They got as far a 4-2 - including road wins against the New York Giants and Atlanta - before the wheels came off in a 1-7 streak that not only took them out of the division race but left them in danger of finishing with a fourth consecutive season of 10 losses or more.
A big part of the problem is that the Lions haven't been able to utilize their home-field advantage. They are 2-5 at Ford Field going into the game Sunday against the Bears.
A loss to the Bears - with a road game against Tennessee for the season finale - they would stand in jeopardy of finishing the season with a second consecutive 5-11 record. Coming in the wake of 2-14 in 2001 and 3-13 in 2002, it would be a major disappointment for the team Lions president Matt Millen is hoping to build.
"We're all bound and determined to get this thing done," coach Steve Mariucci said. "Turn it into a winner, a consistent winner.
"That's why these free agents come here. They want to accept the challenge like I did, accept the challenge of building this thing into a winning team, year in and year out. That's what we want to accomplish."
--QB Joey Harrington is hoping to put together back-to-back strong performances before the Lions go into the off-season -- again with a losing record and without a playoff appearance. Harrington completed 25 of 44 passes for a career-high 361 yards and two touchdowns Sunday against Minnesota, his best game after a mid- and late-season slump. The Lions are likely to decide in the off-season whether they need to sign a free agent to push Harrington and possibly compete for the starting job.
--RB Kevin Jones, who earned alternate Pro Bowl, can put an exclamation point on an impressive second half of his rookie season when the Lions meet the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Ford Field. Jones, who is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, needs 62 yards in the remaining two games to reach the 1,000-yard mark. It is believed he is aiming for 1100 or 1200 yards, however.
--WR Roy Williams came out of his six-game scoring drought with two touchdowns in the Lions' game Sunday against Minnesota and will see what he can do about finishing his rookie season with a flourish. An early-season ankle injury slowed Williams and he has had more drops than the Lions would like but he still leads the team with 47 receptions for 722 yards and seven touchdowns.
--OG Matt Joyce, a backup offensive lineman through the Lions' first 13 games, will get his second consecutive start at LG in the game Sunday against Chicago. Joyce held up well in his first start last Sunday against Minnesota and DT Kevin Williams, and he has gotten virtually all of the practice time at LG this week.
--S Terrence Holt got his first prolonged playing time in the Lions defense in game 14 last Sunday with 33 plays against Minnesota. Holt, who is expected to compete for a starting job next year, got additional practice time this week and is expected to get significant playing time Sunday against Chicago.