Rod Marinelli has been working on the Lions having the physical and mental stamina needed to flourish in the fourth quarter. He has the team in tremendous shape, and he has them mentally tough enough to weather the ups and downs of an NFL game.
Why are the Lions 3-1 heading into Sunday's game at Washington? Simple. They are finishing games better.
Look at the end of last season. The Lions had an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter at New England, blew it, and lost. They faced a one-point deficit in the fourth quarter at Green Bay, couldn't overcome it, and lost. They lost to Chicago when Mike Williams couldn't hold onto the ball in the end zone on the final play.
But finally, in their finale, the Lions broke through at Dallas. They blew a lead in the fourth quarter, but they came back, fought to the final play and won.
Now look at the beginning of this season. In all of their victories, the Lions blew a second-half lead. In two of them, they trailed in the fourth quarter. In the other, the score was tied in throughout the fourth and the game went to overtime.
"We're starting to understand and believe that if we just keep playing, something good is going to happen for us," coach Rod Marinelli said. "Something good is going to happen."
Marinelli has been working on the Lions having the physical and mental stamina needed to flourish in the fourth quarter. He has the team in tremendous shape, and he has them mentally tough enough to weather the ups and downs of an NFL game.
During training camp, the coaches would spring two-minute drills on the players toward the end of practice, when the players were gassed.
"You've got to execute when you're tired," Marinelli said. "The last two minutes, it's not about talent. It's about toughness. It's guys wanting to do their jobs. It's about trusting the system, believing in each other. It's about team -- just team, team, team."
QB Jon Kitna took a hit on a missed handoff Sunday and hobbled around on a sore thigh, but he said he felt much better than expected Monday and he was fine.
RB Kevin Jones went from three carries in his first game to 10 carries in his second since returning from a serious foot injury, and he has scored a touchdown in each game. He likely will carry even more of the load Sunday at Washington.
TE Sean McHugh continues to play well in the absence of Dan Campbell, who is on injured reserve with an elbow problem. Coach Rod Marinelli said McHugh graded out very well. When there is a chance to make a play, McHugh makes it.
WR Calvin Johnson warmed up Sunday and was close to playing against the Bears, but his bruised lower back kept him out. Marinelli said he was optimistic Johnson would play Sunday at Washington, but he could not say for certain.
WR Roy Williams continues to post big numbers, but he also continues to make mistakes. He caught a ball and ran back out of a first down, and he also fumbled a ball that went out of bounds.
DE Kalimba Edwards was close to playing against the Bears but sat out with an ankle injury. He didn't practice last week, but he is expected to get in some work this week and possibly return at Washington.
DE Jared DeVries had a career-high three sacks Sunday, all in the closing moments of the victory over the Bears.
CB Keith Smith, who returned an interception 64 yards for a score, has an ankle injury and his status is uncertain.
RB T.J. Duckett has missed three games with a high ankle sprain. But if he is ready to play at Washington, there is no guarantee he will be active. Duckett was expected to be a short-yardage, goal-line back, and Jones is handling that role now.
CB Fernando Bryant's interception Sunday was his first as a Lion and his first in the NFL since 2003, when he was with Jacksonville.