Analysis: Lions playing as complete team

Last Sunday's victory over Minnesota was further indication that the Lions are playing as a unit.

Football is the ultimate team game.

Eleven players play as one, comprising a single unit, relying on each other to execute a single play. 

If an individual unit performs flawlessly it has given its team a chance to win but still depends on its counterpart – another 11 players comprising another unit - to also perform.  If one group fails, however, the entire team suffers.

Last week, the New England Patriots offense registered 495 yards against the Buffalo Bills but lost because their defense was unable bail them out when they made mistakes.

The Cincinnati Bengals' defense held the San Francisco 49ers offense to only 226 yards and 13 points, but the Bengals left as losers because their offense mustered only eight points. 

Simply put, an individual player, position or unit cannot do what a full team can.

For the first time in a long time the Detroit Lions are illustrating the value of a team.

Last week, playing a road game against the Minnesota Vikings, the Lions offense struggled in the first half – scoring no points.

Their ineffectiveness also put a high amount of pressure on their counterpart.

Short drives from an offense result in shorter fields and more fatigue for a defense – a combination that can begin to work the nerves of defensive players – but not defensive players in Detroit.

"We have so much confidence in our offense it's great," said defensive end Cliff Avril.  "We can actually feel comfortable sitting on the sidelines and regardless of what happens on this series, we just need to go out and stop these guys and know our offense is going to break through eventually. It's a great feeling."

That's something that the Lions defense had to prove early against the Vikings.

The offense didn't convert a first down in the first quarter, giving Minnesota a nearly eight-minute advantage in time of possession.

The defense stood tall, keeping the Vikings out of the end zone and escaping the quarter with only a six point deficit. 

The Lions offense continued to sputter in the second half and the team found itself down 20-0 after two quarters. 

"The sign of a good team is kind of covering each other's weaknesses," said receiver Nate Burleson.  "For the first half, we (the offense) were weak.  We didn't have much power, couldn't get in a rhythm.  Minnesota had a good game plan and the defense held the fort down. That's exactly what I said at half time.  I said ‘you guys continue to hold the fort down and we'll come around.'"

True to Burleson's word, the Lions offense awoke in the second half, scoring 23 points and eventually three more in overtime to win the game. 

There will be moments when the defense needs the offense to bail it out and vice versa.   That is a reality every team is faced with.

The teams that actually can do it – cover for each other's mistakes – are the ones that usually have a larger number in the win column.

After all, you win as a team and you lose as a team.   And the Lions are 3-0

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