The Lions locker room was uncharacteristically dour and quiet after a 19-7 victory over the Packers last weekend.
A home victory over a division rival, featuring a dominant defensive performance and a raucous home crowd, normally would have the players in a frenzy, blasting music and celebrating.
Part of the calm could have been because linebacker Stephen Tulloch suffered an ACL injury celebrating a sack and is out for the remainder of the season.
But some of the reserved nature came from the veterans and the team taking on the demeanor of first-year coach Jim Caldwell.
“It’s like coach says, ‘When you get a win, you say little and when you take a loss, you say even less,’ ” running back Joique Bell said. “It’s a good win but we’ll move on.”
The Lions know all too well not to celebrate any successes early after a 6-2 start last season culminated in a 1-7 finish.
“We have a long season and a lot more football left to play,” running back Reggie Bush said. “We can’t get too excited about one win; we can enjoy it that day but we have to find ways to correct our mistakes.”
After a dominant victory in the opener over the Giants, the Lions struggled and lost on the road to the Panthers. The balance of not taking either result too seriously is providing focus.
“Our team is heading in the right direction — we’re not getting too high,” Bell said. “Just like when we took that loss, we didn’t get too low.”
The key is finding different ways to win.
Against the Packers, it was the defense, which ranked in the top three in the NFL against the run and pass.
The offense struggled, with quarterback Matthew Stafford committing three turnovers. Plus, the Lions didn’t score an offensive touchdown until the fourth quarter.
“Every phase isn’t going to be playing great every game,” Bush said. “We’re going to have to find ways to win differently because every game is different. There may be games we rely on the defense or the special teams and others we rely on the offense.”
The offense did supply the decisive drive against the Packers, running out the last 6 minutes, 54 seconds and preventing the Packers from getting the ball back.
“Our offensive line did a tremendous job of really controlling that ballgame,” Caldwell said. “Particularly when we had to run the ball down the stretch and did a tremendous job against a very physical, tough unit.”
Still, the offense, with higher expectations after acquiring free agent Golden Tate and drafting tight end Eric Ebron, remains a work in progress.
“Everything’s not developed yet, but we’re still a good offense,” Bell said. “We’re going to continue to get better throughout the season. We don’t come out every game and have 200 yards rushing — that’s not how this league works.”