The final month of the NFL season just got a little tougher for the Lions.
Instead of getting the pick-me-up they needed to help salvage a couple of wins and a little bit of dignity in their sixth consecutive losing season, they were on the receiving end of another kick in the chops.
In fact, the Lions proved to be willing accomplices in their own 28-21 mugging at the hands of the New England Patriots on Sunday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.
Offensively, their protection broke down repeatedly, quarterback Jon Kitna was intercepted twice and lost one fumble in the final eight minutes and their defense was helpless to stop Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as he rallied the Patriots for the win.
Even with a victory, wide receiver Roy Williams knew the Lions would have had their doubters.
"Like I was saying earlier this week, even if we would have won this game, the media and the fans would have just said, 'The Patriots had an off-day, they played bad,'" Williams said.
"We played good. We had penalties and turnovers but we played good enough to win. I know New England's probably upset at the way they played because they know they can play better, a lot better. It's just the game of football, the NFL. Anybody can win on any Sunday."
Unfortunately for the Lions, they seem to be on their way to disproving the anybody-can-win-on-any-given-Sunday theory. With 10 losses in their first 12 games, they pushed their NFL worst six-year record to 23-69 going into their home game against the Minnesota Vikings next week.
After that, they play on the road against Green Bay, at home against Chicago on Christmas Eve and at Dallas on New Year's Eve.
And the question is whether they can gather themselves for the remaining four games in an atmosphere of frustration and losing.
Coach Rod Marinelli has preached the necessity of maintaining an even keel throughout the season, from game one through game 16, but there is a sense that the worsening record is making it increasingly difficult for the Lions to think positively.
"From day one it's about letting it go and moving on to the next snap," Marinelli said. "Those are the things you have to teach and obviously they just don't happen that quickly. We've got to understand a mistake has happened -- we turned it over or there's a penalty -- then we've got to move to the next snap and keep playing."
Somehow, however, Marinelli has to get the Lions out of the culture of costly mistakes -- the untimely penalties, the turnovers, the errors in judgment and the late-game errors that generally make the difference between winning and losing.
Quarterback Jon Kitna was willing to take the blame for his role in the loss -- three interceptions and a lost fumble.
"I severely let this team down today," Kitna said. "I don't know that I ever felt worse about letting a team down the way I let them down today. You can't do that stuff as a quarterback. I feel so bad for these guys in the locker room. They busted their butts and I let them down the way I let them down."
Several players defended Kitna, saying he was not solely responsible for
letting the game get away. In fact, there was enough blame to go around the
locker room once or twice over.
--QB Jon Kitna had one of his poorest games of the season in the Lions' 28-21 loss to the New England Patriots. Kitna completed 22 of 38 passes for 314 yards and a touchdown but he was intercepted three times and lost a fumble. His passer rating for the game was 60.6 but part of the problem was a lack of protection; he was sacked five times and barely escaped on several occasions.
--QB Josh McCown, the Lions' backup quarterback, has been running routes in practice in recent weeks and he caught two passes for 15 yards in the 28-21 loss Sunday to the New England Patriots. McCown lined up as a slot receiver on approximately a dozen plays.
--PK Jason Hanson kicked four field goals Sunday in the Lions' 28-21 loss to the New England Patriots, pushing his career scoring total to 1,502 points. Hanson, a 15-year veteran, is the 13th player to score that many points in his NFL career.
--WR Mike Furrey had nine receptions for a career-best 123 yards and a touchdown in the Lions' 28-21 loss Sunday to the New England Patriots. Included in his nine catches was a career-long 31-yarder. His nine receptions make him the team leader with 65, two more than Roy Williams has in the first 12 games.
--WR Roy Williams had three receptions for 50 yards in the Lions' 28-21 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday, pushing his season receiving total to 1,043 yards. It is Williams' first 1,000-yard season in three years since being taken in the first round of the 2004 NFL draft.