Home is where the heart is, and it’s also where the Lions can improve on their 4-2 record with their next two games at Ford Field against the Bengals and Cowboys.
The Lions played their best 30 minutes of football of the season in last week’s 31-17 road win over the Browns. They outscored the Browns, 24-0, in the second half, and unveiled an instant media sensation on rookie tight end
Fauria caught three TD passes and made all the highlight reels with his end zone dances.
What should the Lions’ focus be now, and is there a danger in Fauria getting so much recognition?
Mike: Let’s deal with the second question first. Sure, there’s a danger in Fauria getting so much attention, but only if he lets that happen. It’s up to Fauria to handle it, and so far, there hasn’t been any indication that he isn’t motivated to make the most of every opportunity he has gotten.
His size – 6-7 and 250 pounds – make him a mismatch against defensive backs and most linebackers. Teams have had very little to work on in planning for him in the first six games. He had only four catches before the Cleveland game. Now he has seven, and five are TD catches.
Defenses catch up to everything – four-receiver formations, the read option, the pistol – and they’ll do the same with Fauria. It’s up to the Lions to counter those adjustments. And they have three assets on their side –
Tim: I go back to a conversation I had with Fauria in training camp, when he told me that going undrafted was extremely humbling to him. I think his exact words were: "I thought I was the (expletive) coming out of college, obviously I wasn’t."
I think that was fuel for him at the time and I hope he never forgets that, even with all the television appearances and everything else going on right now. I don’t think he will, either. It seemed like it really bothered him.
You can’t teach size, body control and soft hands, and Fauria possesses all three. He’s only going to get better as a route runner. Teams will have to account for him and game plan to stop him.
If he stays humble, and continues to work, the Lions might have a steal on their hands. Like, big-time steal.
What was the biggest difference you saw in the Lions from the first 30 minutes in Cleveland to the second?
Mike: Two things – intensity and finishing plays. The defense forced three straight three-and-outs, and then held the Browns to a four-play possession.
On the other side, the offense did the opposite. On five possessions, the Lions scored three TDs and a field goal and had another drive ended by an interception in the end zone on a deflection.
Clearly, the entire team knew that it hadn’t played well in the first half and vowed to turn things around in the second.
For these next two games, they can’t wait until the second half. The Bengals and Cowboys have too many playmakers to play half a game and expect to win.
Tim: I thought they did a real nice job making the proper adjustments.
Offensively, the recognized the man coverage behind some of the Browns’ blitz packages -- when they were showing zone coverage behind them on film -- and got Reggie Bush more involved in the passing game vs. a linebacker. That’s a matchup the Lions will win every time, including this week vs. Cincinnati.
Defensively, they didn’t change a whole lot for a scheme standpoint, they simply made the plays that were in front of them and tackled much better.
They just can’t wait two quarters to get their act together moving forward. If they play the way they did in the first half at Cleveland against Cincinnati, Dallas and Chicago on the road Nov. 10, they’ll find themselves down by more than 10 at the half.
Six of the next nine games for the Lions are at home. That’s pretty good home cooking, right?
Mike: Yes, but they can’t take it for granted, or it will come back to bite them.
Realistically, when the season started having a 5-3 record at the bye after these next two games would have been satisfying, but have things changed?
Should they be nothing short of 6-2, or is that being greedy?
Tim: That’s a little greedy, but realistic, at the same time.
The next two games at home are both winnable. That's obviously the best-case scenario, but at the very least they need to split. Going into the bye at 5-3 puts the Lions in a nice spot for the second half of the season.
They’ll have four games at home (Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Baltimore and the New York Giants) and four on the road (Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Minnesota). They'll probably need a similar 5-3 mark to set themselves up for a playoff spot, but maybe just four wins if the NFC keeps beating up on itself they way it has early on.
The front office, coaches and players aren’t thinking about any of this right now, they’re focused on Cincinnati, but they’ve put themselves in a good spot early on. Let’s see if they can keep it going?