss. It had nothing to do with the Lions' inability to move the ball in the second half (49 total yards) or the fact that they couldn't get one more defensive stop in the final 5:17.

But the call itself was, to Schwartz, egregious.

"It has been reported that the flag was thrown because Cutler was hit in the back of the head when he was in the process of going down," said Schwartz, referencing Hochuli's statement to a pool reporter. "I think it's fairly obvious that neither of those things ended up being correct."

Cutler had scrambled for 7 yards, eluding two other defenders, before he cut back right into Suh's path. To the naked eye, it looked like Suh hit him in the back with a forearm shiver. Replays, though, showed that he merely extended his arms and pushed Cutler, who was trying to maneuver toward the goal line.

"It was funny to see that called and then the reasoning behind it was even more funny," Avril he said.

When asked what was said to Suh, he said, "You don't tell him anything. The man's playing hard and he's a rookie and he's out there making big plays. I don't think that was a bad play. That's what we're here to do, to hit guys. You don't tell him anything but keep hitting them harder."

Four-point stance

— QB Matthew Stafford (shoulder) is expected to throw this week. He had hoped to last week, but didn't. "It's getting better," he said on his weekly local radio spot. "It's feeling stronger in my back and the shoulder. I am definitely moving toward playing as soon as possible." Might that be Sunday against Green Bay? "I don't know," he said. "I will have to talk to the doctors and the coaches." Doubtful. If his recovery follows the same course as it did after his shoulder injury in Week 1, he will throw this week and then have a full week of practice next week, and then, if all goes well, maybe play in Tampa on Dec. 19.

—Suh has been tagged with four personal foul penalties this season, five counting his throwdown of quarterback Jake Delhomme in the preseason, which cost him $7,500. Despite that, Schwartz does not think he's gaining any negative reputation among officials. "He has a great future and he plays very hard," Schwartz said. "He's around the ball a lot and he tries to play within the rules when at all possible. He was just trying to make a play for his team."

With Shaun Hill sidelined by a broken right index finger, third-string quarterback Drew Stanton made his second NFL start. He had a good passer rating of 102.4 with no turnovers but essentially threw only one ball downfield, that a 46-yard scoring pass to Calvin Johnson, and he couldn't get anything going in the second half.

— Cornerback Alphonso Smith, whose team-high five interceptions includes a brilliant heist of a ball that was in Greg Jennings' hands in the Week 4 game, might be lost for the season after suffering a right shoulder injury on the Bears' final drive. "We will probably know something more (Monday night), but there is a possibility of it being a long-term thing," Schwartz said. Brandon McDonald would most likely step in — he has been playing nickel back. He, Nathan Vasher or newly acquired Tye Hill will compete for the spot.

—Rookie running back Jahvid Best's 45-yard run was the longest of his brief career and his 65 yards rushing was his most since Week 2. He has battled turf toe injuries on both feet and the extra rest (the Lions previous game was on Thanksgiving) clearly helped.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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