At 5-2 entering Sunday's game against Denver, the Lions feel they can play a lot better but are right where they need to be. They have been blown out twice, but they are 5-0 in games decided in the fourth quarter or overtime.
"That's the first step, in my opinion," quarterback Jon Kitna said. "I don't think you go from 3-13 to, 'OK, we're going to blow people out.' I just don't think that happens in this league. That's very rare.
"You kind of grind out some wins, and then you start to gain confidence, and then all of a sudden, you get those games that maybe you can get two or three times a year that go lopsided. And hopefully we'll start getting those."
The Lions went 3-13 last season. They started with five straight losses, and they suffered seven straight losses over another stretch. But Rod Marinelli, in his first season as coach, kept pounding the same message and stressing the same fundamentals day after day.
On one particular Monday after a loss, Kitna recalled with a smile, Marinelli came into the team meeting upbeat. He said he knew there were players in the room who were in the tank.
"(Bleep) your tank," he told them.
Marinelli and the players kept saying last year that they saw progress within games, even though they weren't getting results. Then, in the season finale at Dallas, the Lions fought to the final play and beat a playoff-bound team. They carried that feeling into the off-season.
Now they are seeing results on a regular basis.
"It's hard to be confident without results," Kitna said. "I think results produces confidence. You can be confident, but the doubt will creep in if the bad things keep happening. On the same token, if the good things keep happening, then you continue to have that confidence. 'You know what? We're going to be fine.'"
Lions coach Rod Marinelli said the last two weeks of practice had been outstanding, that the Lions had a "good look in our eye that I like." Those practices led to victories over Tampa Bay and Chicago.
"We've won two games," Kitna said. "I don't think we're going to call that a streak or on a roll or anything like that. But we're starting to gain more and more confidence each week -- confidence in what the coaches are teaching us, confidence in the scheme, confidence in each other and then confidence individually in how you're playing.
"Guys are seizing the opportunity right now of where we're at. You don't get a lot of opportunities in this league to do special things, and we have that chance, and that's what we've given ourselves by the way we've started the season.
"You're starting to see confidence come, you're starting to see a little bit of a swagger come out, and that's what you want in a football team."
Individual Player Notes