The Lions put everything they had into Sunday's game against Dallas. They played hard. They led by 13 late in the second quarter. They led by 13 early in the fourth. They were in position to upset the top team in the NFC.
But they suffered a heartbreaking 28-27 loss when quarterback Tony Romo hit tight end Jason Witten for a 16-yard touchdown with 18 seconds left. They have lost five straight games. They cannot reach the 10-win mark quarterback Jon Kitna talked about before the season.
How are they going to get up for Sunday's game at San Diego?
"You frickin' lay your life on the line out there, play your heart out," Kitna said. "When you lose, especially in that manner, it's like you got your heart ripped out of your chest. Of course guys are down, and we'll probably be down for a few days. We've just got to get back on it Wednesday."
It's not going to be easy.
In the words of coach Rod Marinelli, the Lions looked lethargic or a step slow the previous Sunday in a 42-10 loss at Minnesota. Marinelli tried to eliminate all of the excuses for his players afterward.
He took them out of pads and helmets for the entire week of practice, so they couldn't say they weren't fresh. He pounded home the game plan, so they couldn't say they weren't on the same page.
The Lions responded Sunday by doing a lot of good things. They ran for 152 yards against the NFL's fourth-ranked rushing defense. They allowed only one sack, on the last play of the game, to a team tied for fourth in the league in sacks. They held star receiver Terrell Owens to only three catches for 21 yards.
But what mattered most in the end were the things they didn't do. They missed too many opportunities -- failing to score touchdowns early, missing a field goal in the fourth quarter, failing to get one more first down when they needed it, failing to secure a critical fumble late.
"It's about winning," Marinelli said. "I'm just not going to throw bouquets out for a good, hard effort. That's what we're supposed to do. ... Today we went out and competed. But it was a winnable game. We've got to make the plays."
The Lions have struggled on the road this season. They won their season opener at Oakland, but they lost by more than 30 points at Philadelphia, Washington and Minnesota and lost by 10 at Arizona. Their only road victory came at Chicago.
Now they face a schizophrenic Chargers team -- a group that can be beaten, but another talented team capable of blowing them out.
"We have to win those type of games to be a really good team, which I want us to be and I expect us to be," Marinelli said of the Dallas loss. "That's why it's important just to learn from it and don't feel good about it. There's nothing good to feel good about. You're expected to play hard."
Individual Player Notes