The Detroit Lions have had cracks in their offense and defense that have led to their 1-4 won-loss record, but they've remained strong in one area that head coach Dan Campbell considers important in building a winning team.
The "buy-in" factor is intact.
As the Lions resume the season after their bye in Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys, there are no signs that the players have lost faith in Campbell's program. They've bought in and haven't cashed out because of the losing record.
"I think in some regards they understand the hard times and what we have to do to get through them, and stay the course," Campbell said.
"We go back to work. I think I said it last week. We have to be better today than where Dallas is. That's where it starts – everything. The energy, the focus -- intensity. That's where we really have to win, is during the week (in practice).
"We're going to get back to some of the things we did during camp."
The players seemed as tuned in as ever in the portion of practice that was open to the media Wednesday.
"The team is good," Campbell said. "The guys are back. The energy is good.
"They're in it."
1. Offense - healthier St. Brown: We can expect to see an offense Sunday that is closer to the one that averaged 35 points a game for the first four games than the one that was shut out in a 29-0 loss to the Patriots in Week 5.
Having wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown close to full strength should help. He missed the Week 4 loss to Seattle because of an ankle injury and was limited against the Patriots.
He had four catches for 18 yards vs. the Patriots – well off his average of 7.67 catches and 11.43 yards per catch for the other three games he played at full strength.
Playing at less than full strength because of an injury is something St. Brown has learned to accept.
"It's tough," he said. "I hate not being at my best. In this league, sometimes 85 percent, or whatever it is, is all you've got.
"For myself, for the team, you've got to continue to work and give it everything you have."
2. Defense - improve: There should be – and has to be -- a significant step up in performance. The coaching staff had a week during the bye to scheme and plan, and the players have a full practice week to implement changes.
Working against the Lions is that they're playing the Cowboys, and quarterback Dak Prescott is likely back after missing five games with a thumb injury. The Cowboys went 4-1 with Cooper Rush at quarterback in place of Prescott, but nobody is pretending that the Cowboys are better off with Rush.
Three Lions players to watch: Rookie safety Kerby Joseph and defensive linemen Isaiah Buggs, who started against the Patriots, and John Cominsky, who played 27 snaps in the opener vs. the Eagles before going out with a hand injury. This could be his first game back.
3. Be ready for Prescott - his teammates are: "We're ready to have '4' back," said Cowboys defensive lineman DeMarcus Lawrence.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Wednesday, October 19, 2022.
Cowboys view, Parsons leads: Micah Parsons didn't have to vow to take out his disappointment on the Cowboys' next opponent to get some personal revenge for Sunday's loss to the Eagles.
The All-Pro linebacker plays every play of every game like he has a score to settle. The Eagles did a good job of limiting the damage he did to their offense. Parsons was held without a sack, but he managed one tackle for loss and two passes defended.
Parsons has six sacks for the season. Dorance Armstrong Jr. has five sacks, and Lawrence and Dante Fowler both have three.
When he spoke in his postgame interview, it was like the weight of the loss to the Eagles was on his shoulders.
"It's hard to lose this type of game," he said. "It's a game of talk trash. Hitting people.
"You play this game with passion. You play it with heart."
My pick: It says something about the Lions that as underdogs by 6.5 points, four other teams opened as bigger underdogs. Maybe the wise guys are putting more stock in the first four games than in the wipeout loss to the Patriots. And maybe it's that the Lions are 7-2 with one tie in their last 10 games after the bye.
Cowboys 27, Lions 26.