Lions dilemma: To lose, or not to lose

A loss would extend their current losing streak to eight games, drop them to 2-14 for the season and, in all likelihood, get them the first pick in the 2007 draft. A win? Well, it would probably cost them the No. 1 draft pick but, more importantly, it would let them go into the off-season feeling at least a little better about themselves.

And then there was one.

One game left between the Lions and the end of yet another agonizing, frustrating, disappointing season.

They Lions will play that game Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium.

A loss would extend their current losing streak to eight games, drop them to 2-14 for the season and, in all likelihood, get them the first pick in the 2007 draft.

A win? Well, it would probably cost them the No. 1 draft pick but, more importantly, it would let them go into the off-season feeling at least a little better about themselves.

In principle, of course, the game matters.

"Every game matters," said quarterback Jon Kitna. "Obviously, this game doesn't really matter for this year but it would matter for us. It would just be a nice reward for all the hard work we've put in.

"The thing that people don't see is how hard we work during practice and coach talks about it every week. That's the thing I think I'm most proud about with guys. They haven't shut it down."

But, in reality, there is literally nothing that can ease the frustration of a season which never got untracked. Wide receiver Roy Williams calls the team's current 2-13 record "ridiculous." And, aside from a momentary relief, a win against the Cowboys would mean little.

"If you're 8-8 and you're not in the playoffs, you might as well be 2-13," Williams said. "It's the waste of a season if you're not in the playoffs. That's my opinion about the NFL.

"If we're 9-7 in the playoffs, we're good. If we're 8-8 and we're out of the playoffs, we might as well be 1-15."

The thought going into the season under first-year coach Rod Marinelli was that the Lions would follow the path of the Miami Dolphins in their first year under Nick Saban -- start slow and come on strong in the second half of the season.

It never happened, however. They lost their first five in a row, won two of the next three (beating Buffalo and Atlanta) but haven't won a game in the second half of the season.

Injuries and the lack of talent have been the major factors in the team's slide to a sixth consecutive season with 10 or more losses.

The injured reserve list hit 15 this week with the addition of cornerback Fernando Bryant, the seventh starter to be lost at one stage or another of the season. Stanley Wilson will replace Bryant as the starter.

Coach Rod Marinelli has said he will review the team's conditioning program with his trainers and strength/conditioning staff during the off-season to determine if this year's rash of injuries can be avoided in the future.

But even before the injury list began growing the Lions were not able to win. They played eight games in which they lost by seven points or less but fourth quarters have been a disaster. They have been outscored 108-63 in the final period and have blown fourth quarter leads in three of their 13 losses.

If there has been a bright spot, it has been the emergence of a passing game under offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Although the Lions offense has been inconsistent, Kitna, Williams and wide receiver Mike Furrey have been productive.

Kitna needs just 99 passing yards against the Cowboys to pass the 4,000-yard mark, Williams is 94 yards from 1,300 receiving yards and Furrey is just 16 yards from his first 1,000-yard season.

Perhaps the most remarkable of those is Kitna, who has taken every offensive snap in the first 15 games of the season.

"It's not something you set out to do but, as a quarterback, you want to be out there every single play for your team," he said. "Obviously, that means we didn't blow too many people out and that's a bummer but, as a quarterback, you want to be a dependable guy."

SERIES HISTORY: 19th regular season game between the Lions and Cowboys, with the Cowboys holding a 10-8 lead, including wins in each of the last three years. The teams also have met twice in the playoffs, with Dallas winning in 1970 and the Lions winning in the 1991 playoffs.

Campbell Has High Opinion Of Parcell
After three seasons in Dallas, tight end Dan Campbell says he has only the highest regard for Cowboys coach Bill Parcells.

"I have a lot of respect for Bill," Campbell said. "Bill's one of those guys I'll always remember and I can always say I'm proud to say I played for him He's very unique. I really feel like he and Rod (Marinelli) are similar in just the tempo, the practices. He makes 'em tough but I've always felt like Rod's a little more positive person than Bill.

"Bill coaches negatively. That's how he challenges people, by negative comments. I always felt Bill tries to turn the team against him somewhat, so that they come together. That's how he makes them come together.

"You know Bill, he's always honest, 'Well, let's do this for us.' And it works. Bill's a hell of a coach. He's going to have 'em ready to go and we've got to be ready."

After playing his first four NFL seasons with the New York Giants, Campbell played three seasons under Parcells before signing as an unrestricted free agent with the Lions last spring.

Despite Record, Kitna Still Fortunate
As a quarterback who has taken every snap this season with the full support of coach Rod Marinelli, Jon Kitna feels he is more fortunate than some NFL quarterbacks who find themselves being shifted in and out of the lineup.

"The quarterback position, right now, I think a lot of people have the wrong approach to it in this league," he said. "You cannot just swap the quarterback in and out, and expect to produce good results over a long period of time.

"You might catch lightning in a bottle here and there but, ultimately, I just don't think that's the best way. The (other) quarterbacks and I were just talking about it today.

"Whoever your guy is, you surround him with some good quality guys, guys who are unselfish and good character guys and you go with him. You give that guy a chance to grow and grow within the system.

"Every time you start switching a quarterback out, you're taking steps back. It might look great for a minute but you're taking steps back, unless you're committed to that guy."

Marinelli has not wavered for even a moment, despite Kitna's interception and fumble troubles during the season. At one point he even said he expects Kitna to come back as the Lions' quarterback again next year.


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