September 8, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Terry Foster

Lions defense will be aggressive - and foolish - at times

Detroit — It would be easy to scold Ndamukong Suh for his below-the-knees block of Vikings center John Sullivan on Sunday that negated DeAndre Levy’s interception return for a touchdown.

It was not a smart play for a guy that was voted team captain by teammates for the first time in his career. If you want to call it dirty, I can’t argue with you.

But the bottom line is that the Lions won an important game Sunday and erased some of the stench left from losing their final eight games of 2012. They manhandled the Vikings 34-24 in the season opener at Ford Field. The defense gave up a 78-yard touchdown run to Adrian Peterson on the Vikings’ first play and held him to 15 yards on 17 carries the rest of the game.

The Lions need to be mean to win.

This is a vicious sport and the Lions defense must play like caged animals to make things work.

It might cause some uneasy moments, and this approach could cost them a game or two down the line. But it is their best shot at success.

“I’m not going to apologize for any win,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “I’m not going to apologize for anything this team did.”

Take the good with the bad

The Lions defense is not good enough to shut opponents down with talent only. They need an uber-aggressive mindset, and Suh brings that. He is a bad boy. His teammates are bad boys and Louis Delmas said it best a couple weeks ago when he said the Lions need to act like caged lions and attack.

Sometimes you take the good with the bad. The Lions were ready to pounce and make Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder pay for a bad decision in the second quarter. Levy picked off the flutter ball and took it to the house 33 yards for a touchdown.

But Suh was well behind the play and hit Sullivan below the knees. The play was called back. Instead of the Lions being up 13-7, they trailed 7-6 and had the ball at the Minnesota 33. On the next play, quarterback Matthew Stafford threw an interception and it created an ugly scene in the stands.

People were angry, and they had every right to be. However, this is what happens when a defense plays with bad intentions. There will be times they cause you to stand and cheer. There will be times when you will want to scream at them for being irresponsible and undisciplined.

Suh said he talked to Sullivan about the play and apologized.

“I was not going for the knee,” Suh said. “He knows that. We had a great conversation at halftime. My aim was for his waist to cut him off.”

Acting like a captain

The smart play was just to get in the man’s way. No one was going to catch Levy, and definitely not a 300-pound center like Sullivan.

Maybe Suh’s best contributions came after Peterson’s long touchdown. He rallied the troops and reminded them that it was just one play and that they needed to forget about it and move on.

The Lions were the superior team Sunday; the only thing that kept the Vikings in the game was the Lions’ stupidity.

“You can’t tell me a defense is not going to get penalties,” defensive tackle Nick Fairley said. “What we do is just put it behind us and move forward. It’s going to happen. We have to encourage guys who get penalties to get sacks or negative plays. That penalty is gone, let’s go back out there and play some ball.”

That is exactly what they did. The Vikings ran 53 plays and 12 of them were either turnovers or went for negative yardage. They sacked Ponder three times and picked him off another three times.

It wasn’t always pretty and the Lions kept the Vikings in the game with bad decisions and bad intentions. But this is your team, take it or leave it.

“We don’t read, we attack,” rookie defensive end Ziggy Ansah said. “You can’t win if you are not aggressive.”

terry.Foster@detnews.com
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Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, right, pressure Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, left, in the fourth quarter. / Daniel Mears / Detroit News