Lions downplay momentum, try to build on win
It’s been 13 months since the Lions last had back-to-back victories.
That's thirteen months.
That mini-streak came with a pair of three-point wins, over the Chargers and Eagles, in weeks 2 and 3 last season. The Lions followed with three straight losses, so there’s not much evidence that momentum carries from one win.
Following Sunday’s victory over the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars, the Lions are looking to string together another one next week, against the Falcons, who got their first victory of the season after handling the Vikings easily.
“We certainly try to make sure that we put an emphasis on building from one week to the next,” coach Matt Patricia said Monday. “We do understand that the opponents are different and everything that they do might not transcend from one week to the next.”
Getting a win — any win — is a time to exhale for the Lions, who likely would have been under some intense scrutiny this week if they had squandered another double-digit lead. Instead, they played one of their best games fundamentally in dispatching the Jaguars, whose coaching staff may be trying to evade the hard questions about their struggles.
The Jaguars won’t be mistaken for one of the elite teams in the league, but just getting back on a winning mindset is a positive for the Lions, who shined defensively in holding the Jaguars to 44 rushing yards and allowed a season-low 16 first downs.
From start to finish, the Lions kept the pressure on defensively and after they built a 14-3 lead in the second quarter, they never let the Jaguars get any closer. That’s something positive to build on with a bye week to prepare and a game plan that proved largely successful.
More: Four Downs: Lions' offense, pass rush figure out working formula
Defensive end Romeo Okwara downplayed the idea of momentum carrying over; rather, he pointed to remaining consistent in their technique and building on that instead.
“I don't think there's any such thing as momentum. I think we've got to stay within the course of the game and play our game the way we do consistently every single week and come into each week with the same mindset — and that's to win. Nothing really changes for us,” Okwara said. “Definitely, it gives us an opportunity to look back at what we did to succeed and how we can build on those things.”
Patricia looks for that consistency to pave the way for momentum.
Either way, when it results in a win, it’s something to build on.
“I think you try to stay — you stay consistent, you stay even all the way through but certainly you want to take what we were able to do yesterday and build on that,” Patricia said. “I think that’s good for everybody just to have a little bit of confidence in some of the things we were doing and be able to see it, and honestly see what I would call ‘two weeks of work’ really show up in a game.
“I thought that was really great. The bye weeks are never easy. We thought it was a really good time for us to grind it out and really take a look at what the first four games looked at. We really didn’t have much of an opportunity to do that with the preseason, so we needed to do it.”
The Falcons (1-5) bring a similar optimism into Sunday’s matchup, having scored a season-best 40 points Sunday. Receiver Julio Jones is healthy and quarterback Matt Ryan picked apart the Vikings’ secondary for 371 yards and four touchdowns.
Although the Falcons have their own issues, the offense — much like the Lions’ — presents some challenges for the defense to try to carry the momentum into another win.
“Atlanta has phenomenal players. It starts with the quarterback obviously, he’s great, Julio Jones, I mean, he’s one of the best in the League, (Calvin) Ridley is obviously phenomenal. So, it’s another big challenge for us,” Patricia said. “They obviously had a huge game yesterday, very explosive game and that’ll be a whole different challenge for us this week. Hopefully, we can just go out, put a good week of practice together, and then go out and play well next Sunday."
On the line
The Lions totaled 180 yards rushing against the Jaguars, which wasn’t just their best performance of the season, but matched the yardage totals for the previous two games combined. One of the big chunks was a 54-yard run by rookie D’Andre Swift, part of his season-high 116 yards, with two touchdowns.
With the offensive line playing musical chairs because of injuries and dehydration, it was a testament to the Lions’ dominance on both lines. Seeing Swift get a big run provided a boost for the line, in the midst of their often-unheralded work.
“It gives us a lot of juice because even if we get 2 or 3 yards, the offensive line has got to do the same thing every play,” lineman Frank Ragnow said. “It’s very rewarding to get kind of rewarded I guess if you will, because we're always blocking the same assignments and we're trying to get those to breaks — so when they do break it's a very rewarding feeling and it gives us some juice to keep you're going to get another one.”
Notice for Nelson
Matt Nelson, who played tackle out of necessity, saw some action on the offensive line. Nelson converted from the defensive line last season, so being able to hold his own for 46 snaps on the other side gets a tip of the cap from Patricia.
“Just give him all the credit in the world. It’s obviously pretty hard to believe he was playing defensive line a couple years ago. I think you’ve really seen a guy who took last year to transform his body from a defensive lineman into an offensive lineman, with some of just the weightlifting and the strength and conditioning program that we did with him,” Patricia said. “It’s been a huge learning curve for him to switch sides of the ball, and I think he’s done an outstanding job with that. Some of the athleticism that shows up as — defensive lineman sometimes are a little bit more athletic — and you can see some of that transfer over, but I thought his bend, his ability to bend and move the line of scrimmage has been good.”