ESCANABA - It was the biggest game this century the Detroit Lions have played. Not arguably, it was.
And in the blink of an eye, it went from competitive to a national disgrace.
Anyone who watched this game between Green Bay and Detroit Thursday, from San Francisco to New York and everywhere in between, now looks to the Detroit Lions as the evil empire of the NFL.
We can thank Ndamukong Suh for that.
Suh's behavior was absolutely inexcusable. For those who missed it, the Packers should have had a fourth down in the Lions red-zone, forcing them to kick a field goal.
Then Suh, in an apparant act of frustration after getting beat by Packers backup guard Evan Dietrich-Smith, went haywire. He drove Smith's helmet to the turf, then blatantly stomped on his arm. It was bush-league. Suh was promptly ejected from the game and the Lions hopes of an upset were effectively vanquished along with him.
I can't recall the last time a team's star player was kicked out of a game. Suh is supposed to be a leader, a franchise player. He has spent all season trying to rid himself of his "dirty player" moniker. Now, in one instant, he has cemented that reputation, possibly for good.
At the post-game press conference, Suh apologized to his coaches, fans and teammates, but noticably lacking was his apology and lack of concern for Smith.
According to Suh, all he could do to get up off the ground was slam Smith's helmet to the turf three times and then he simply walked away. That explanation is laughable to anyone who saw the play.
Instead of kicking a field goal, the Packers scored a touchdown two plays later. Then on the Packers next possession, Aaron Rodgers launched a 65-yard touchdown pass to James Jones and the rout was on.
Are the Packers a better team than the Lions? I don't think anyone would dispute that. Are they 21 points better in a game at Ford Field? They certainly shouldn't have been. The blame can lie almost squarely on Suh's shoulders.
As a Lions fan, I have been defending Suh's play from the start of the season. He's stronger than anyone else on the field, he plays harder, he goes until the whistle blows, I told people.
But there's no defending what he did to Smith, and it's time for all Lions fans to call him out. It does no good to be apologetic for Suh's actions.
Suh is sure to be suspended and hit with another large fine for his actions. The Lions next game is against the New Orleans Saints, another strong opponent, and the Lions will be without their leader on defense, by his own doing.
Maybe it's also time for the Detroit Lions to rethink building their team around a player who doesn't put his team first. If the Lions miss the playoffs, we may look to this one play as a key reason why they missed out.
Best case scenario, this will be a wake up call for Suh to shape up his act, put personal vendettas aside, and learn some maturity. It may take Lions fans some time to forgive this particular transgression though.