It's been a season of baby steps for the Lions. They have been competitive. They have ended long losing streaks within the division and on the road. They have won three straight games heading into the season-finale Sunday.
And, what do you know, they may have even garnered a positive reputation among their peers.
Vikings defensive end Jared Allen has never bothered to hide his contempt for the Lions. He has accused them in the past, specifically right tackle Gosder Cherilus, of taking cheap shots at him. But on Thursday, when he was asked if he agreed with Jets linebacker Bart Scott and others who have called the Lions a dirty team, he said:
"Nah, I wouldn't say they are a dirty team. They play hard. Honestly, they are a scrappy team. I'd say that about them, absolutely. They are a scrappy team. They are going to give it all they've got and a little extra.
"You go into a game against Detroit and you know you are in for a fist fight. I think that's a cool reputation to have. It's better than being known as a soft team or a pushover team."
The Lions, in the absence of a winning season or a playoff berth, will certainly take it.
"That's the kind of stuff we can control," said center Dominic Raiola, who turned 32 Thursday. "It's like (receiver) Nate Burleson said, we control our stamp on everything and our stamp is our film.
"You play to win and to be playing in January, but you also play for respect amongst your peers. That is part of the process. We're trying to be back in the league and not be seen as an awful team, a team that can be overlooked."
When told of Allen's comments, Lions coach Jim Schwartz joked that he hoped there weren't going to be any fist fights on Sunday, but he did seem to appreciate the sentiments.
"We don't want to be known as anything other than a team that plays hard, physical football," he said. "They are the same way and when you see somebody else playing that way you have respect for them. We have a lot of respect for Jared Allen and for the things that defense has done.
"But it's more about this being a division game. You play each other twice a year. We just played Miami and we won't see them again for three years. It's hard to carry anything over. But when you play a team twice a year, you think about them all the time. It's just going to accentuate anything that goes on."
And if there is any extra chatter on the field or if the intensity is a bit off the charts for a season-finale against two non-playoff teams Sunday, all the better.
"It doesn't say anything about what will happen next year," Raiola said, "but it does say the Lions are kind of turning that corner."