DETROIT — The Detroit Lions are determined to let the good times roll in the Motor City.
The Lions (5-0) are off to their best start since 1956, the year before they won the NFL title, and they're coming off quite a coming-out party.
Detroit beat the Chicago Bears in its first Monday night game since 2001 and fired-up fans at Ford Field were so loud the visitors had nine false starts, ratcheting up the buzz from coast to coast about the league's former laughingstock. Today, the Lions and NFC North rival Green Bay stand alone as the NFL's only unbeaten teams.
“We're kind of the darlings a little bit, we're that good story,” Lions receiver Nate Burleson said. “But we haven't accomplished anything. We have to continue to prove to people we're a good team.
“Everyone is going to have their opinion about who we've beat, so this is a great opportunity to play a club people respect.”
Detroit hosts San Francisco (4-1) on Sunday.
The NFC West-leading 49ers have perhaps been more surprising than the no-longer-lowly Lions this season and are coming off a 45-point win over Tampa Bay. It's their most-lopsided victory since routing Denver by the same margin in the 1990 Super Bowl.
First-year coach Jim Harbaugh has quickly changed the culture within a once-proud franchise, hoping to have its first winning season and playoff appearance since 2002.
The former Michigan quarterback, who was mentioned as a candidate when Rich Rodriguez was fired and Brady Hoke was hired in January, is winning with a lot of the same players who opened last year with five losses and finished with a 6-10 record.
Harbaugh motivates and relates and his obsession with the game is rubbing off on his players.
San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith said Harbaugh has “everything” to do with the team's turnaround.
“The great thing around here is that it seems like it is all football, all the time,” Smith said. “I mean that in the greatest way.”