The Lions are 3-1 at the quarter point of the season, but there weren't any pats on the back or 'aataboy’s' flying around Allen Park Monday.
What does it mean to head coach Jim Caldwell to be 3-1?
For Caldwell, it doesn’t mean a whole lot other than they’ve played well enough to win a few games early on. He made the point that in this league, there’s really no time to sit down and reflect on what's been accomplished until it’s all over and done with.
“Last game was big for us," he said. "It was on the road and all those things, but here we’re about to play a football team (Carolina next Sunday at Ford Field) that beat one of the better teams in our league (New England, 33-30 on Sunday) and obviously their quarterback is on fire, they have fire power on defense.
“That’s why you shake it off and you go back to the drawing board and you get ready for the next one, because the next challenge is even bigger. That’s what our guys will be focusing in on.”
But what is Caldwell learning about his football team early on this year?
He said one of the things he’s learned over the first four weeks is he has a team that can win in a number of different ways.
He made the point that every week opponents try to force teams to be left-handed entering a game, meaning they try to take away what a team does well, and force them to win in other ways they might not be as comfortable with. The Lions have been able to beat teams using all three phases early on.
“You better have another way of going about getting a victory,” Caldwell said. “That part of it, we certainly are proud of the way our guys have played.”
**What did Caldwell think of the effort from linebacker Steve Longa Sunday?
Longa was pressed into a bigger role because of injury. He recorded two tackles on defense and two special teams tackles. He did that just a few days after his father was killed in a traffic accident.
“He’s a courageous young man,” Caldwell said. "His father was really close to him. It certainly took a lot to go out and do what he did. He came back and wanted to play and I thought he conducted himself appropriately and certainly played well and certainly I know his father is proud of him as well.”
Longa earned a game ball from teammates, mainly veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who lost both of his parents at a young age, following the game.
How important is Glover Quin to Detroit's defense?
The Pro Bowl safety already has two interceptions this season, and he sealed the 14-7 victory Sunday in Minnesota by stripping the football from Vikings receiver Adam Thielen in the final minutes.
“He’s a playmaker,” Caldwell said. “He’s a guy that you always find around the ball. Very, very, very smart. High football IQ. That kind of individual that has the physical talent along with the intellect, you have a pretty good package there. He does a lot of things well for us.”
Why have Lions been able to generate so many turnovers?
After three more on Sunday, the tally is now at 11, which is tied with Baltimore for the NFL lead. Detroit had 14 all of last season.
“I think our guys have worked at it,” Caldwell said. “I think we do have guys that are closing in on the ball a lot faster. Guys are in better position when balls are out loose. We have a lot of guys hustling to the ball, so the law of averages tells us we’re going to have a really good chance to get our hand in it.”
**How impressive has second-year defensive end Anthony Zettel been so far, and has it been surprising?
Zettel leads the team with four sacks after recording two more Sunday, and is currently second in Pro Football Focus’ “pass rush productivity” rating, which measures pressure created on a per snap basis with weighting toward sacks.
“I don’t know if you could ever say, ‘hey, this is going to happen,’” Caldwell said of Zettel. “You have to wait and see. If you look at how he came back (in the offseason), how he worked during the winter. One thing you do know is he’s vastly improved because of the work he put it.
“I think he’s always had the kind of attitude that tells you that this guy is going to make something happen. He’s somewhere around the ball because he never quits. That’s just his overall attitude and how he plays and how he thinks. And he’s reckless.”
Caldwell did caution that it’s only been four games, but it’s obviously been a good development for this defense early on.