A member of the Lions' staff hugs coach Rod Marinelli during the final minutes of Detroit's game with the Broncos.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. - Rod Marinelli felt his Detroit Lions earned a reward after clobbering the Denver Broncos.
So he let them have a day away from him.
For the first time in his two seasons as head coach, Marinelli gave his team a "victory Monday," meaning his players could get two days away from football before reporting back for practice tomorrow.
"I felt it was pretty important for them to get away from me for a couple days," he said yesterday, a day after Detroit improved to 6-2 by beating Denver 44-7.
"I'm repeating the same message to them day after day, and they earned the right to not have to listen to it until Wednesday. I have the tendency to put a lot of pressure on them, and they've played so hard, and that's a tough grind."
Marinelli's mantra, both to the media and his team, is "play the next snap." So even though the team with the NFL's worst record since 2001 has become a playoff contender, he doesn't feel that he needs to change things much.
"My message is going to be simple and put in a manner that is able to easily be understood," Marinelli said. "I'm going to keep saying the same thing, because I believe it, and I want them to believe it."
On Sunday, the Lions scored a pair of defensive touchdowns and had a third overturned by a replay challenge - a perfect execution of Marinelli's beloved Tampa Two scheme. Since coming to Detroit from Tampa Bay before the 2006 season, Marinelli has preached a bend-but-don't-break defense that relies on a stout defensive line and the ability to capitalize on offensive miscues.
The touchdowns against Denver - a fumble return by defensive end Dewayne White and a 66-yard interception return by 350-pound defensive tackle Shaun Rogers - came right out of Marinelli's playbook.
"Takeaways are a key, but the important thing is that we are scoring after getting them," he said. "That's a team thing - the defense scored a couple and so did the offense. We're doing what we are supposed to do."
By the end of Sunday's rout, Detroit's most lopsided win in 12 years, the Lions players were laughing and joking. Surprisingly for a no-nonsense coach like Marinelli, that was just what we wanted to see.
"What I tell these men is that Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday are all about preparation," he said. "The test comes on Sunday, and if you are prepared, it should be fun. If you aren't prepared, you won't know the answers and it won't go well, but if you are ready, it's good."
Against the Broncos (3-5), it went well enough to give the players a rare day off. Detroit travels to Arizona to play the Cardinals (3-5) this Sunday.
"It's a great feeling - we have a 'Victory Monday,'•" wide receiver Roy Williams said. "It's my first one in four years. My fourth year, I've never had a 'See you Wednesday.' So I'm very excited.
"Monday off. I'm going home. I'm going to go home for my 30 hours and get back on the plane."
NOTES: Marinelli said many players showed up at the Lions complex on their own yesterday. "The better a team gets, the more they understand how important details can be, so they start staying longer and longer," he said. ... OT Jonathan Scott (hand) and White (arm) were undergoing tests Monday. White was injured on his touchdown return, but said after the game he didn't think the injury was serious.