Lions try to focus on Bills, not adversity

The word "professionalism" is popping up more and more around the Detroit Lions when they are asked about their motivation for the rest of what has the appearance of becoming a very bleak season. Quotes from quarterback Jon Kitna and head coach Rod Marinelli inside.

ALLEN PARK -- With losses in each of their first five games, the Lions aren't thinking beyond the game Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

And the word "professionalism" is popping up more and more when they are asked about their motivation for the rest of what has the appearance of becoming a very bleak season.

"You're a pro," quarterback Jon Kitna said. "It doesn't matter what your record is, you're being paid to do a job and our job this week is to go out and try to get our first win against Buffalo.

"Whatever has happened in the first five weeks is irrelevant to what your job is. Your job is to go out and do the best that you can do. You shouldn't need anybody to motivate you or anything like that. For me, I'm going to just try to lead by example."

Despite the presence of a new coaching staff and a new attitude, the Lions' 0-5 record is all too familiar with the players and their fans.

The 0-5 start is the Lions' worst since the 2001 team lost its first 12 games on the way to a 2-14 record. And it isn't a lot worse than the 1-4 of 2001 or the 1-6 of 2003. If the Lions cannot turn the season around soon, they will be stuck with their sixth consecutive season of double-digit losses.

It is not what they wanted and not what they expected, but they're up to their knees in misery again this year and there is nothing they can do except follow coach Rod Marinelli's advice and keep pounding the rock.

Marinelli says the most important thing the Lions players can do -- a theme he has stressed in this week's practices and meetings -- is to play disciplined football. Every man must do his job and not stray from his own assignment.

"I mean, it's glaring to me still," Marinelli said, that some players were trying to do more than they should have in what is essentially a one-gap defensive system.

"One of the things you see is guys getting out of their gaps," he said. "Just spinning out of the gap."

At times, in the 26-17 loss at Minnesota, that meant that frequently a gap would be left unattended and Vikings running back Chester Taylor inevitably would find the seam and be off for a gain.

"So the integrity of the gap, we obviously have got to get better at that," Marinelli said.

The Lions also have to do a better job of tackling if they hope to play a more effective defense. They currently rank 28th in the NFL.

The offense showed signs of life in putting up 58 points in back-to-back losses to Green Bay and St. Louis, but there is a possibility -- "a good possibility" according to Marinelli -- that the Lions will be playing without three offensive line starters and possibly without wide receiver Roy Williams against Buffalo.

Right guard Damien Woody, a Pro Bowl player when he was at New England four years ago, was put on injured reserve after suffering a mid-foot sprain Sunday at Minnesota, and two of his o-line teammates -- left guard Ross Verba (hamstring) and right tackle Rex Tucker (knee) -- have been battling injuries all season.

Tackle Jeff Backus said it's just a matter of preparing and then doing the job, regardless of which players are out with injuries and which players are filling in for them.

"I think guys believe in what we're doing and the systems that we have," Backus said. "It's just a matter of everybody doing what they're supposed to be doing and playing within the scheme.

"We've got guys that will step in and play. It's their responsibility to be ready to go and to play at a winning level. We are professional athlete. We're paid to go out there and perform; we've just got to get it done."

SERIES HISTORY: 8th game in a series that is dead even after the first seven games at 3-3-1. The Bills have won the last two games, including the 24-17 win in the last meeting of the teams in 2002, and also knocked off the Lions in the final pre-season game this year.

GAME PLAN: With the Lions offense in a state of nearly total disrepair, they could have big problems moving the football against the Bills. They will probably be playing without three starting offensive linemen as well as their top receiver, Roy Williams. The defense, which has been inconsistent and ineffective except for its ability to stop the run, will have to elevate its game considerably to pick up the slack. The Lions will need turnovers from the defense and a strong performance by its special teams returners to compensate for what could be a major loss of offensive firepower.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Lions CB Dre' Bly vs. Bills QB JP Losman. Bly, the Lions' best defensive playmaker, has no interceptions in five games. The Lions will probably need turnovers to compensate for their offensive shortcomings and Bly is the most likely candidate to provide them. Losman has been intercepted four times in the first five games.

Lions RT Jonathan Scott vs. Bills DEs Chris Kelsay and Ryan Denney. Scott, a rookie, has the responsibility of protecting QB Jon Kitna against Kelsay and Denney, who have three sacks each in the first five games.

Lions QB Jon Kitna vs. Bills RCB Nate Clements. Kitna isn't likely to have much time to operate behind a beat up offensive line and Clements, a six-year veteran, is the Bills leader in breaking up passes.

INJURY IMPACT: The Lions injury situation has gone from bad to worse with the loss of RG Damien Woody (foot) to injured reserve. Blaine Saipaia, who was signed in late September, or rookie Frank Davis is likely to play in his place, joining backups Rick DeMulling (LG) and Jonathan Scott or Barry Stokes (RT) on the injury-riddled offensive line. Starting LG Ross Verba (hamstring) and RT Rex Tucker (knee) have missed seven games between them and have been listed as questionable for the Buffalo game. WR Roy Williams, who suffered an upper back injury and missed all except the first three plays of the Minnesota game, was listed as probable although he missed practice Wednesday for personal reasons. SS Kenoy Kennedy (foot) and SLB Alex Lewis (knee) have been listed as out.


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