ALLEN PARK, Mich. — For the Detroit Lions, this is what passes for progress.
Amid yet another losing streak, the Lions are at least putting themselves in position to win this season. The most recent example of Detroit's newfound competitiveness came last weekend against Green Bay, when the Packers went without an offensive touchdown in the second half but still held off the Lions 28-26.
“Obviously, our record is 0-4, but I felt like we played good enough to be at least 3-1 at this point,” linebacker Julian Peterson said. “A loss is a loss. Obviously, you don't want to get blown out, but when you lose, it's always tough, no matter how you do it, either by fifty or one.”
After winning two games the last two seasons, there's a limit to the Lions' patience for moral victories, but for a franchise that's endured so much losing, keeping games close can be important for the team's mental state. Detroit has lost games by five, three and two points. Last season, none of the Lions' 14 losses were that close.
“That's an easier sell for those players when you're 0-4 and you've been right there in every single game,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “If we're 0-4 and we're getting blown out in every single game, or if we're at full strength and we still can't get over the hump, that's a harder sell.”
The Lions haven't been at full strength. Quarterback Matthew Stafford hurt his right shoulder in the opener, forcing Shaun Hill into action. Hill finally began connecting with receiver Calvin Johnson with some consistency last weekend, when Johnson caught six passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns.
Schwartz was again guarded Monday when talking about Stafford, the No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft. On Sunday, Detroit hosts the St. Louis Rams and quarterback Sam Bradford, this year's top pick.
Wide receiver Nate Burleson said he was able to run some routes Monday on his injured ankle, so he could be back soon to help the offense.
“Straight ahead, I was able to move pretty fast,” Burleson said. “Cutting side to side, it was sore, but that's as expected.”
Injuries aren't all that plagues the Lions, though. On Sunday, they committed 13 penalties for 102 yards and couldn't reach the end zone in the second half, even as the Packers gave them every opportunity.
“I could tell you how great we are, I could boost up my team and be the biggest cheerleader for the Detroit Lions. At the end of the day, we still haven't won a game,” Burleson said.