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Defensive line lifts Lions to hard-fought win

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) - Ndamukong Suh picked up the loose ball and started strutting toward the end zone. Santana Moss hustled back to try to tackle him, but the Detroit defensive lineman spun around and calmly backpedaled across the goal line.

Nobody - least of all some little wide receiver - was going to stop Suh in this game.

That's a big man, and he's an athlete,'' said Kyle Vanden Bosch, Suh's teammate.I don't know many guys that could tackle him, let alone a receiver. It looked like a big kid against little kids on the playground.''

It looked that way around the line of scrimmage too. Suh, Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril each had a pair of sacks, and the Detroit defensive line chased Donovan McNabb all over the field in the Lions' 37-25 win Sunday.

Detroit also held Washington to 80 yards rushing, and over half of that was by McNabb.

With the Lions ahead 28-25 late in the fourth quarter, McNabb was sacked on fourth down by Avril. After Detroit kicked a field goal, the Redskins put backup Rex Grossman in the game, and he immediately fumbled while being sacked by Vanden Bosch. Suh recovered and ran 17 yards for the touchdown that sealed the win.

His only mistake was starting his celebration a little too early, which could have led to a Leon Lett-style gaffe when Moss caught up to him, but the Washington receiver could only shove the 307-pound Suh along toward the end zone.

If Moss is able to punch that ball and it goes through the end zone, that's a touchback and they have the ball on the 20,'' Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said.That's a good learning experience for him. I doubt that will ever happen again.''

The Lions finished with seven sacks, 11 tackles for loss and 12 quarterback hurries, and it was a team effort, with the entire defensive line contributing.

I personally don't think we blitzed very much,'' Suh said.I think it was just an opportunity that we felt that we had great matchups up front and we played to those matchups. We did our game. We ran where we wanted to run, and they ended up working.''

Detroit took Suh with the No. 2 pick in this year's draft, and he's made an immediate impact at defensive tackle with 6 1/2 sacks in his first seven games. Schwartz cautioned that high sack totals are unusual for a defensive tackle, meaning Suh might not keep up this pace, but the rookie out of Nebraska appears to have a very bright future.

And he has plenty of help. Vanden Bosch has four sacks this season, while Avril and defensive tackle Corey Williams are also difficult to block.

Schwartz was an assistant with the Tennessee Titans when Jevon Kearse had 14 1/2 sacks as a rookie in 1999, and Suh is off to that type of start.

I think you can see some similarities with Ndamukong,'' Schwartz said.He's in a scheme that fits his abilities very well. I think this was probably his best game as far as attacking.''

As Suh becomes more comfortable, the coaching staff can be more flexible as it tries to keep offensive linemen off balance.

We're doing a lot more with him in pass rush, moving him around,'' Schwartz said.Second play of the game, we had him moved out playing defensive end - I think that he's good against the run, he's good against the pass.''

After winning two games in the previous two seasons, the Lions (2-5) are finally showing signs that their rebuilding effort will pay dividends. In addition to drafting Suh, Detroit signed Vanden Bosch and traded for Williams last offseason. Avril was drafted by the Lions in the third round in 2008.

It's a promising blend of talent and experience that has helped Detroit record 23 sacks so far this season. The Lions finished with 26 all of last season and 30 in 2008.

Our sack numbers were down the last few weeks, but we knew if we kept rushing the way we were rushing, we'd get that big payday,'' Vanden Bosch said.Once we get a couple, it's kind of a feeding frenzy.''

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