- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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LANDOVER, Md. -- The Detroit Lions knew their history here, even if the team says it didn’t talk about it or didn’t want to admit to it. The Lions knew they had never won in Washington, D.C.
They knew that if this season was going to be unlike all of the others in the team’s history, so many seasons that ended in losing records and no playoff appearances, a win on Sunday would be a massive push to eliminating that talk.
Detroit coach Jim Schwartz tossed his headset after the Lions beat the Washington Redskins, 27-20, something the franchise he coaches had never done before. All day, there seemed to be a little more emotion in spurts, why this became kind of a big deal for the Lions.
For the first time in a long time, Detroit can say it did something it has legitimately never done before.
“That was a tough, hard-fought game. Of course we’re going to be excited for it,” Schwartz said. “But we didn’t carry a banner here that said, ‘Remember that we never won in Washington.’
“We don’t dwell in the past.”
Dwelling in the past, though, is something the Detroit Lions have always seemed to do. To the days of Barry Sanders and having the most electrifying player in football and one of the best running backs of all time.
Dwelling in the past is what happens in Detroit, when streaks of road losses to some teams that span decades -- or in Washington’s case, forever prior to Sunday -- are somewhat commonplace.
And dwelling in the past is both a trademark of the Lions and something they want to avoid, depending on who you ask. Ask a fan? It’s a big deal. Ask a coach? Not as much, at least publicly. Same with the players, because the majority of them haven’t been around for all of the historic losing.
And yes, this is one game against a still-winless Washington team, but it is the symbolism that is important here. The slow chipping away at a past full of mediocrity.
“Fortunately and unfortunately when you play for the Lions, you’ve got to be a part of exorcising a lot of demons,” receiver Nate Burleson said. “And I’m OK with that. I’m doing it. I’m fine with the storylines behind every single game.
“A lot of people look at it as something we don’t need to embrace, but that’s what it is. Football is the biggest soap opera in sports. As long as we keep playing the way we’re playing, I’m good. We’re hitting the reset button on certain streaks that we don’t need to hold on to anymore.”
That’s the key. Anymore.
If Detroit is going to follow up stopping one streak with a successful season, with finishing with a winning record for only the second time this century, the Lions will need to use this as a springboard.
Next week is Chicago, and the Bears have won three straight games in the series. Then is the trip to Green Bay, and the Lions have not beaten the Packers the past 22 times they’ve played them in the state.
So yes, this is one day, one game, one streak vanquished. But if Burleson and the Lions are serious about doing what they want to do, of winning and reversing the long path this franchise has followed, beating Washington in Washington was a start.
“It’s more so for fans than it is us,” Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “Honestly, we didn’t talk about it one time. I didn’t know it until you guys said it.
“But it does feel nice to be on the team, be a part of that team that broke that streak, and hopefully we can start a new streak of our own winning up here.”