Inside a changed first week for the Detroit Lions under interim coach Darrell Bevell

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Darrell Bevell’s energy was infectious. From his first meeting with his players all the way to the postgame locker room, the interim Detroit Lions head coach’s inaugural week gave his charges something different.

It was clear the way players reacted; how they bounced around during practice. It was evident how they spoke, the excitement coming from the new head coach.

The Lions embraced the thoughts from their eager new leader and it permeated throughout Detroit’s improbable come-from-behind 34-30 win over Chicago on Sunday. From the moment he replaced the fired Matt Patricia on Saturday, Bevell told his players to play with their “hair on fire” and they did. Cliché, sure, but it worked.

“I wish you could be in this locker room right now, I think that would answer your question,” Bevell said Sunday night. “It’s a-buzzing in there. I think definitely those guys really, truly believed in themselves all the way.”

Bevell made it clear he was going to be different, be himself. When he took over on Nov. 28, he told them he knew the season had not been going well -- he’d lived it with them -- but they had five games to play. He was pumped to lead them.

Two days later, again over Zoom, he reiterated it.

“I expect them to bring their energy, to bring a new, refreshed attitude when they walk in the building on Wednesday,” Bevell said Monday. “They’re going to get a new perspective, ready to go.”

He’d been waiting years -- over a decade -- for this opportunity. He chased it even when he was out of coaching for a year after losing his offensive coordinator job in Seattle after the 2017 season.

Bevell doesn’t know if another chance will come. If this will be his one opportunity to reach a lifelong goal. He’s going to be himself, not waste it on being something or someone inauthentic.

He spoke to the team leaders prior to Wednesday. Answered any questions they might have about changes to practices or meetings so they could disseminate them to teammates.

“There was uncertainty,” offensive tackle Taylor Decker said. “Guys had questions about this, that, whatever it may be, and just to be able to come in on Wednesday and have an idea of how it’s going to go.”

Most of Detroit’s players arrived after Patricia in 2018. Just three -- kicker Matt Prater, long-snapper Don Muhlbach and quarterback Matthew Stafford -- played for the Lions in 2015, the last time Detroit had major mid-season shuffling.

Bevell had to hit things right in order for Detroit to try and flip the 4-7 season and 13-29-1 legacy Patricia left them.

When Wednesday arrived, and Bevell hammered home in person his message from Zoom calls. The Lions “still had a lot to play for, still have five games left.”

Bevell altered meeting times and adjusted practice scripts, including moving a fuller special teams period to the start of Wednesday’s practice and a longer individual work period. He told offensive linemen they only had to wear knee braces on days when they wore full pads.

It might seem like small things, but the joy in Decker’s voice when he said Wednesday “tomorrow, I’m not wearing them things,” made it clear.

Bevell fostered an altered type of competition at every position group -- for instance, more one-on-one matchups for offensive and defensive linemen and different work in team drills.

“It’s always good to have competition out there on the field,” cornerback Justin Coleman said. “It’s good energy between each other and definitely we all get better. We’re just looking to have fun and enjoy our time out there.

“No matter what’s our situation, we are just going to continue fighting.”

Bevell wanted to re-institute fun to the Lions, which the club lacked at times on-and-off the field during Patricia’s tenure. Bevell brought back something -- a small thing -- missing for a while, a thing multiple players brought up immediately when discussing changes.

“Music. All day in practice,” receiver Danny Amendola said. “Loudly.”

Bevell preached pace. Before, he had said it to the offense. Now, it became a team-wide message. Pace, Decker said, can be an offensive weapon. If the defense plays with pace, it neutralizes an opposing offense’s advantage.

The new role was an adjustment for Bevell. He crashed earlier than he wanted to Wednesday -- at one point during a meeting with an assistant he excused himself to walk around and refocus -- but woke up Thursday morning pumped up because “I get to do it again.”

That carried all the way through the game, where Bevell is now 1-0. Along the way, he thanked everyone from the media relations staff to support staff, his players and coaches. He told his team at halftime to keep playing hard, even down 10. He had to adjust to the head coach headset, having different lines to talk with coordinators and other staffers.

This was his opportunity. He knew it. One week in, Bevell wanted to embrace it best he could. In the final seconds of the win, coaches and players came up to Bevell, slapping him on the back, congratulating him. Stafford gave him a game ball. Even after it was all done, it still hadn’t truly sunk in.

“Amazing,” Bevell said. “I mean, amazing. Amazing week.”