Despite playoff berth, Lions want to keep momentum going -- and a win at Green Bay would only help that effort.
You play to win the game. Coach Jim Schwartz wasn't just riffing on an old Herm Edwards' bit. He was dead serious.
The Lions are going to Green Bay Sunday to win, not to rest players or try to set up their first-round matchup.
"We are going to play every game that comes on our schedule to win, every game," Schwartz said.
The Lions actually have a couple of legitimate reasons to go after their 11th win of the season. First, they haven't won at Lambeau Field since 1991. Certainly they would like to get that smear off their books. But more important, they still can move up to the No. 5 seed and possibly avoid a rematch with New Orleans in the first round.
Though, it needs to be noted that the Lions aren't trying to "avoid" anybody. They will take whoever comes.
"It depends on if your objective is to play one game or to keep winning," Schwartz said. "If your objective is to play one game, then maybe you are worried about stuff like that. But to get through, particularly being a wild card like we are, to get through the NFC you have to win three games and all three will be against good teams.
"We just need to worry about ourselves and prepare for this week and not worry about scenarios. They will have a team for us to play and we will be ready for them."
The possible first-round opponents are New Orleans, San Francisco, Dallas, Atlanta and the New York Giants. The Lions have faced every team this season except the Giants, and are 1-3 against the others with the lone win at Dallas.
But that was then. The Lions are on a three-game winning streak and to Schwartz that momentum is more important than whoever their opponent might be. In the last few years, teams like Green Bay, the Giants and the Colts have got hot late and won Super Bowl titles coming from the wild card.
"It's been proven that it can be done," Schwartz said. "But a lot of it starts this week. You look at those teams (who made that four-game to the title) and it wasn't just what they did once they got into the playoffs, it's where they were at the end of the season.
"Green Bay last season needed to win their last two just to get in. That puts a little more importance on a game like this (Sunday). You certainly want to go in with momentum, you want to go in with wins and you want to go in healthy."
The first thing center Dominic Raiola said when he got to the post-game podium Saturday was, "Should I say grow the (bleep) up, again?" That was Raiola's war cry to his team after the embarrassing loss to the Packers on Thanksgiving Day. On Saturday, in clinching a postseason appearance, the Lions showed they heeded his words. There were several instances where the Chargers tried to bait the Lions into a scuffle. One came in the tunnel before the game when Raiola and Chargers linebacker Antwan Barnes exchanged shoves. But during the game, the Lions walked away. Tony Scheffler walked away from a possible scrap early in the game. Later, Stephen Peterman walked away after a Chargers player got in his face. The Lions had no personal foul penalties and just three penalties total for eight yards.
Coach Jim Schwartz was listing some of the more impressive games the Lions have played this season and as he mentioned Kansas City, Denver, Oakland and San Diego he stopped himself. "I would like to point out that we did win the AFC West this year," he said.
The Lions are 5-2 on the road this season, quite a distance from last year when they posted the NFL record for consecutive road losses. "We are going to have to win on the road (this week and beyond) and I think we do have some confidence from winning on the road," he said. "But the best way to do that is to take good players with you on the team plane. We have some of those."
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was like a basketball coach Saturday. He knew he could create a mismatch with tight end Brandon Pettigrew on Chargers outside linebacker Na'il Diggs any time he wanted it. And whenever the situation called for it, he dialed it up. Pettigrew caught nine passes for 80 yards, five of those resulted in first downs and another resulted in a touchdown. "They mix it up a lot but they were playing with a lot of man on the inside," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "And Pettigrew wore them out."
RB Joique Bell signed with the Lions on Tuesday. The team plucked him from the Saints' practice squad. Bell, 25, was active for eight games last year, splitting time with the Colts and doing two stints with the Eagles. He has been on the Saints practice squad all season.
RB Kevin Smith didn't appear to do further damage to the sprained ankle that's bothered him the last three weeks. However, veteran Maurice Morris got most of the work in the second half. "It's December and he's nicked up," coach Jim Schwartz said of Smith. "But I thought he was productive Saturday. He has given us a big boost this last month." It is possible the Lions will give Smith this week to heel, which would explain the signing of Joique Bell.
CB Chris Houston pulled himself out of the game at Oakland two weeks ago. He was unable to move and change directions like he needed to in his first game back after suffering a grade 2 MCL tear. But last Saturday, he was back in full force. He had four pass breakups and an interception. "It's December, everybody's hurt," he said. "I had to go for my team."
C Dominic Raiola explained his altercation with Chargers OLB Antwan Barnes in the tunnel before the game. He said Barnes, without provocation, head-butted him. Raiola retaliated with a shove and the two were separated without further incident.