ALLEN PARK -- There are three words that have resonated within the conversations of Lions fans for years.
Same. Old. Lions.
These words seemed to haunt the team, irrelevant of record, standing or performance. The first moment adversity struck, fans would reach for this familiar phrase.
This year, from the first practice at training camp, there has been a different persona within the locker room walls.
After six weeks, the Lions have reached their largest moment of adversity: a disappointing loss at home.
The loss dropped the Lions from the ranks of the undefeated and into second place in the highly-competitive NFC North, ensuring ensured that a three-game home stand would not end with three victories – something the team discussed was an important stretch in the season.
Although disappointing, the loss hasn’t caused the team to hang their heads. Rather, it’s caused them to increase their focus.
“The loss last week hasn’t sat well with anybody,” said center and team captain Dominic Raiola. “The urgency is as high as I’ve ever seen. It’s as high as it’s ever been after a loss around here.”
“You hate the loss but at the same time we have a bunch of professionals in here that are taking this thing pretty hard and trying to get this thing right.”
Losing has become unfamiliar to the Lions. More than 10 months had separated the team from its last loss. Still, just as they’ve done with wins, they took what they could from the game and left the rest in the past.
“There’s (a) 24-hour rule,” said head coach Jim Schwartz. “I think that’s pretty well documented, that you need to move on from a win or a loss and you need to put it in its place, correct the mistakes that you made, and move on to the next opponent. Once you get to Wednesday, it’s all Atlanta Falcons.”
There isn’t a cloud of gloom hovering over the locker room, in years past there might have been. Instead, the team is practicing with more intensity, studying film and attempting to correct their mistakes.
The loss hasn’t been deflating, rather it has been educating.
All great teams hate to lose and avoid it by learning from each defeat. The Lions are beginning to take on that mentality.
“Losing leaves a bad taste in my mouth – and a lot of these guys’ mouths,” said Stephen Tulloch. “Especially losing the way we did. We’re definitely a good football team, we have something good going here, we’re building something real special. We took a step back, we had a bump in the road last week, it’s over with.”
Some weeks will end in defeat, that’s the reality of the parity-laden league created by the NFL. The difference between the winners and losers is that a loss will push the losers into obscurity while it will propel a winner towards harder work and higher standards.
“Either you’re going to be the hammer or the nail,” said wide receiver Nate Burleson. “We try to be the hammer the majority of the time.”
Same old lions no more.
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