Plenty Of Close Calls For Lions, Too

If Sunday’s game between the Packers and the Lions comes down to the final couple of minutes, something’s gonna have to give. As the Packers and their fans well know, they’ve lost seven games this season by four points or less, including the last four in a row. Meanwhile the Lions have been not only competitive but close in far more games than their 0-15 record would suggest. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Dec. 25


If Sunday's game between the Packers and the Lions comes down to the final couple of minutes, something's gonna have to give.

As the Packers and their fans well know, they've lost seven games this season by four points or less, including the last four in a row. Meanwhile the Lions have been not only competitive but close in far more games than their 0-15 record would suggest.

They've lost five times by a touchdown or less this season, including a string of four straight from Weeks 6-9. They've also had second-half leads more often than expected for a winless team.

They have suffered through their share of blowouts, too, including last week in their home finale, a 42-7 loss to New Orleans. But there's no mistaking that many times this season, the Lions have been as close to getting that first win as the Packers have been to breaking their current five-game losing streak.

"It's a crazy game," Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, describing the disbelief behind his own team's 5-10 mark after a 5-5 start. "Every season you see different things happen that surprise you.

"They've been close in a lot of games, been ahead in the fourth quarter. They just haven't finished it out, kind of like us."

Detroit's woes in the so-called close games actually began against Green Bay in Week 2. Playing their home opener at Ford Field, the Lions fell behind the Packers 21-0 early but rallied to take a 25-24 lead in the fourth quarter before a Green Bay field goal and three straight interceptions - two returned for touchdowns - created a lopsided 48-25 final score that was not indicative of the competitive nature of the contest.

From there, it's been a litany of good fights, close calls, and missed opportunities for the Lions. Here's a rundown:

--Week 6 at Minnesota - The Lions led 10-9 in the fourth quarter and were not able to get a controversial fumble in Vikings territory by receiver Calvin Johnson overturned by instant replay. Then a questionable 42-yard pass interference penalty on Minnesota's final drive set up the Vikings' game-winning field goal with 9 seconds left. Final, 12-10.

--Week 7 at Houston - Down 28-10 in the fourth quarter, the Lions rallied to get within a touchdown. They came inches from stopping Texans running back Ahman Green on third-and-1 with 2:40 left, but Houston maintained possession. Final, 28-21.

--Week 8 vs. Washington - A 10-9 lead late in the third quarter was turned around by one player, the Redskins' Santana Moss, who scores on a 50-yard pass and an 80-yard punt return. Final, 25-17.

--Week 9 at Chicago - A 23-point explosion in the second quarter gave the Lions a 23-13 halftime lead. They still led 23-20 midway through the fourth quarter before Chicago's backup quarterback, Rex Grossman, leads a TD drive. Then the Lions fumbled away a possession at midfield and saw their final possession end at the Chicago 32-yard line. Final, 27-23.

--Week 11 at Carolina - An early 10-0 lead was squandered, but the Lions battled back in the second half and had a 2-point conversion attempt to tie the score at 24 with 6 minutes left. It failed. Final, 31-22.

--Week 12 vs. Tampa Bay - Again an early advantage, this time 17-0 after one quarter, didn't hold up. Final, 38-20.

--Week 14 vs. Minnesota - The Lions led 6-0 late in the first half and 13-10 early in the fourth quarter. Then, trailing 17-16 late, Detroit couldn't recover Minnesota's fumbled snap with 3 minutes left. Final, 20-16.

--Week 15 at Indianapolis - Facing the hottest team in football, the Lions mounted a comeback from 21-10 halftime deficit to tie the score at 21 early in the fourth quarter. But the hot Colts stayed hot, and the cold Lions stayed cold. Final, 31-21.

For the Packers' purposes, it's worth noting that four of the nine games detailed above, including the first meeting with Green Bay in Week 2, were NFC North contests. Whether there's any rhyme or reason to that, Lions veteran kicker Jason Hanson couldn't say during a conference call with Wisconsin reporters this week.

"I'm not sure why that comes out, that some of our tightest games been against division opponents," Hanson said. "But this last quarter of the season, I don't know if anybody is worried about the division or rivalries. It's been about just trying to get a win, and it will be the same this week."

Interestingly, Hanson said the toughest losses for the Lions this season haven't necessarily been the close ones. He actually pointed to the Thanksgiving contest against, at the time, once-beaten Tennessee, because the team was on national television and determined to prove it hadn't played as poorly as its record suggested.

That motivational ploy seemingly backfired, as the Lions fell behind 35-3 late in the first half on their way to a 47-10 loss.

"We were thinking, OK, let's show people. Let's get in there and fight, let's try to get a win and show what we've made of. And we played really bad," Hanson said. "I think after that game everybody was a little upset, shocked, and you felt a little bit of air go out.

"Those games with big moments when we didn't show up, everybody knew it was a big mistake and all we did was just fuel the fire nationally for the 'No respect of the Lions' and dug ourselves deeper. That was disappointing."

Still, Hanson said the Lions' locker room has not been as divided or contentious this season as in more successful seasons in the past. The players individually are aware of their responsibility for the team's struggles but collectively determined to be professional about their jobs and see if they can't change it before it's too late.

The message from Detroit this week is it may be a winless team coming to Green Bay this week, but it's still a team. And one that knows all about down-to-the-wire defeats, just like the Packers do.

"My thing has been we have to carry ourselves with great dignity, great respect," Lions head coach Rod Marinelli said during his conference call. "Now if we didn't try our best, didn't work, didn't prepare and we weren't hanging together, then there would be no dignity. But when you're trying your best and doing those things correctly, there's great dignity."

{sportsad300}Injury update:Defensive tackle Justin Harrell continued to have problems with his hip and back after fully participating in Wednesday's practice, and he has been ruled out for Sunday's game.

Harrell last played in Week 14 against Houston. Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Thursday he's simply not making any progress in getting past the injuries at this point.

"It's probably pretty consistent just the way it's gone the last few weeks," McCarthy said. "He goes through the treatment, he's feeling like he's making progress, and then I think once he gets to the team stuff and the drill work it still bothers him. I know he's frustrated with it."

Meanwhile receivers Donald Driver (knee) and Greg Jennings (concussion) were both upgraded to full participation on Thursday, as was cornerback Al Harris (illness). Both Driver and Harris had missed practice entirely on Wednesday.

The rest of the Packers' injury report remained the same, with tackle Chad Clifton (knees), fullback Korey Hall (knee), linebacker Spencer Havner (ankle), defensive tackle Johnny Jolly (ankle) and safety Aaron Rouse (ankle) participating fully for the second straight day.

Running back Brandon Jackson (wrist), cornerback Joe Porter (concussion), guard Jason Spitz (knee) and cornerback Charles Woodson (toe) remained limited in practice. Offensive tackle Breno Giacomini (ankle) is out for the second straight week.

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