ALLEN PARK -- There was a time, in the not so distant past, when the Detroit Lions seemed unable to win on the road.
Last season, the Lions lost a Week 10 contest against the Buffalo Bills, which marked an NFL record 25th consecutive road loss for the franchise. The team extended the streak to 26 when they lost the following week to the Dallas Cowboys. Incidentally, they had actually broke their own record for road futility, a benchmark set from 2001-2003, when the team lost 24 consecutive games away from home.
Now, less than 11 months after the Lions finally snapped their record-breaking road skid, the memories of their consistently ineffectual road performances seem distant.
The Lions have won six consecutive contests away from Ford Field dating back to last season and will look to extend the current streak this weekend when they travel to Chicago to face the Bears in a pivotal contest.
But, how does a team go from road kill to road kings so swiftly?
“Good players,” said head coach Jim Schwartz. “There’s no secret formulas or anything like that. You get good players that fit well in a scheme, see things through, (and) that means a lot more on the road than anything else.”
There is no denying that talent contributes to success – for both home and away games – as much as any other factor.
Still, the Lions have won more games away from home since December 2010 (six) than they did from October 2004 through November 2010 (five). Is it possible that the ball club's extreme ineptitude on the road actually propelled them towards their current success?
Lions receiver Nate Burleson wasn’t on the roster for the entirety of the losing streak but still felt the extreme frustration from the losses -- as well as dreaded reading the signs in the stands at opposing stadiums.
Burleson believes that the team may have grown so frustrated from the experience that they actually used the failure as motivation.
“We were trying to exercise so many demons before the season started,” said Burleson. “Being a good road team is what we wanted to become and now it’s part of our identity so I think that’s why we play so well on the road now.”
If talent and motivation aren’t enough, the coaching staff has proven able to ready the team as they prepare to face an opponent on the road.
“We expect to win every game it’s just what it is,” said linebacker Justin Durant. “The mentality that we have, you know, we go in, go out and we are going to try to get the win… I think that’s preparation and coaching.”
The real reason for the turnaround is a combination of all the factors. Talent, motivation and coaching have been essential to the Lions current road winning streak – all factors that will play a significant role if the team is to keep the streak alive this weekend.
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