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Caldwell: 'Lot of things' Lions can improve

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford doesn't slide but scrambles away from the Rams' Eugene Sims for a first down late in the fourth quarter Sunday in the Lions 31-28 win.

Allen Park — What a difference two weeks can make.

After losing to the Chicago Bears to fall to 1-3, the Lions locker room was darn near a ghost town during media availability. Few Lions, outside the regular talkers, had any interest in dissecting yet another rough start to the season.

Flash forward to Monday, after a second consecutive victory brought the Lions back to .500.

The locker room was bumping, the ping-pong games were spirited, the mood was a good one.

The Lions may be banged up, but their season is alive and well.

Just don't expect anybody to be resting on any laurels.

"A couple years ago, (Bill) Parcells wrote his book on, 'A Football Life,'" Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Monday. "He had a pretty interesting description. He called it the 'psychology of results.'

"Oftentimes what happens is a team wins a game and they tend not to focus, really, on the things they did poorly. They just kind of move onto the next, and we don't do that. We focus in on the things where we can get better at."

And those areas, well, they're aplenty, even after back-to-back wins, including Sunday's 31-28 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

The Lions did many things well, mostly on offense, where quarterback Matthew Stafford continued to impress, a shuffled around and young offensive line was bruising, and a depleted running corps did more than you could've expected.

Good on them.

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Then there was the defense, which was, to remove all hints of subtlety, just darn awful. Just ask Rams quarterback Case Keenum, who's no Drew Brees, though he could've fooled some folks who saw him complete, at one point, 19 passes in a row Sunday.

Defensive end Ziggy Ansah returned from injury after being out since early in Week 2, though he played barely more than half the snaps and had just one tackle.

"He's impactful," fellow defensive end Kerry Hyder said. "You look over and you see Ziggy next to us, it's a comfort."

Still, the Lions defense couldn't do a thing to make the Rams' offense — one of the worst in the league entering the game — look uncomfortable.

So, while the Lions clearly are enjoying their lot in life these days, at least compared to what it could've been had they not turned things around a week ago against the Philadelphia Eagles, it's not all peaches and cream.

"We definitely have a lighter mood around here," Hyder said. "But we know we got some little things to look at, things we need to fix and we'll do that going forward."

The defense did, at least, limit the Rams' potent rushing game, at least.

After torching Detroit last season, second-year back Todd Gurley had 14 carries for 58 yards — the exact same totals at Zach Zenner, the Lions' fourth running back.

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Zenner, interestingly, said it was nice waking up sore Monday morning.

"It's a good sore," he said with a smile. "I don't have anything of note, so it's just the feeling of you played a football game, and it's a good feeling."

Last year, Zenner was the injured one.

Now, he's the depth coming through for his ailing teammates.

"If you have a jersey on, the team is gonna need you, the offense is gonna need you," said Zenner, who agreed with Caldwell — this team has as much to learn from wins as losses. "It's very important, because the mistakes you make in this league, if you don't correct those mistakes, they're going to continue to be exposed."

The Lions' defense figures to be significantly challenged again next Sunday, when Washington — and its super-accurate passer, former Michigan State star Kirk Cousins — visits Ford Field.

On offense, the Lions were good but not perfect. Penalties were an issue, Caldwell said, and the running game still needs to get better, even though it remains without Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick.

Newcomer Justin Forsett was a nonfactor in his Lions debut. No Lions running back besides Zenner had double-digit yards on the ground.

"There's a lot of things that we can get better at," Caldwell said. "But there are also a lot of things they did well."

The things they did well led to a second straight win, and happier days at the Lions' practice facility.

But there's still plenty to learn from, and many, many miles to go.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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