The falters of the past are forgotten as optimism reaches a boiling point. Week One may be the furthest possible in-season point from a true realization of an ultimate prize for a team but it is also the first true chance for a team to show its true colors – something that is impossible to gauge in the months leading up to September.
The 2014 Detroit Lions, under new head coach Jim Caldwell, couldn’t have made a better first impression. On Monday Night Football, the Lions dominated the New York Giants and cruised to a 35-14 victory.
“I thought the guys played pretty well, certainly not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination but I do think that we were a factor in all three phases,” said head coach Jim Caldwell.
Pretty well might be a bit of an understatement considering that the Lions outgained the Giants 417 to 197 yards.
The Lions pounced on the Giants right out of the gate, scoring touchdowns on their first two drives.
“We came out on a mission to move the ball and to score touchdowns,” said wide receiver Golden Tate. “I think they might have forgotten that C.J. (Calvin Johnson) is Megatron and left him open a few times. It’s great to get a fast start. We scored on our first two drives and that was important.”
There is no doubt that building an early lead is a key component of winning but – as the Lions have shown in the past – sometimes it’s how you finish more than how you start. This is a true statement for most teams that enjoy success and perhaps the Lions showed they have that same pedigree with the most important drive of the game.
“The signature drive is when they had closed the gap, we needed a big drive to kind of eat up some clock, about 11 minutes or something to go,” said Caldwell. “(the offense) drove the ball for seven minutes down the field, a 12-play drive, I think 80-yards for the score. The great majority of it was running.”
The drive Caldwell refers to as the "signature drive" began after the Giants had scored a fourth-quarter touchdown. The Lions offense took over on its own 20 and generated five first-downs, ate 7:14 of clock and ultimately scored a touchdown when Joique Bell scampered in the end zone from three yards out.
“That was a fun drive, they knew we were running it, they couldn’t do anything about it,” said center Dominic Raiola. “You play offensive line, that’s what you want at the end of the game. Matthew (Stafford) said that was a championship drive, I couldn’t agree more.”
Despite a mostly positive outing that seemed to show the Lions have the ingredients to – at the very least – be in the playoff conversation, a lot of work remains for them to turn summer success to winter winning.
Among some of the items to be cleaned up are the team’s eight penalties and 60 percent red zone efficiency.
“We have a lot of work to do, we certainly haven’t arrived,” said Caldwell.
In a night filled with good first impressions for the Caldwell-lead Lions, perhaps the best sign is the team’s recognition that there is work to do and one win is just that – one win.
For now, optimism remains high for the Lions but there are 15 games to go.