ALLEN PARK -- If the Detroit Lions are starting to feel a little defensive these days, they might want to start showing it on the field.
In the last three games -- all losses on their way to another dismal 0-4 start -- they have given up 106 points. That's 34 to Chicago, 31 to Green Bay and 41 in the 41-34 shootout loss Sunday to the St. Louis Rams.
That clearly is not what coach Rod Marinelli anticipated when he started putting together a defense for the Lions shortly after his hiring last January. And it's certainly not what defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson had in mind when he talked about an aggressive, playmaking defense.
The Lions gave up 427 yards total offense, they sacked Rams quarterback Marc Bulger only once in 43 pass plays and they did not force a single turnover. Generally speaking, teams that lose the turnover battle don't do well in the won-loss column, either.
"We've got to stop them," Marinelli said. "(Make) turnovers and stop them. That's the job of the defense, to go in and do that. We've got to mix things up. When we do come, we've got to get there."
The offense is still not perfect, but coordinator Mike Martz seems to have his players moving in the right direction. They scored 58 points in the last two games, 24 against Green Bay and 34 against the Rams.
"I thought the offense did a heck of a job moving the ball -- points, yards, all those things," Marinelli said. "That was gratifying. (We) got a little bit better on the special teams. (It) wasn't good enough on defense. It comes down to the three turnovers they get and we get zero. That's pressure, and we keep talking about this each and every week. That's the game in a nutshell."
The encouraging sign -- if the Lions can find one in their worst start since the 2001 team went 0-12 before winning its first game under Marty Mornhinweg -- is that there is no immediate indication of a divided locker room.
"It's Lions football," Marinelli said. "We win as a team and we lose as a team, and that's what it is. We just address it that way. Human nature is human nature. I address that, continue to address that."
It's still early in the season, but the Lions players seem to be taking his sermons to heart regarding the evils of finger-pointing.
"I play offense," said Roy Williams, who caught nine passes for 139 yards in the loss to St. Louis. "I can't worry about the defensive side. Like I said in Week 2 and Week 3, it's our job to outscore the opponent. If they score 41, we've got to score 42. That's the way I approach the game and I'm pretty sure everybody else does, too."
Whether it's the offense or the defense, there is another lesson Marinelli is hoping the Lions will learn soon -- the necessity of making the one or two additional plays it takes to win a close game.
They lost by three to Seattle in the season opener (9-6), by seven to Green Bay (31-24) in the third game and by seven to the Rams (41-34). The defense gave up a late field-goal drive to the Seahawks and the offense stalled when it had a chance to send the Green Bay and St. Louis games into overtime.
"It's been talked about -- how to win a close game," Marinelli said. "We've got to keep doing that and working at it. Pay attention to it more. Two-minute drill; whatever we do -- just keep doing all the basic things and keep trying to work on that defense."
Against the Rams, the Lions had to rally from an early 13-3 deficit, but they did, with quarterback Jon Kitna throwing two touchdown passes to wide receiver Mike Furrey, running back Kevin Jones scoring on two touchdown runs and Jason Hanson kicking two field goals.
Eventually, the Lions built a 34-30 lead with 11:11 to play in the game. They
did not score again and the defense gave up a 51-yard field goal drive, a
56-yard touchdown drive and a two-point play.