MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: A look at Suh's prospects for being voted Defensive Player of the Year

Posted Sep 30, 2013

Mike O'Hara looks at Ndamukong Suh, stunning stats, the good and the bad from the Lions' 42-30 win over Chicago and the best and the worst around the NFL after Week 4

The first-quarter report for the Lions looks pretty good, with a bottom-line 3-1 record that puts them in a tie with the Bears for first place in the NFC North.

It hasn’t been perfect, and if you were bullish or bearish on the Lions going into the season, the first four games probably haven’t changed your mind on where they’ll wind up at the end of the season.

They’ve played stretches of good football, with none better than the 27-point second quarter that sent them on the way to Sunday’s 40-32 victory over the Bears.

They’ve also had tough stretches – Adrian Peterson’s 78-yard run for a TD in the opener on the Vikings first play of the season, a lot of Game 2 at Arizona, and the end of the fourth quarter Sunday, when the Bears scored 16 points in the last four minutes.

This week’s Monday Countdown takes a hard look at Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh’s prospects for being voted Defensive Player of the Year. He faces many obstacles – his image, so many good candidates and the fact that Detroit no longer is represented in the Associated Press voting process for any of the NFL awards.

There are two stunning stats that show how the Lions have risen from somewhere lower than the basement,  along with the stats that helped make up the bottom line on the first quarter.

There is also a look at the good and bad of Sunday’s game, and the best and worst of the NFL after Week 4.

We start with Suh:

1. Suh: He gets a lot of notoriety for pushing the boundaries of rough play, and some of it is justified.

But Suh undeniably is a great defensive tackle. He has dominated the interior in all four games. He had two sacks, two tackles-for-loss and a forced fumble against the Bears. Nick Fairley returned the fumble for a touchdown.

In four games, Suh has four tackles-for-loss and six quarterback hits to go with the two sacks Sunday. Against both Minnesota and Arizona, Suh pressured the quarterback into throwing interceptions. Those pressure plays do not show up on the stats sheet.

It’s difficult for tackles to win the defensive player of the year award. Only three have won it in the last 23 seasons. Warren Sapp of the Bucs was the last in 1999.

Stats garner votes for all awards. That’s why pass-rushers dominate the award. They get sacks. J.J. Watt of Houston won the defensive MVP Award last season with 20.5 sacks.

Suh gets as much attention for his occasional fines and penalties – and there are far fewer of both than his image would suggest – as he does for his play. He was asked Sunday if he would like to be recognized for his play, and not the other issues.

"I’m not going to sit here and lie to you," Suh said.  "I would love for it to be focused on my play, but I understand people have their agendas and people have things that they want to focus on. I can’t really concern myself with that."

Sometimes the anti-hero prevails. This has a chance to be one of those times.

2. The vote: You’d think Metro Detroit’s media outlets would want the vote restored for the various Associated Press awards that are recognized as official by the NFL. Having the vote has nothing to do with won-lost records, either.

3. Stat I – 21-19: That is the Lions’ record in the last 40 regular-season games after Sunday’s win over the Bears. It began by going 4-0 at the end of the 2010 season, a 10-6 record in 2011, 4-12 in 2012 and 3-1 this year. It adds up to 21-19 and does not include the playoff loss to New Orleans in the 2011 season.

For a lot of franchises, two games over .500 in any 40-game period isn’t a big deal. It doesn’t win any trophies, but sometimes the mess that GM Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz inherited at the start of the 2009 season is forgotten.

The franchise has been through worse stretches than a 21-19 record for 40 games.

How much worse?

4. Stat II -- 4-36: That’s how much worse. Before the four-game winning streak  at the end of 2010, the Lions had gone 4-36 in the previous 40 games.

They were 2-10 in the first 12 games of 2010, 2-14 in 2009 and 0-12 in the last 12 games of the historic 0-16 season of 2008.

The Lions have overcome a lot.  Dominic Raiola, Calvin Johnson and Don Muhlbach are the only players on the roster who were part of the 4-36 and 21-19 stretches.

5. Turnaround stats: The Lions were 1-3 after four games last year compared to 3-1 this year. They had an even split --- 1-1 on the road, 1-1 at home – and they lost at home to Minnesota in their only game against an opponent from the NFC North.

The Lions  went 0-6 in the North and 2-6 at home last season. They’re already 2-0 in the North and 2-0 at home. A split in the last four division games would give them their first winning record in a division since going 6-2 in the old NFC Central in 1997.

6. Offensive line: The Lions have given up only three sacks, and the offensive line has only one false start in the first four games. Left tackle Riley Reiff was flagged for the false start in the opening game.

In 2012, there was an average of 19.28 false start penalties per team. According to a website that tracks penalties.The Lions were right at the average with 19.

They are in pace for four false-start penalties this season.

7. Bush: He has gained first downs on 13 of his 48 runs, or 27.1 percent. Only two backs with at least 40 carries have a higher percentage – Fred Jackson (33.3) and LeSean McCoy (29.5).

8. What was good about Sunday’s game: 27 points in the second quarter, Suh’s domination helping cause four turnovers, Brandon Pettigrew’s seven catches in seven targets, Micheal Spurlock’s 57-yard punt return, two interceptions by Louis Delmas and one by Glover Quin and the Lions being penalized only three times.

9. What was bad about Sunday’s game: Stafford losing a fumble at the end of the first half and an interception in the third quarter on a deflection off Calvin Johnson, defensive backs Darius Slay and Bill Bentley not reacting to the ball in the end zone,  Joique Bell’s late fumble, giving up 16 points to let the Bears pry the lid open slightly on a game that was locked up.

10. Schedule-watching:  There has been a reversal in the first four games of what looked good and bad when the Lions schedule came out.

Looking ahead, the Steelers and Giants, perennial playoff contenders, are 0-4 and in shambles. The Bucs are 0-4 after retooling in the offseason off a 7-9 record in 2012. And the Eagles are 1-3 and look awful after an offseason of hype about how new head coach Chip Kelly would re-invent pro football.

There’s also next week’s game at Green Bay, who has a 21-season home winning streak against the Lions. In that game, the Packers’ 1-2 record means nothing.

11. The NFL’s top 12:

1. Broncos (4-0): The NFL might consider giving their opponents participation medals for showing up.

2. Seahawks (4-0): The defense helped overcome Russell Wilson’s off game to beat Houston in OT.

3. Chiefs (4-0): Everyone thought Andy Reid would make them better, but not this good this soon.

4. Patriots (4-0): It won’t last, will it? The injury to Vince Wilfork could be a killer.

5. Saints (3-0): Big home game Monday night against unbeaten Dolphins.

6. Dolphins (3-0): Big road game Monday night against unbeaten Saints.

7. Colts (3-1): A tap-in Sunday after big week a week ago at San Francisco.

8. Lions (3-1): Head-to-head win over the Bears tied them for first in the North, with tiebreaker advantage.

9. Titans (3-1): Jake Locker has stepped up as franchise QB. KC in town next week.

10. 49ers (2-2): After easy road win over the Rams, next two at home vs. Texans, Cardinals.

11. Bears (3-1): Nothing looks good after a 40-32 loss, but 3-1 is 3-1, and next two games are at home.

12. Chargers (2-2): QB Philip Rivers has passed for 1,199 yards with a passer rating of 118.8.

12. The NFL’s bottom five:

5. Rams (1-3): Don’t score or defend. Bad combo.

4. Bucs (0-4): QB change didn’t work. Coach could be next. (Forget it, Lane Kiffin. Don’t bother to call.)

3. Steelers (0-4): Steel Curtain defense of 1970s is Gossamer in 2013.

2. Giants (0-4): A Tom Coughlin giving up 146 points is unimaginable.

1. Jaguars (0-4): Four losses by an average of 24.5 points. In two weeks, they play at Denver.