Slumping Lions In Search Of Answers

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -- Cory Redding walked off the practice field, sat in a chair and grabbed a USA Today from his locker.
Perhaps surprisingly, the defensive tackle was reading the money section, not the sports one to check out where the Detroit Lions were in the NFL standings.
"I don't keep tabs on other teams," Redding insisted Monday. "If we keep winning, we'll be all right."
If the Lions don't, the season will register as a disappointment after raising hopes with a strong and surprising start.
Detroit (6-5) has dropped three straight games to go from being in good shape to making the postseason for the first time since 1999 to shaky positioning.
If the playoffs started today, the Lions would be in as a wild-card team. But they don't -- and brutal closing stretch might knock them out of the postseason picture.
The Lions play at Minnesota (5-6), then alternate home and road games the rest of the way against Dallas, San Diego, Kansas City and Green Bay.
Detroit's final five opponents are 35-20, tying Carolina for the toughest remaining schedule in the NFC entering Monday's game.
"Our chances are running out around here," center Dominic Raiola said. "If we lose this one, we have to win four straight."
After losing to the Packers on Thanksgiving, Detroit was fortunate to have some games go its way Sunday. NFC wild-card contenders New York, Washington, Arizona and Philadelphia -- four teams that have beaten the Lions -- all lost.
Other teams such as the Vikings, however, won and joined a group of six NFC teams with 5-6 records to get into the playoff contention.
"We've hit three bumps in the road and after all the smoke cleared, we're still in the playoff race and in a good position," Raiola said. "Everything that needed to happen yesterday happened.
"Everything is still right in front of us, but we need to find a way to win."
The Lions found a way to lose at Arizona and against the Giants and Packers at home after making just enough plays in the fourth quarters of games to match the most wins they've had in seven seasons under Matt Millen.
If Detroit doesn't turn things around, it will be on the wrong end of a trend.
In the Super Bowl era, 76 percent of the 146 teams that won six of their first eight games earned a postseason bid. Since 2002, six teams that began 6-2 failed to make the playoffs, including Denver last season.
Coach Rod Marinelli said the team's recent struggles are not tied to the fact that much is at stake for players not used to playing for more than pride at this point of the season.
"There's no pressure if you play one snap at a time. It eliminates everything," Marinelli said. "I've got to do a better job of teaching. Good play, bad play, let it go and then reload.
"Under pressure, that's something you can grasp. That's a tool. You use your tool no matter where the environment is at."
Quarterback Jon Kitna said he would be disappointed if the Lions didn't win 10 games before the season. With five games left to play, they need to win four of five games to reach that total.
"This is why we play and what we talked about in the offseason, having a chance to make the playoffs," Kitna said. "Coach shows us every week where we're at. It's all there for us.
"Again, it's about getting to 10 wins because 10 gets you in. We've made it tougher by giving away some games, but we're still in it."

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