ALLEN PARK — Jim Caldwell was as low-key as low-key gets in his Monday press conference. His goal is to keep his demeanor on the same level each week so it’s tough to determine whether the Lions are coming off a win or a loss.
Actually they are coming off a 38-24 win over the winless Cleveland Browns.
How did Corey Robinson play at right guard? “It was OK,’’ Caldwell said.
What about left tackle Taylor Decker in his first game back? “He was OK. He was alright,’’ Caldwell said.
That’s about how it went.
Here are five things to know.
1. Matthew Stafford has played his best two games of the season the past two weeks — the win last week at Green Bay and Sunday against the Browns. He got off to a bad start against the Cleveland defense but ended up throwing three touchdown passes. Perhaps one of his best moves was calling an audible for the 40-yard Golden Tate touchdown pass-play that sealed the win on Sunday. “It’s not like he hasn’t handled the blitz before. I know you guys look at those numbers and that kind of thing, but Matt’s always done a pretty nice job at handling that,’’ Caldwell said. The coach also wouldn’t jump on an answer about improvement with the deep passes. He’s hit deep ones before, a lot of deep ones around here before. I don’t see that, but I do see obviously his performance has been pretty steady which is good. And he keeps getting better,’’ Caldwell said.
2. The run game has been an issue in the first nine games but they found success early with 89 first-half rushing yards against the Browns rushing defense that was ranked fourth stingiest in the NFL. “I mean it’s a really good unit, and I think our guys did a better job of executing, getting them a man-on-man, and giving our backs a crease to run in. So, I think the backs did a good job getting north and south or circling the defense. So, overall I think it was more execution than anything else.” Whatever they were doing Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick need to keep it up. Also Stafford had four runs for 17 yards.
3. While the fans were booing early with the Lions’ poor start, the players themselves were non-plussed. They knew they had plenty of time to get back in to the game after going down 10-0 within the first seven minutes. This is a resilient bunch. “I think we have a really good corps of veteran leaders. They help show the young guys the way. They believe, and they stay really focused particularly in tight games,’’ Caldwell said.
4. Darius Slay earned the second highest cornerback grade of the week from games played so far by Pro Football Focus. On 51 cover snaps he was targeted 11 times giving up six receptions but for just 42 yards and a passer rating against of 25.6, per PFF. He leads the NFL in interceptions for a cornerback with four. “I just think he continues to get better every single week. I mean, he just works. He loves to work, he loves to practice, he loves the game. He’s got unbelievable competitiveness and that’s always on his mind, regardless of what he’s doing because its competition involved in it. So, I think with that kind of attitude—and he’s got physical tools. He just keeps getting better,’’ Caldwell said.
5. The win on Sunday boosted the Lions record to 5-4 and kept them in the playoff conversation. However the NFC North leading Vikings (7-2) also won. Not surprisingly Caldwell said he’s not thinking about a magic number to make the postseason. “I think I’ve told you guys that a thousand times probably but it’s a fact. It’s one game. If that game just so happens to be the trigger game somewhere down the line, then it’s one game. So, that’s all we focus in on,’’ Caldwell said.