NOAH TRISTER, AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions returned from their latest road trip with a bit more legitimacy.
Not only did they win at Washington for the first time in franchise history, but they also set up an early showdown with unbeaten Chicago next weekend in the Motor City. Not that coach Jim Schwartz is all that concerned about standings or marquee matchups at this time of year.
“The urgency is there for everybody to improve and to get the next win,” Schwartz said Monday. “I’m certainly not downplaying the importance of any game, but we treat them all with respect and we want to win every single one.”
Still, the Lions (2-1) are one of only five teams in the NFC with a winning record, which is a step in the right direction for a team that lost eight games in a row to end last season. Detroit’s 27-20 win Sunday came without running back Reggie Bush, whose knee problems kept him sidelined. Joique Bell filled in impressively, rushing for 63 yards and catching four passes for 69.
And the receivers did their part against a beleaguered Washington defense that managed a sack on the first play from scrimmage but otherwise had a hard time stopping quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Lions.
“They blitzed an awful lot. They crowded the middle of the field. I thought Matt played an outstanding game,” Schwartz said. “We were 8.8 yards per pass play. That’s very, very high.”
Schwartz credited the offensive line for giving Stafford time to find Calvin Johnson (seven catches for 115 yards) and Nate Burleson (six for 116). Stafford had an interception returned for a touchdown early in the first quarter, but by halftime, the Lions had taken a lead they would never relinquish.
They snapped their run of futility at Washington with the help of a replay decision that was deliciously ironic for Detroit fans. The Lions stayed ahead when Aldrick Robinson’s 57-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter was negated because he didn’t maintain complete control of the ball after falling to the ground in the end zone.
That’s a ruling that’s probably most famous for costing Johnson an important touchdown in a game a few years ago. This time it benefited Detroit.
Not all the news was good, of course. Bush could return soon, but Schwartz was non-committal, and defensive end Jason Jones was lost for the season with a left knee injury in the second quarter.
“I can’t say enough,” defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. “It’s going to be a tough loss.”
Jones signed with the Lions as a free agent in March, and Detroit was counting on him after the team parted ways with Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch in the offseason. Now the pressure will be on players like Willie Young and Devin Taylor to fill in.
The Lions put Jones on injured reserve Monday and signed defensive tackle Andre Fluellen.
Meanwhile, rookie Ziggy Ansah continues to show promise at defensive end. He had two sacks at Washington.
“I find ourselves very similar in the way we came into the game of football,” Suh said. “He started later than me, but not too much later than me. … He takes that coaching, soaks it up and runs with it.”
Although Schwartz was hesitant to place too much importance on this game against Chicago, it will certainly be interesting to see how the Lions measure up. The Bears swept Detroit in 2012, but both games were decided by single digits.
Chicago forced five turnovers in a 40-23 win at Pittsburgh on Sunday night, so the Lions can expect a much different challenge than the one they faced Sunday.
And even Schwartz is willing to concede that, yes, divisional games matter a little more than others.
“I talk about NFC games because when you do get to the end of the year, that’s one of the tiebreakers,” Schwartz said. “NFC North games mean an awful lot because No. 1, it’s a chance for you to win the game, but No. 2, it’s a chance to put a loss on one of your opponents without having somebody else have to help you do it. They’re certainly important. I’m not up here to tell you it’s not.”
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