Oct. 10, 2011
Oct. 10, 2011

Table of Contents
Oct. 10, 2011

  • Three years ago they suffered through a winless season. Now, behind an offense that loves the comeback and a defense with a warrior at its core, the unbeaten Lions are restoring the roar

  • The stage for the 2011 postseason was set long before Opening Day. Go back to '09, when three teams shuffled seven players in a trade that—unlike the playoffs—sent everyone home happy



Haloti Ngata

This is an article from the Oct. 10, 2011 issue


The three-time All-Pro signed a five-year, $61 million contract with the Ravens on Sept. 20. Ngata has two forced fumbles and a defensive touchdown in 2011.

DAN PATRICK:We've seen you line up as a defensive tackle, defensive end and nosetackle. What are you?

HALOTI NGATA: You forgot about tight end, but it's all right. I just think of myself as a D-lineman.

DP:What about playing you at fullback?

HN: We tried that in practice one time. They handed me the ball and I fumbled it. I don't think they like that idea, but I would love to do it.

DP:You had the fumble return for a touchdown against the Rams. How much grief did you get from your teammates during the film session?

HN: I didn't get any grief. People were surprised by the little twinkle toes I had after a lineman tried to hit my legs.

DP:Name a quarterback you like to hit.

HN: I love hitting Tom Brady because he always complains. He thinks he should never be touched.

DP:Do the officials listen to him and throw a flag when you get to him?

HN: No. My hits are usually clean.

DP:Does Ray Lewis know how much of his success is because of you?

HN: I think it's our whole defense. I can't do much without Ray Lewis; he can't do much without me.

DP:Does Lewis acknowledge that he gets help?

HN: He definitely does. He gives me props without the media asking. We're always talking to make sure we're on the same page. He definitely knows he couldn't do his job without us up front.

DP:Has Lewis's intensity ever intimidated you?

HN: No. More than anything, it makes me go. It makes me more pumped.

DP:Does Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with you even though you've been doing this for a while?

HN: Definitely. He's a great player. I just want to make sure I can keep up with him.

DP:You played rugby at Highland High School in Salt Lake City. How does that background help you in football?

HN: Open-field tackling—because there's no blocking in rugby, and you always have to open-field tackle. I don't think running backs and QBs can shake me as well as they can other D-linemen.

DP: I weigh 207 pounds. How many times could you bench-press me?

HN: Probably 40, 45 times.

DP:You're pretty soft-spoken. Do you ever get really upset?

HN: Of course. I hate when O-linemen block me.

DP:If you were mad, would I know by your words or your actions?

HN: Probably something I'd do, because I'm not really good with words.

DP:What if I went at your knees?

HN: I'd probably try to stick my knee in your neck or something.

DP:In a nice way.

HN: In a nice way. Nothing against you. I wouldn't do anything to really try to hurt you. But since you're down there, I might as well.

"I don't think about how I hit someone; if I get fined I get fined. Last year I got fined for something I thought was totally legal: The receiver head-butted me, but he went backward and I got fined."
—Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher

Guest Shots


Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford explained why receiver Calvin Johnson gives the Lions a significant advantage in the red zone. "[Johnson] makes the defense show their hand," Stafford told me. "They've either got to walk two guys out [to cover] him and we run the ball. Or they can play him one-on-one and we [can] score with the fade." ... While some NBA stars will play overseas if the lockout continues, Dwyane Wade doesn't want to go too far from home. "I'm a father first," Wade told me. "I have to make decisions on what's best for my kids." ... The Saints rank second in the NFL in passing yards, but coach Sean Payton believes balance is the key; New Orleans ran for 177 yards in a 23--10 win over the Jaguars on Sunday. "This league has shifted in the direction of passing offenses," Payton said, "but there's still that necessity to control the clock." ... Kevin Millar tried to cheer up despondent Red Sox fans by confirming Curt Schilling didn't fake the bloody sock in the 2004 playoffs. But Millar did note that Schilling could have used more bandages. "There's a way to hide the blood," he said.