8:24 PM CDT, September 26, 2013
If you ask the old-timers, they will regale you with stories about numerous nasty confrontations between the Bears and Lions.
Legend has it that the Dick Butkus-era Bears regarded the Lions every bit as loathsome as the Packers and Vikings.
I just missed out on all that. The Bears-Lions series in most of my lifetime has been an odorless, colorless, tasteless, twice-a-year event that provokes little emotion.
Oh, there have been some memorable games. David Williams' kickoff return for a touchdown in overtime against the Lions on Thanksgiving Day in 1980 comes to mind.
Surely you can recall artistry exhibited by the great Barry Sanders in the 1990s. In a landslide 55-20 Lions win on Thanksgiving in '97, the electrifying Sanders ripped off a 40-yard touchdown run just before the half as the Lions simply were running out the clock.
Compared to the Bears' other old-Central Divisional foes, however, (or compared to the Bulls' and Blackhawks' histories against teams from Detroit) the series has been remarkably quiet. Not much to get in a twist over.
Then Jim Schwartz and Ndamukong Suh arrived in the Motor City. Game on.
Schwartz, who enters Sunday's game with a 1-7 record against the Bears, was determined to instill an identity in a franchise that never has reached the Super Bowl. Schwartz relished the idea of transforming the Lions into the bad boys of the NFL — the new Raiders, if you will.
He has accomplished that. Suh, the monster defensive tackle with a penchant for playing outside the rules, has been the perfect accomplice.
I'm grateful to both for making the series relevant. Schwartz, who ripped off his headset and spiked it in tough-guy fashion after his team defeated the Redskins last Sunday, has given Bears fans an opposing coach more in the mold of former Packers boss Forrest Gregg than one-time Lions coach Bobby Ross.
Suh, now a captain (despite his inability to put what's best for his team ahead of his image), is this decade's Charles Martin, only with gobs more talent. He's a powerful man with good feet and plays with excellent leverage.
This is the perfect Week 4 match-up. With the Packers stumbling out of the gate at 1-2 and the Vikings already dead, the winner Sunday at Ford Field sits in the driver's seat in the North. And the subplot of Suh banging heads with Bears rookie guard Kyle Long is the opening curtain for what should become a spirited battle in the trenches for many years to come.
•The uncertainty of Charles Tillman's health is the biggest cause for pause for Bears fans. Tillman has gone toe to toe with Calvin Johnson and acquitted himself quite nicely over the last few seasons, but it could be time for Bears fans to warm up to the idea that Tillman physically is finished.
•Former Bear Israel Idonije was flat out wrong when he told the Trib's Brad Biggs earlier this week that nothing Suh has done to drawn penalties, fines and a suspension would have been illegal 10 years ago. Stomping on a player's chest when he's prone?
Disappointing to hear that Idonije is schlepping water for Captain Kong.
•Jay Cutler's performance against the Steelers — despite the exceedingly mortal 159 passing yards — was better than his more fantasy-friendly outings in Weeks 1 and 2. Cutler only gambled once, looking for Brandon Marshall to go up and make a play in double coverage, and threw the ball away several times. Progress.
•It didn't take Ray Lewis long to sound like a bitter ex-jock. The Canton-bound, two-time Super Bowl champ-turned analyst said his former team is "lacking leadership."
Maybe Joe Flacco should get in the Ravens huddle and gesticulate wildly while shouting unintelligible messages instead of calling a play.
•Best move: I like the Colts -9 at the Jaguars on Sunday. I like anybody laying only single digits against the Jaguars.
Special contributor Dan McNeil hosts "The McNeil and Spiegel Show" weekdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on WSCR-AM 670.
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