To a lot of NFL teams, it would be nothing more than business as usual but to the Detroit Lions, it would border on spectacular -- a two-game winning streak.
The last time the Lions enjoyed any kind of streak was nearly three full years ago when they won their first three games under Gary Moeller, who had taken over when Bobby Ross retired unexpectedly in early November, 2000.
In the 2 1/2 seasons since then, the Lions have won a not-so-grand total of seven games -- two in 2001, three in 2002 and two in the first half of the 2003 season. Nowhere in that time have they won games back-to-back.
So the opportunity staring them in the face Sunday when they take on the Chicago Bears at Ford Field is meaningful. Not only for their record but for their peace of mind and to give them some kind of feeling of accomplishment in what has all the makings of another wasted season.
"What we have to do this year -- somehow -- is accomplish some things that maybe haven't been done recently," coach Steve Mariucci said. "And winning a couple of games in a row would be one of them.
"Having two wins in a row would be good for our self-esteem and our confidence and our spunk around here. Give us a little hope. You go through the season (and) each game is a different game in itself.
"Forget about the record of the first half of the season. We start the second half of the season at home against the Bears and it would be nice to get a win."
The Lions will be facing the Chicago Bears for the second time in three weeks. They dozed through the first three quarters of the game at Soldier Field October 26 and couldn't dodge a 24-16 loss despite a fourth-quarter rally.
With the 23-13 victory against the Oakland Raiders as inspiration, however, the Lions have been upbeat and positive all week.
"I think winning this game gives us a little life, a little confidence, a little boost," Mariucci said. "So (Chicago) is an important game for us. It's a division game, it's a rival game, it's a game we've got to make up for the effort we had in Chicago, which wasn't good enough until the fourth quarter."
Barring one of the all-time great turnarounds, the Bears might provide the Lions one of their few chances at a victory in the second half of the season.
Except for the Bears (3-5) and the San Diego Chargers (1-7), the rest of the teams on the schedule have a combined record of 35-13 -- Seattle (6-2), Minnesota (6-2), Green Bay (4-4), Kansas City (8-0), Carolina (6-2) and St. Louis (5-3).
SERIES HISTORY: 128th meeting. The Bears hold an 83-59-5 edge in the series, which dates back to 1930, when the Lions were still known as the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans, four years before they moved to Detroit. The Bears have won five of the last six games, including their 24-16 victory at Chicago on Oct. 26.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Perhaps owner William Clay Ford could make an encore appearance to tell the Lions players to relax and have fun playing the game. That's what he told them a week ago and they responded with a victory against the Oakland Raiders.
The Lions were successful with a conservative offensive game plan against Oakland, in part because the Raiders were unable to put together any kind of offense of their own. The Lions are likely to try to control the game and the clock running the ball but it's questionable if they can win without throwing the ball downfield at least occasionally. Defensively, they will have to do a much better job against Bears rookie WRs Bobby Wade and Justin Gage, who had exceptional success against the Lions two weeks ago at Soldier Field.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
Lions LB Earl Holmes vs. Bears RB Anthony Thomas -- Thomas didn't play in the game two weeks ago and the Bears still hurt the Lions with their running game. Holmes and the Lions must do a better job against the Chicago backs to control their share of the clock.
Lions PK Jason Hanson vs. Bears PK Paul Edinger -- With two teams not featuring a lot of offense, the PKs will be key. Hanson is 9-for-9, including three from 50 yards or beyond; Edinger is 16-for-17, including two from 50 and out.
--WR Charles Rogers is the Lions' most dangerous big-play threat and he's going to miss his fourth consecutive game with a broken collarbone. With Rogers out, the Lions downfield passing game has gone into hibernation with only one completion for more than 19 yards in the past three games.
--WR Scotty Anderson leads the Lions receivers with an average of 16.1 yards per reception. The problem is that he has only 10 receptions for the season and the Lions passing game seems to be growing shorter and shorter without rookie WR Charles Rogers to stretch the field.
--QB Joey Harrington has increased his completion percentage to 52.8 but not all of the passing numbers are going his way. His 5.01-yards per attempt average is the lowest among NFL starting QBs, he has thrown 13 interceptions to just five touchdowns since the season opener against Arizona and his passer rating is 58.0, the lowest among the current NFL starters.
--DE James Hall has taken over the team lead with 4 1/2 sacks in the Lions first eight games of the season. Although he does not have great quickness or speed, Hall has worked hard and the results are paying off. His best sack total in his first three seasons was 3 1/2.
--CBs Doug Evans and Jacoby Shepherd played well with less than a week of practice after being signed to fill in for injured CBs Dre' Bly and Jimmy Wyrick. There is a good chance Bly will miss the Chicago game also, so the Lions will need help from the newcomers again. DE Robert Porcher (hip) sat out the Oakland win but the defensive line functioned well without him.