Lions Notebook: Fourth quarter flop

The numbers are so startling, they virtually jump out at you: In the fourth quarter of their first five games of the season, the Lions have been outscored, 47-13. Head coach Rod Marinelli's response to Detroit's final quarter ineptitude, plus a slew of player notes inside.

ALLEN PARK -- The numbers are so startling, they virtually jump out at you: In the fourth quarter of their first five games of the season, the Lions have been outscored, 47-13.

The impact can be softened somewhat by the realization that 23 of those 47 points were scored by the Minnesota Vikings as they overcame a 14-point third quarter deficit in their 26-17 victory Sunday but the fact remains the Lions are not a strong fourth quarter team.

They managed to hold their own (3-3) in the fourth quarter of a tightly-contested 9-6 loss to Seattle in the season opener but they have been outscored in the final period by their other four opponents - 3-0 in a 34-7 drubbing at the hands of the Chicago Bears, 7-3 in a 31-24 home-field loss to Green Bay, 11-7 in the 41-34 loss at St. Louis and, of course 23-0, in the nine-point loss at Minnesota.

And, although the Lions have not shown they are close to competing with Chicago for the NFC North division honors, they could have avoided their current 0-5 start if they had been able to stage strong finishes against Green Bay and St. Louis in two winnable games.

Coach Rod Marinelli addressed the subject this week, suggesting the Lions mindset has to be re-programmed after five years of a steady diet of losing.

"I know that's how you do it," Marinelli said. "The best way to do it, it's all about discipline and discipline isn't just a light switch, OK? 'We're going to be disciplined now;' you turn it on and, 'Oh, we're disciplined.' Then, 'Oh, now we're not.' It just doesn't work that way. I think it takes a mind change, a willingness to change."

Marinelli has been hammering at the discipline angle - along with the necessity for a strong work ethic - since he was hired last January and he said he will work at it again this week as the Lions prepare for their game Sunday against Buffalo. Regardless of injuries or which players are on the field, they have to play better in the fourth quarter.

"That's when your discipline - if it takes hold, if it's really engrained - it becomes stronger than the excitement or the fear of the game," he said.

"That's when it's got to kick in. We haven't come to that point yet where late in that fourth quarter we're doing everything exactly right."

PLAYER NOTES

  • QB Jon Kitna could be facing another difficult assignment Sunday if the Lions don't get any of their injured offensive linemen back. Playing without three starting linemen at Minnesota, Kitna was brutalized to the tune of five quarterback sacks, three interceptions and a forced fumble, and he virtually never had time to set up, view the field and throw the ball. It appears RG Damien Woody (foot) will not play but the Lions are hoping to get LG Ross Verba (hamstring) or RT Rex Tucker (knee) back.
  • RB Kevin Jones will be looking for a fresh start Sunday against Buffalo after being shut down (eight yards on 10 carries) at Minnesota. Playing without both starting guards and the starting right tackle, the Lions had no success running the ball against the Vikings and could face a similar situation against Buffalo if they cannot get back any of the offensive line regulars. Jones is averaging only 3.6 yards per carry for the season.
  • TE Dan Campbell remains one of the Lions' most dependable weapons in the passing game although he has just seven receptions in five games. He is averaging 17.1 yards per catch and his only catch at Minnesota went for a 12-yard touchdown. He is also invaluable as an additional blocker in the running game.
  • WR Roy Williams' status for the Lions game Sunday against Buffalo probably won't be known until later in the week. Williams suffered a stinger in his upper back and missed all but the first three plays of the Minnesota game. Coach Rod Marinelli said his status will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis. Williams is the Lions leading receiver with 26 catches for 391 yards and a touchdown.
  • WR Mike Williams finally got a pass thrown to him in the Lions' 26-17 loss at Minnesota but the ball was slightly low, he bobbled it and then dropped it. After that play, offensive coordinator Mike Martz did not send him back into the game. Other receivers, who also had dropped balls, played instead.
  • DT Shaun Rogers had two sacks in the Lions' season opener but has had none in the last four games. In the 26-17 loss at Minnesota, Rogers was credited with three tackles and two quarterback hurries but he also was called for two penalties - the first for encroachment and the second for roughing the passer. Both contributed to Vikings scoring drives.
  • CB Dre' Bly, considered the Lions' most dangerous defensive playmaker with 16 interceptions in his first three seasons with the team, has no interceptions in the first five games of this season. It is the longest he has gone as a Lion without an interception.
  • DT Shaun Cody was on crutches early in the week after suffering a dislocated toe on his left foot in the Lions' 26-17 loss at Minnesota. Cody's status as the starting nose tackle probably will not be known until later in the week.
  • PR/KOR Eddie Drummond continued to upgrade the Lions return game after a slow start. He had a 29-yard punt return against Minnesota, raising his season average to 7.6 yards on 11 returns, and had a 98-yard kickoff return called back by a penalty. He had kickoff returns of 44 and 65 yards in the previous two games.
  • TE Marcus Pollard, who led all Lions receivers with 46 catches in 2005, has caught just six passes for 46 yards in the first five games. He lost the starting job to Dan Campbell, a stronger blocker, and is less involved in the offense than he was a year ago.

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