When Ndamukong Suh of the Lions was a boy, soccer was his favorite and best sport. Earlier this year, Suh attended the World Cup tournament in Brazil. In his five-year National Football League career, Suh has added more “foot” to American-style football without even kicking the pigskin.
Because he booted another foe again Sunday, Suh should be suspended from the opening playoff game at Dallas next Sunday. He stepped not once but twice on the injured left leg of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the same play during an alarmingly sloppy 30-20 Detroit defeat at Lambeau Field.
Suh, the 307-pound defensive tackle, is the best player on the Lions. He’s also a repeat offender who has viciously fouled opponents before.
On Sunday, Suh tried to play it cute by looking the other way after bumping Rodgers to the ground with his backside. Then Suh walked backward nonchalantly and placed his cleats in two distinct motions on Rodgers’ left leg. First, Suh did it with his right foot, then his left, with more force the second time. (You can watch the video here
The officials missed it and called no penalty but Rodgers noticed and swung weakly from the tundra at Suh’s big back side. Lineman T.J. Lang of Green Bay went face-to-face with Suh a few minutes later in a lengthy and heated verbal confrontation.
When reporters in Green Bay asked Rodgers about Suh, Rodgers replied: “He’ll probably say it’s an accident. We’ll see. My calf and my ankle were getting stepped on.” Coach Mike McCarthy of the Packers told reporters “Ridiculous. There’s no place for that.”
Suh chose not to meet the media. Defending Suh, Lions’ coach Jim Caldwell offered advanced doubletalk.
“I didn’t see it,” he said, “and I don’t think it was intentional, either.”
Missing from Sunday’s game was Lions’ center Dominic Raiola, suspended for stomping the leg of Chicago’s Ego Ferguson the week before. In 2011, Suh sat two games for stomping on the arm of Green Bay’s Evan Dietrich-Smith.
With rap sheets on both the Lions and Suh, the decision should be quick and clear. Although it’s not a factor here, the NFL would be a much better television attraction in the Super Bowl tournament if the Cowboys — “America’s Team” – move on. Suspending Suh will help Dallas and FOX.
If the NFL forgives Suh’s footwork and he does take his Texas two-step act to Dallas Sunday, it could be be his last game as a Lion. He will become a free agent after the Lions’ are eliminated.
For the Lions to upset the Cowboys on the road, they must get a better and more consistent performance from quarterback Matt Stafford and his receivers, better execution from their erratic special teams, rigid discipline from Suh and better decisions under pressure from Caldwell.
What could favor the Lions is the indoor venue in Dallas, more like their home field in downtown Detroit. Should the Lions advance in the NFL bracket, they could meet the Packers again – and again at Lambeau. Perhaps, if this comes to pass, their rehearsal there Sunday will leave them more focused and disciplined.
In recent seasons, Suh has shown signs of curbing his sadistic streak. Sunday was a regression. Perhaps he was frustrated by his relatively mediocre performance and his entire team, which seemed nervous with a chance to win the North Division and get a first-week bye in the playoffs.
Suh was picking on an already wounded player who is one of the NFL’s top stars. Late in the first half, after throwing a scoring pass, Rodgers left the field on a cart to get medical attention for his re-injured left calf.
He returned in the second half, limping but smiling as if to suggest “Even on one good leg, I can beat these chumps” and he did it with two touchdown tosses and one on the run on a quarterback sneak to clinch a 12-4 season.
The Lions, under first-year coach Caldwell, finished the regular season 11-5, a great improvement from the Jim Schwartz era. But Caldwell made one of many Lions’ mental mistakes Sunday when he squandered a timeout by appealing a fumble decision he had no chance of winning.
Twice, his team had 12 men on the field, one more than allowed. His quarterback, Stafford, overthrew open receivers, who also dropped several passes they could have caught.
An indoor team at Ford Field, the Lions looked stunned by the floating snowflakes of Lambeau Field or perhaps by the historic aura of success that surrounds their traditional, Great Lakes rival. Stafford also resumed his fixation on Calvin Johnson, the future Hall-of-Fame candidate who caught two of Stafford’s three touchdown passes and had 39 yards on four catches.
But Stafford again lost track of Golden Tate, another receiver who is Detroit’s best offensive player this year. Tate caught only three passes for 45 yards.
Thank goodness Stafford doesn’t have to face the bully-boy tactics of Suh – at least until next year. The big man seems to enjoy hurting people. Sometimes, he hurts his own team. Discussing his own injuries earlier this season, Suh told reportes: “I just think, mentally, I’m a different cat.”