Lions Readying for Season Finale

By: AP
By: AP

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Remember the Green Bay Packers of old, masters of the tundra-churning power sweep, champions of the Ice Bowl?
Judging by last weekend, those days are long gone.
Going into Sunday's regular-season finale against Detroit at Lambeau Field, the new-look Packers (12-3) still need to prove that their young players and precision passing offense won't fold when the weather turns cold.
"We're the Green Bay Packers," coach Mike McCarthy said. "Everybody talks about coming to Lambeau in January, and do not want to play there. We're supposed to like that weather, and we did not look like we liked it very much this past Sunday."
After the Packers were thrown off by an extreme combination of cold and wind in a 35-7 loss at Chicago, McCarthy briefly considered teaching the team a lesson by making the starters play four quarters against the Lions (7-8).
McCarthy has since cooled off and now plans to rest players at some point on Sunday, balancing the need to regain momentum for the playoffs with avoiding injuries in an otherwise meaningless game.
But McCarthy still is not comfortable with the way his team responded to adversity against the Bears. And neither is Brett Favre, who struggled as much as anyone with last Sunday's weather and would just as soon play a full game against the Lions.
"I'd like to get us back on track, I'd like to get myself back on track," Favre said. "I know we have a break after that and we'll see what happens in the playoffs. But you only get to play so many games and to me, I love to play. I'd hate to go out and practice and study and then not play. I may be different than most guys, but I would much rather play. To me, it's fun."
Last week's loss handed home-field advantage to Dallas, but the Packers still are assured of a first-round bye and at least one playoff game at home. McCarthy said he'll make decisions on resting his starters based on how the team responds in practice and during the game.
"We're going to start the game and play to win just like we have every week," McCarthy said. "But at some point, and I don't know what point that will be, we'll probably try to take some players out."
Favre included?
"Yeah, Brett would be one of those players that would come out," McCarthy said.
Linebacker Nick Barnett said the Packers won't be taking Sunday off.
"Don't expect a letup," Barnett said. "I don't expect that, especially after last week. I expect to go out there and make up for the mistakes that we made, and go out and play hard."
The Lions have far less to play for, but coach Rod Marinelli said he doesn't expect his players to have their suitcases packed prematurely.
"I've seen it both ways," Marinelli said. "I've seen guys who've had 'em packed, and I've seen them display professional pride, that's going to earn a check, and get paid very well. I bring it to their attention, I make sure they know what I'm looking for and what I expect. We've had a solid season, we just have to go out and finish the season, finish what we started."
Once considered a legitimate playoff contender at 6-2, Detroit lost six straight before beating Kansas City last Sunday. Now the Lions are playing without two injured stars on offense, wide receiver Roy Williams and running back Kevin Jones.
"It's brutal, no question about it," Marinelli said. "Get off to a 6-2 start, but you learn you can't take anything for granted. Every week is tougher -- all of a sudden you're playing teams and instead of looking at the old Lions, they're looking at you and preparing for you differently, and you've got to match that intensity."
Left out of the playoffs, the Lions are turning to other sources of motivation.
For the defense, there's a chance to keep Packers running back Ryan Grant under 1,000 yards rushing -- a major goal for the Packers' offensive line.
Grant took over as the Packers' top running back in the seventh game of the season, and needs 101 yards on Sunday to hit 1,000 for the season.
"We're definitely going to make sure it doesn't happen," linebacker Ernie Sims said. "We feel like it's all on our shoulders for him not to get that 1,000 yards. Whatever it takes, that's what we're going to have to do."


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