Lions in the spoiler role against Atlanta Falcons
Kickoff at 8:30pm from Ford Field Saturday, Dec. 22
The Detroit Lions may have finally hit rock bottom for 2012.
Sunday’s 38-10 loss to the woeful Arizona Cardinals was Detroit’s sixth in a row, and at this point, the goal is simply to salvage some pride in a spoiler role against Atlanta and Chicago, and possibly set a better tone for the offseason.
The Lions host the Falcons on Saturday night.
“You have something to prove every week regardless of winning streak, losing streak, what happened the previous week,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “This is a week-to-week business. The people that keep their eyes on that, that are consistent from week to week, are the people that are successful in this league.”
Detroit made the playoffs last season, but at 4-10, there’s no chance of a repeat visit.
In fact, the Lions may end up with premium position in the first round of the draft — a spot they occupied for several years but figured they’d left behind.
Detroit took Calvin Johnson with the second pick in 2007, Matthew Stafford at No. 1 two years later and Ndamukong Suh at No. 2 in 2010.
That looked like the nucleus of a rising power in the NFC, especially after the Lions won 10 games a year ago and made the playoffs for the first time since the 1999 season.
But now they’ve taken a step back, and it’s fair to wonder what the offseason could look like. Detroit has certainly been unlucky, losing late leads against Green Bay, Houston and Indianapolis, but there were no real redeeming factors last weekend.
Arizona had dropped nine straight and was coming off a 58-0 loss to Seattle — and still, the Cardinals handled the Lions.
Now it’s Detroit’s turn to reflect after an embarrassing defeat.
“People are competitive, people have pride. People have confidence in themselves,” Stafford said. “I think that’s what helps people bounce back from stuff like this.”
The only hint of a bright spot right now is Johnson’s pursuit of Jerry Rice’s single-season record for yards receiving. Johnson needs 182 yards to break Rice’s mark of 1,848, set 17 years ago.
“I’m trying to win games, and he’s a big part of our offense,” Stafford said. “Him getting yards and touchdowns is what we’re trying to do.”
Johnson, however, is the only offensive player having a truly great season. Stafford has thrown for 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, after posting 41 and 16 a season ago.
The receiving group — besides Johnson — has been a bit of a mess because of injuries to Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles. Second-year receiver Titus Young was essentially put in exile a few weeks ago, with Schwartz citing behavioral problems.
“Obviously, actions are louder than words right now. It’s part of being a professional — seeing how people prepare this week,” Stafford said. “Honestly, I have no qualms about it. I know our guys are going to be preparing has hard as they can.”
Suh has 6½ sacks, but the defense has been far from dominant, especially late in games when the Lions have failed to hold on.
With Detroit bottoming out and facing the possibility of a 4-12 finish, about the only way to leave any kind of positive impression would be to pull off an upset in one or both of these final two games.
Atlanta (12-2) is on its way to the playoffs, while Chicago (8-6) still has a berth to play for. The Lions have played other teams of that caliber tough this season.
“You always want to have something positive going into the next season,” Suh said. “We’re going to definitely see Chicago twice next year. We’re going to see, possibly, Atlanta, hopefully next year in the playoffs or some situation like that. You want to play as best as possible and get used to these teams.”