The Detroit Lions have been bad for so long that learning how to win is part of the narrative for Dan Campbell's club.
The Lions, who literally have never won the NFC North (their last division title came in 1993 when it was the NFC Central), took over the division reins with Thursday night's 34-20 win over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
The fashion of the latest victory -- dismantling the Packers in the first half -- will help Campbell wash away the "Same Ol' Lions" motif that has followed the club for decades.
"We have our own standards, our own goals of what we want to do and certainly one of those is winning the division," Campbell said after the game. "You have to win your division games, and if you can get them on the road that goes a long way. So we knew that and this is important. It's not the end all be all, but it is important. So to be able to get a division win, it is also a conference win, that's two wins in a row. Puts us 3-1 at the quarter. I am really, really happy with where we are at. I'm proud of the guys, the staff, everybody. I mean that was outstanding. You know, to be able to snap back on a short week with that type of performance was really good."
In their first two seasons under Campbell, the Lions came out of the gate with a limp. In 2021, they started 0-10-1 before getting their first victory. In 2022, they started 1-6 before finishing with a flourish -- including beating the Packers in Green Bay to close the season.
The strong finish last season brought offseason optimism to Detroit that the Lions could be the division front-runner.
So far, the expectations haven't gotten the best of Campbell's crew. If not for a Jared Goff pick-six in Week 2, we could be talking about an undefeated club.
Goff's been a steady force for the Lions behind a good offensive line, making key throws on third downs and getting Detroit into the right plays to keep the offense rolling. The QB noted this Lions club is comfortable with the weight of expectations. They showed it Thursday night.
"It feels great. I feel very comfortable with it," he said. "We felt like we really dominated the whole game. Well, maybe take out 10 minutes of the (second half). Other than that, we really dominated the whole game. It's what we expect to do. We have a good team and we have a good offense, good defense, good special teams, good skilled players and a good line on both sides. We should do that at times when things are clicking like they were in the second quarter. It's something we're comfortable with and we know who we are. We've got to keep doing it. It's hard. Every week is going to be hard, next week is going to be hard, so we've got to keep going."
Fun fact, via NFL Research: The Lions are the sixth team in NFL history to win two road prime-time games in September. Two of the previous five teams to do so won the Super Bowl (three made the Super Bowl). Others: 2015 Broncos (won Super Bowl 50), 2014 Bears, 2009 Colts (lost Super Bowl XLIV), 1995 Cowboys (won Super Bowl XXX), 1995 Packers.
These aren't your grandfather's Lions.
But Goff knows a lot of work must be done in a long season.
"It's four games in. We're 3-1, we're leading the division, and we feel good," he said. "But at some point in the season we're going to hit some real adversity. It happens to every team. Knowing when that moment happens, grabbing it and pushing through it will be our true test. That'll come at some point and hopefully it's not too bad, but we're going to have to work through something at some point. That's how we'll know what we're made of. I know what we're made of, but we're going to have to prove it."
At least one person thinks the NFC North runs through Detroit: Packers QB Jordan Love.
When asked if he thinks Detroit is the team to beat, Love responded in the only manner he could after Thursday's shellacking.
"Yeah. For sure," he said. "Credit to them. They played really good tonight. I think it was us and them going into this game, but obviously we haven't played the Vikings yet, but every time we play a North opponent it's a huge game going forward to the end of the year. It's a game we'll be looking forward to next time we play them. We've just got to go and be better and go win."
The Lions and Packers will conduct their 2023 rematch on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit.