A day after their first win of the season, the change in the mood of the previously winless Detroit Lions was evident.
In one corner of the locker room, linebacker Marquis Flowers and running back LeGarrette Blount engaged in a heated debate over whether Kobe Bryant or LeBron James was the greater basketball player.
“Just coming in today, it was a little bit different,” Lions wide receiver Golden Tate said. “It’s kind of a sigh of relief.”
Winning has a way of lifting the tension. Especially considering the quality of the opponent that the Lions beat.
Sunday’s decisive 26-10 victory over the New England Patriots was fashioned by a smothering performance from the Lions defense.
The Lions held the Patriots to 209 yards, the fewest they’ve allowed since holding the New York Giants to 197 yards on Sept. 8, 2014.
“To finally get our first win, against a team like that, that’s a yearly contender for the Super Bowl, it’s a pretty big deal,” Tate said.
It was only the third time since 2007 that the Patriots produced fewer than 210 yards.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who led the NFL with 4,577 yards passing last season, was limited to 133 yards.
“That is amazing,” Lions cornerback Darius Slay said. “That is really amazing.”
In the first quarter, Detroit held a 126-5 edge in yards and a 12:30-2:30 advantage in time of possession. The first three drives of the game saw Detroit outgain the Patriots 196-13 and hold a 14-0 edge in first downs. The Lions outgained the Patriots 231-70 in the first half.
“We couldn’t execute anything,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
Lions running back Kerryon Johnson, who finished with 16 carries for 101 yards and became the first Lions running back to record a 100-yard rushing game since Reggie Bush against Green Bay on Nov. 28, 2013, felt the defensive performance was what keyed the win.
“I think the defense was a lot more impressive than we were,” Johnson said. “They had to shut down Tom Brady.”
Slay preferred to view their success story as a team effort.
“This was really all about the offense controlling the ball and keeping us rested,” Slay said. “The best game plan against Tom Brady is keeping him off the field, and the offense kept putting up long drives.”
The Lions also handed much of the credit to coach Matt Patricia, the former Patriots defensive coordinator who earned his first win as an NFL head coach.
“He made everything smooth this week,” Slay said. “He knows everything about that team and he made sure we knew it as well.”
Patricia wasn’t about to take the pat on the back without returning it to his players.
“A week ago, the story was completely different as I stood here,” Patricia said. “It was a good collective team effort. I think everybody that had a significant role, I thought they did a good job.”
Improving to 1-2 on the season while handing the defending AFC champion Patriots (1-2) their second straight loss, the Lions said it won’t matter if they don’t carry the momentum into Sunday’s game at Dallas against the Cowboys.
“Now that we have this win, it means nothing if we don’t come back this week and have a great week of practice and go out there and handle business on the road against another good opponent,” Tate said.
“We’re happy we got that first win, but now we’ve got to put that game to bed. Now we’ve got to prepare like we did last week for the Dallas Cowboys on the road. Try to hit restart and go do it again.”
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