Lions not satisfied with turnaround: 'We know we can play better'

By Matt Schoch
Special to The Detroit News

Allen Park — Despite turning around a potentially dead-on-arrival season with three wins in four games, former champions around the Lions locker room are turning into the team’s biggest critics.

Offensive guard T.J. Lang on Sunday and cornerback DeShawn Shead on Monday are among the veterans pushing the Lions for more after moving back to 3-3 following an ugly 0-2 start.

Lions defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois brings down Dolphins' quarterback Brock Osweiler in the third quarter Sunday.

“It’s the mood that we always want to feel,” said Shead, who won Super Bowl XLVIII with Seattle, Sunday’s visitor at Ford Field. “There’s always things we’ve got to fix and get better, because we’re always striving to get better, but just coming in and knowing that we went out there, did what we had to do to go get the win, to come back here and fix some mistakes and move on to the next.”

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Similarly, Lang suggested the Lions could’ve bolstered their rushing totals after gaining 248 yards in Sunday’s 32-21 win against Miami, the most on the ground since Nov. 23, 1997, which was the home stretch of Barry Sanders’ 2,053-yard season.

Offensive tackle Taylor Decker, a 2014 national champion at Ohio State, echoed Lang’s criticisms despite numbers such as Kerryon Johnson’s 158 yards rushing, the most for a Detroit player since Jahvid Best’s 163 in a 2011 game.

“We know we can play better, we can always get better,” Decker said. “We’re building in the right direction, we’re on the right trajectory. Improving upon things that may have in years past not necessarily been a strength, but getting better. The things that are strengths, we’ve got to keep them strengths.”

Defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, who played in the Super Bowl last season with New England under then-defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, said the Lions coach was at times harsh in his assessment of Sunday’s film on Monday.

“We’re not there yet,” Francois said. “I understand the win column. Yeah, we’re winning, but it’s about us. It’s not about other team. We’re stopping ourselves from doing stuff.

“Everybody wants to be a winning team in December. We’ve got to win now, you’ve got to start stacking them and be more consistent. That’s our biggest thing right now.

“We’re still not doing what we need to do to become a team that everyone is going to respect.”

Another absence

Patricia was combative Monday after more questions surrounding defensive end Ziggy Ansah.

Ansah was inactive Sunday for the fifth straight game with a shoulder injury, the third straight injury-riddled season for the fifth overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft.

This came after Ansah practiced three days last week after the bye week and was listed as questionable on the injury report.

“Here’s what I’m going to say about the Ziggy conversation, just so I can answer all those questions up front,” Patricia began, “Ziggy is doing everything he can day by day to get out there and play, and when he’s ready to go, he certainly is someone who we think can help us win and that’s the bottom lie for trying to win. So when we have anybody on our team that will help us win, we’ll put them out on the field.

“That’s all I’m going to mention about that, the rest of it is all… you know, we document the injury report every single week, we update those regularly. We try to put those guys out there every single day and see what they can get done, so I don’t really understand what the question is.”

When pressed further by a reporter, Patricia cut off the question, ending the testy exchange.

“Nope, that’s it, I’m good there,” the coach finished.

The Lions brought Ansah back on a one-year franchise tag this season for $17.1 million.

Ansah had a sack against the Jets in the opener, the 45th of his six-season career, the only game he’s played this season.

Keeping tabs

With still a week until the Oct. 30 NFL trade deadline, the usually tepid stove already is hotter than usual.

Dallas made the first big move of the NFL trade deadline on Monday, acquiring wide receiver Amari Cooper from Oakland for a first-round pick. In addition, All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson reportedly asked for a trade from sputtering Arizona (1-6).

Patricia said evaluation of the trade market is more the realm of general manager Bob Quinn, although communication is constant.

“Bob and I talk every single day, multiple times a day,” Patricia said. “Obviously, things that are happening around the league are a little bit more his role.

“We’ll have those conversations, and we take them where they go from there.”

Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.