Throughout the adversity that has confronted the Detroit Lions during the first half of the season a consistent phrase has been repeated; players need to step up.
Whether from overcoming individual struggles, adjusting to the opposition's game plans or compensating for injured teammates, the Lions know they are in this together and expect each other to make plays.
Hosting the Seattle Seahawks, the team understood a loss was not an acceptable outcome and were able to get the necessary plays from some individuals who heeded the ‘step up' mantra and delivered for their teammates in a 28-24 win. The Lions are now 3-4 overall.
"We needed to win that game," said Lions center Dominic Raiola "We said the first part of our schedule, we're on the road six out of eight games, this was a must win. We want to get back to .500 at the midway point, (the win against Seattle) was the first step in getting back to .500."
The Lions were going to need to win without the services of wide receiver Nate Burleson, one of the team's top contributors both on and off the field.
"It was definitely important getting out there and playing from an aspect of guys stepping up and playing with Nate out," said tight end Brandon Pettigrew. "The leadership role picked up as well. You know, guys stepped up because Nate was that kind of guy. He was the heart of this team. Guys stepped up. They led, played hard and that was important this game."
Wide receiver Titus Young was one of the players who stepped up in the absence of his fellow receiver.
Young had nine catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner.
"We knew he had it in him, we were just waiting for him to come out with it," said wide receiver Calvin Johnson of Young's performance. "He had a chance today to get it. He made his plays. That's what we're going to need from him the rest of the year with Nate gone."
Young knew his opportunity to play a larger role was going to come this week and could sense both the expectations and support of his teammates.
"There were a couple of guys here and there saying, ‘this is your opportunity to step up and make plays.' I just saw it in guys' eyes," said Young. "I saw a lot of guys just looking at me throughout the week and just seeing how I was going to respond to our adversity and losing a great leader in Nate. I just took it upon myself to do the best I could to be there for my team this week."
Another player that stepped up was quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford entered this contest suffering through what many considered to be an early-season slump. In six games, Stafford had thrown five touchdowns against six interceptions and had a passer rating of only 78.4.
If there was a slump, Stafford broke out of it against the Seahawks with three touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown as well as leading the team on a 16-play, 80-yard scoring drive to score the winning points with less than 30 second remaining.
"It's kind of what we've come to expect," said defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. "He's cool under pressure. He continues to make big plays. He puts the team on his back when we need it the most."
In addition to Young and Stafford stepping up on offense, the Lions had some young defenders come through for them.
With starting safety Amari Spievey sidelined due to a concussion and top cornerbacks Drayton Florence, Bill Bentley and Jacob Lacey all out with injuries, the Lions looked to a second-year player and rookie to fill the void.
Ricardo Silva and Jonte Green filled in at safety and corner respectively and – despite an early pass interference call against Green – held their own.
Silva even contributed an interception.
"We knew we needed to take big plays away. That was a big part of their offense," said Schwartz. "When they did try to make a big play over the top and got aggressive to throw it, Silva made a great play over there. He's a very talented player. He's young, he's been inexperienced and he's worked his way up from the practice squad. But when he's played this year he's done a nice job."
Enough players stepped up for the Lions in order for them to get the win against the Seahawks. The team still faces an uphill battle but gave themselves a chance with this victory.
"We're 3-4 now," said Raiola. "I didn't even want to think about being 2-5."