ALLEN PARK — A win in Week 2 in the big scheme of the NFLseason isn’t necessarily key for most teams.
But the Lions 36-27 win over the Commanders on Sunday validates what coach Dan Campbell and his staff are working toward. That is huge for a team that didn’t pick up its first win until Week 13 last year and finished 3-13-1.
“I think it was a great step, a step in the right direction for us to finally learn how to get over the hump and close out the game,’’ wide receiver Josh Reynolds said. “I’m proud of the guys. I think they got the first taste of it on how good we can be and how to close out a game. I think that was a giant step.’’
Campbell has preached finishing and details week in and week out. He’s confident in his team and regularly will say they have the right guys on the roster.
“Listen we’ve got the guys, they’re going to go to work no matter what happens, they’re going to put in the work, they’re going to try to get better, they’re going to compete,’’ Campbell said on Monday. “So that’s never an issue. But to be able to get our win early in the season, Week 2, you get early validation to what we’re doing and we’re doing that without all our bullets.’’
Three offensive line starters were among the big absences.
“We’ve got some guys out and everything we’ve talked about, next man up, do your job, help us win and we did that with the guys that were available yesterday, the 48-man roster for game day,’’ Campbell said. “I think it’s big, it’s validation that we’re heading in the right direction. These guys believe and they’re doing what we ask them to do and it’s paying off.’’
Left tackle Taylor Decker and right tackle Penei Sewell, both veterans, talked before the game about how they had to dominate and play with confidence so those around them would play the same way.
“The level of expectation of whoever’s out there doesn’t change because you’re in the NFL and you’re a professional,’’ Decker said, emphasizing there’s a standard in the offensive line room that doesn’t change for anyone.
Dan Skipper had never played the guard position and started at left guard. Logan Stenberg took a few lumps in his first start a week ago at right guard and improved on Sunday. Center Evan Brown played in a dozen games last season so he had a little experience to lean on.
The offensive line blocking is a big reason the Lions lead the NFL with 7.2 rushing yards per carry. The blocking of the wide receivers was key in putting together eight explosive plays.
But it was all three units — offense, defense, special teams — that contributed to the win. After holding a 22-0 lead at the half, the Commanders were able to get back in the game but the Lions held them off for the win.
“We kept that lead, we didn’t crumble and didn’t let the stress and pressure break us. We hung in there and finished the game,’’ Campbell said. “That’s what excites me more than anything about what how it went down yesterday.’’
(Next up: Lions (1-1) at Minnesota Vikings (1-0) at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25. The Vikings face the Eagles in Monday Night Football.)