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Rob Parker: Detroit Lions lose again, season in peril

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DETROIT – It was do or die on Sunday night.

The Detroit Lions died.

Or at least, it appears, their season did.

The last thing the Lions wanted to do was start the 2015 season with three straight losses.

And even though the Lions looked terrible in the first two games of the season - both road losses - many thought the home opener, in front of a national TV audience, would be the perfect time and place for the things to turn around.

After all, the fans would be behind them. Plus, they knew their season was on the line. And, Peyton Manning isn't the same Peyton Manning anymore.

In the end, none of it mattered.

The Lions were the Lions - making mistakes, getting penalties and committing turnovers - and lost, 24-12, to the Denver Broncos before a crowd of 62,920 at Ford Field.

The Lions (0-3) will not only have to play against opponents the rest of the season, but against history as well.

In NFL history, only five teams have made the playoffs after starting the season 0-3.

"I'm surprised because of the players and how great we are, how great we look every day," Lions TE Eric Ebron said. "So I'm really surprised, but it's the NFL. A few mistakes can make you 3-0 or 0-3, so we are 0-3 because of the mistakes that we've been having and mental errors and things like that."

The big mistake came in the fourth quarter. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford fumbled on a first-and-10 at Denver's 44. It set up Denver's drive that resulted in a field goal and a 17-12 lead with 7:50 to go.

"Penalties hurt us," said Stafford, who threw for 282 yards, had a TD, a fumble and two interceptions.  "I had turnovers that hurt us."

So did his second pick on a third-and-12 on Denver's 48 with 3:37 left. Denver would cash that turnover into a touchdown to take a 24-14 lead with 2:28 to go.

"Another great play," Stafford said of David Bruton's pick. "The guy tipped it to himself about four times. I wish I could have thrown it six inches higher, maybe we have a catch for a first down."

Instead it was the beginning of the end.

It's another loss that stings.

Let's face it. The Lions had high hopes coming off an 11-5 season in coach Jim Caldwell's first year at the helm. The Lions had dreams of another double-digit win season and another trip to the playoffs.

"Disappointing loss for us, obviously, and the really disappointing part of it is the fact that they're a good football team," Caldwell said. "They have a lot of good players, they made some excellent plays, big plays and we didn't make enough."

Many thought Caldwell had also changed the losing culture and slowed the self-inflected mistakes. Nope. The Lions had nine penalties for 75 yards, most of them really hurt.

"We had nine, and a couple of them real crucial, and that's far too many," Caldwell said.

The Lions' margin of error is slim, Olive Oil-like. They just can't overcome misplays in big moments, especially from their quarterback. Stafford has been bad to start the season. He has as many interceptions (5) as touchdowns (5).

"I know I can play better," Stafford said. "I'll go with that. I have to play better."

If there's one silver lining in the hole the Lions have dug, it's that the 1995 Lions started 0-3 and make the postseason. But coach Wayne Fontes had star running back Barry Sanders. These Lions can't run the ball.

The Lions had just 28 rushing yards on 19 carries. RB Joique Bell had just six yards on 10 carries.

Another negative. The defense also gave up big plays. Manning was able to get the ball to receivers over the defense. Before the half, Denver WR Demaryius Thomas jumped over Lions' CB Darius Slay, grabbed the pass and completed a 45-yard TD, giving the Broncos a 14-6 lead at intermission.

"I was trying to create a turnover," slay said. "He just made a big play. He took it from me. He's an aggressive guy, big guy, strong hands."

The Lions' road to victory will be big and tough next week. They travel to Seattle for a Monday night tilt. Most expect the Lions to come home 0-4.

"We feel we're still a playoff contender," Lions CB Rashean Mathis said. "Regardless of what the percentages are or what the stats say, that hasn't changed. There's 13 games left in the season."

It appears to be a season to nowhere, though.