DETROIT The baddest man in Detroit, perhaps in the NFL, drives a Chrysler.
Ndamukong Suh, the Lions' fearsome defensive lineman, was featured in a Chrysler commercial earlier this year, part of the company's "Imported from Detroit" campaign. Another Detroit product, rapper Eminem, was in a similar ad that ran during the Super Bowl.
The spots are an example of how the Lions and other prominent members of the community have embraced the city. But perhaps more significant, it shows how Detroit has embraced a Lions team that hasn't made the playoffs since 1999 and that for years symbolized the city's misery.
That's certainly not the case this year. The Lions are 5-0 for the first time since Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House. Today, they host 4-1 San Francisco, making 49ers vs. Lions the focus of the NFL's early lineup. The game will be shown in 43 percent of the nation's television markets.
"It's a good time to be in Detroit right now," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "The weather's been good. The Lions are playing well. The Tigers (were) in the playoffs. The Red Wings are just starting. I think any time you have a 4-1 team and 5-0 team matched up early in the season, it's going to get a lot of hype. That's warranted for these two teams."
Some of the 49ers have noticed a lift in the Motor City, too. Wide receiver Braylon Edwards grew up in Detroit and sported a black Tigers T-shirt last week.
"Detroit has been looking for something for so long," Edwards said. "The Tigers (battled) in the playoffs; the Lions are 5-0. It's really good for the city. I can't cheer for the Lions. But in terms of what they're doing for the city, it's good to see."
Detroit is considered a gritty, grease-on-your-T-shirt, dirt-under-your-fingernails kind of town, but the Lions' recent success has been built mostly on finesse. They have a prolific passing attack, and they don't have a fullback on the roster. Their top offensive player is wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
The defense, led by Suh, 24, better reflects Detroit's hard-working, blue-collar nature.
Suh took the league by storm last year as a rookie, finishing with 66 tackles and 10 sacks from a defensive tackle position not normally associated with big sack numbers.
Suh's success is a result of his combination of quickness and power, and some of his hits last year drew fines from the NFL.
Suh said he's not going to let league scrutiny soften his game. If he slams the quarterback to the turf, don't blame him. Blame the players who are supposed to protect the passer.
"It's you either need to guard me or I'm going to hit your quarterback," said Suh, who mainly will line up opposite 49ers right guard Adam Snyder today. "If you're not going to block me, I'm going to continue hitting your quarterback."
Still, Suh insists his intent is not to injure or to intimidate. The son of a soccer player from Cameroon, Suh is measured and thoughtful in interviews. And he's a momma's boy at heart.
In his Chrysler spot, Suh drives past smokestacks and warehouses in his hometown of North Portland, Ore., parks in front of his mother's home and gets a big hug from her before going inside.
"I loved the story they brought to me: Never forget your roots," Suh said. "I have a tough, mean persona in Detroit the baddest dude on the team. But when I go see my mother, I am who I am: Suh, the child she brought up."