It was the elephant in the room that no one wanted to acknowledge, but had to. The Detroit Lions had been on a streak of 19-straight regular season losses heading into this week’s match-up with the Washington Redskins.
“We weren’t 0-2. Our guys were carrying the burden of 0-19, and it was unfair to them,” said Head Coach Jim Schwartz after the game. “But this gets us off of that and puts it behind us.”
The Lions didn’t coast to their 19-14 victory by any means. In fact, Schwartz says the Lions probably should have won the game more sure handedly, considering the way they played.
The offense had a strong first half; running back
“There were some times I checked it down, did some good things, but I think our offensive line did a heck of a job,” said Stafford. “I mean they’ve got (Albert) Haynesworth, Phillip Daniels, and 99 (Andre Carter) coming off the edge. (Brian) Orakpo is a good rusher. I really was well protected all night.”
Stafford said he is starting to find chemistry with his primary receivers,
The rookie also enjoyed his first NFL victory, though the magnitude of the win for the team as a whole may not have hit him. In Schwartz’s post-game press conference, he said that the team needs to get to a point where wins are expected.
“I mean, it had the feel of a post-season win – the jubilation,” said Stafford of Sunday’s win. “(We got) the monkey off the back; not only (for) the guys that have been here but the organization, the City of Detroit. It was well deserved.
“After the game, after we got together, said a few words and took a knee and said our prayer players went back on the field and wanted to go celebrate with the fans who stayed. I thought that sends a strong statement about the kinship we feel with the City of Detroit.”
Ford Field erupted throughout the game and after the victory, despite the fact that it was not a capacity crowd. The support is something the players and coaches appreciate – particularly the players who had been around for the entire 19-game streak.
“All those people out there have been through a lot – more than we’ve been through,” said center and offensive team captain
“(It was) so cool,” said Hanson. “I was so glad that Coach (suggested) that. Once he said it, it was just so right to do that. Really, it was about the fans. We knew it in here, they deserved that.”
From a football perspective, the Lions had a solid game.
Washington quarterback Jason Campbell finished with 340 passing yards and receiver Santana Moss finished with 178 receiving yards, but Detroit contained the run and allowed just two touchdowns – one at the end of the game in a prevent defense.
“They didn’t’ have any (rushing yards) in the first half and that’s why the lead was where it was in the first half, because we were running the ball well and they couldn’t run it at all,” said Schwartz. “That’s a formula that doesn’t leave, whether it’s 80 and sunny or 20 below and windy.
“That formula works, that’s what we’re going to be.”
Running the ball for Detroit was Smith, who left the game with a shoulder injury early in the second half. Smith had just crossed the century mark – 101 yards on 16 carries – when he left the game. That is a tough blow for the Lions and the dynamic of the game changed once he exited.
“Kevin was running extremely well,” said Schwartz. “He was running physical and was giving hits, taking hits, and things like that. He’s got a shoulder; I don’t know where it’s going to be. We’ll have a lot of tests he’ll wind up doing tomorrow but he came out of the game.”
It was a good win that showed progress for the Lions. The team has clearly improved under Schwartz and this coaching staff over a three-game span.
Now that the monkey is off their respective backs, however, it is time to start expecting to win.
“That’s what I told them after the game when players were celebrating,” said Schwartz. “I said ‘Hey, love your celebrating, (but) we’ve got to expect to win.’
“That’s where we need to get to as a franchise. Where we need to get to as a team, a coaching staff, everything. We need to go out every week expecting to win, not hoping to win.”