Haden: 'Oh my goodness, it feels good'

Five times the Lions got into the red zone on Sunday night, so close to the end zone, they could smell it.

And five times the Steelers responded, slamming the door shut on them.

"Oh my goodness, it feels so good when you do that," said Joe Haden, smiling as he sat at his locker on Monday afternoon.

Three times the Lions had to settle for a field goal, and twice they turned the ball over on downs when they were stopped dead in their tracks on fourth down, including from the one-yard line.  

"It means a lot when you see the defense doing what they do, keeping guys out of the end zone," said Le'Veon Bell. "As an offense you want to go out there and put it on for the defense. The defense held us in the game, we knew we had to make some plays because those guys were playing so good.

"I hope we get better offensively because if the defense gets better it's going to be a scary sight."

Remember, this is a defense that came into the game tied for 26th in the NFL in red zone defense, giving up touchdowns in 10 of 16 trips down there. Nothing to brag about.

Against the Lions, they had plenty to brag about when it came to the red zone defense, with three of their five field goals all that they could get despite coming oh so close numerous times.

"One thing we wanted to emphasize was making sure we did a better job in the red zone," said Ryan Shazier. "I feel like we did a really good job, forcing them to kick field goals, turning the ball over on downs. At the end of the day we did give up a lot of yards and that is one thing we want to slow down."

That desire came from within, but it also came from a challenge set by Coach Mike Tomlin. During the week leading up to the game he called out the defense, challenged them to do better in the red zone. And they responded.

"He definitely challenged the whole defense in meetings and personal talks with us about the red zone defense about how we have to play better," said Shazier. "We knew we were giving up too many touchdowns in the red zone. We just made sure we practiced it, emphasized what we have to do. Guys are executing better and it allowed us to make the plays we made."

Haden said when Tomlin addressed them last week, nobody backed down. They knew they could do live up to his expectations.

"With Coach Tomlin, we love it," said Haden. "He loves to challenge us and we take on his challenges because we know he believes in us. He wouldn't challenge us with stuff we couldn't do. We feel like we have a good defense that hasn't been as stout as it should be in the red zone, That was one thing we emphasized and worked our tail off in practice to make sure we were locked in."

Locked in they were. To a man, when it was on the line, they stepped up.

"Every time Coach Tomlin challenges us, we feel like we have to come out there and show him," said Artie Burns. "That is what transpired in the game. I have to give it up to the d-line and linebackers. They played real, real, real good in the red zone. They were stout against the run. That is what they try to do to us most of the time in the red zone. But they were stout and played really good there."

It almost became a trickle-down effect. Every time the defense stopped the Lions, the momentum swung in the Steelers favor.

"It's mentally draining for them, driving the ball down the field and getting in the red zone and not being able to punch it in," said Anthony Chickillo. "That happened five times. Any time you get a goal line stand or a fourth down stop, it's automatic momentum for the defense."

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