Lions notebook: Team looks to shake funk

The Lions and Chiefs have lost their last 13 games combined. The Lions have lost six straight, the Chiefs seven straight. But the schedule says they're playing Sunday at Ford Field, so everybody must show up -- at least physically. Complete team notebook inside, including Sunday's game plan against K.C.

Not exactly a marquee matchup, is it?

The Lions and Chiefs have lost their last 13 games combined. The Lions have lost six straight, the Chiefs seven straight. But the schedule says they're playing Sunday at Ford Field, so everybody must show up -- at least physically.

Mentally is another matter.

It might be more difficult for the Lions, even though they are at home and have had more energy at Ford Field this season. The Chiefs have been out of it for a while, but the Lions, who entered this season with playoff aspirations and started 6-2, were just officially bounced from the race.

"It makes it that much harder because we were playing for something in December, and now all of a sudden, it's like taking the air out of a balloon," center Dominic Raiola said. "But as professionals, I've said it before, you've got to find a way to come out and play and turn it back up because Kansas City's still doing it. I know that."

The Lions went 3-13 last season. But in some ways, this feels worse.

"Because the expectations were higher, I think," said quarterback Jon Kitna, who talked about winning 10 games before the season. "You played yourself into a great position halfway through the season, and then you've played yourself out of the great position. That's hard to deal with."

The talk in the locker room Wednesday had the feel of a season wrapup, even though there are two games to go. Reporters and players were trying to figure out what went wrong, how things slipped away, not trying to figure out how the Lions might beat the Chiefs.

There were few good answers. Players said they could point to particular plays in each game. Generally, they said, they had not played a complete game as a team since the midway point of the season.

"It's not like this just happened this week," Raiola said. "You could feel it. Every week. It's like, 'We've got to win this week, we've got to win; now we've got to win, now we've got to win.' Now we're out."

Raiola sighed.

"Yeah," he said, "it's going to be hard to swallow."

No matter how bad the previous game, coach Rod Marinelli is usually upbeat by Wednesday, looking ahead. But even he was downcast this Wednesday, giving short answers. He said his message to his team this week was about "being a pro," and he didn't elaborate much. What more is there to say?

"How do we stop the snowball?" Raiola said. "More urgency? That's one. Not ever taking anything for granted, ever saying, 'There's always next week. We're still in it.' Now we're out of it.

"I said it when we were 6-2. I said, 'We can still end up 6-10.' And that's the direction that's going. Now, we have two weeks to kind of build something back up. Now we have to prepare for next season; see what we've got, see what this team has, see what kind of character this team has. And I believe we'll do that."

The Lions would like to reach at least seven victories, which would be the best mark of the seven-year Matt Millen era, and they would like to do it at home.

"We don't want to lose these fans," Raiola said. "We've got too good of fans. They have every right to come out -- whoever's going to show up at the game -- to see their team perform. And to go out and lay an egg at home is unacceptable. We can't do that, even though we're out of it, even though we're not playing for anything but ourselves right now."

Kitna still has lofty goals. He wants to get to 8-8. The finale is at Green Bay, and the Lions haven't won in Wisconsin since 1991.

"We still have an opportunity not to have a losing season," Kitna said. "Nobody wanted to hear that. You can't believe you're saying that. But the reality is, that's where we're at.

"You want to have a good feel going into next year. It's not what we wanted, but going from three wins to eight would be a step in the right direction. I think it's important to see how guys will respond in this locker room."

SERIES HISTORY: 11th meeting. Chiefs lead series, 7-3. The Lions haven't beaten the Chiefs since 1988, but the teams have met only four times since then.

BY THE NUMBERS: 70.6 -- Percentage of passes completed against the Lions, highest in the NFL by far. No other team is allowing more than 66 percent.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We had a chance this season. Other seasons, we were Christmas shopping in October. This season, we were in it up till last week." -- C Dominic Raiola, on the Lions' progress.

Individual Player Notes

  • WR Roy Williams, who suffered a sprained knee Dec. 2 at Minnesota, was placed on injured reserve. Coach Rod Marinelli said Williams' knee still had swelling, and Williams said there was no need to risk further injury with the Lions out of the playoff race.
  • LG Edwin Mulitalo did not practice Wednesday because of a concussion and his status for Sunday's game against Kansas City is uncertain.
  • WR Troy Walters did not practice Wednesday because of a concussion and his status for Sunday is uncertain.
  • DT Langston Moore did not practice Wednesday because of a quadriceps injury and his status for Sunday is uncertain.
  • CB Fernando Bryant was limited Wednesday because of a quadriceps injury. He likely will play Sunday.
  • RB T.J. Duckett was limited Wednesday because of an illness. He likely will play Sunday.
  • LB Buster Davis, a third-round pick out of Arizona this year, was signed off the practice squad.
  • DE Claude Harriott was signed to the practice squad.

    GAME PLAN: The Lions are reeling. They need to get off to a good start, so things don't spiral out of control again, and they need to run the ball. The Chiefs rank third worst against the run. Defensively, the Lions need to make sure the Chiefs' feeble ground game stays feeble and force young quarterback Brodie Croyle to beat them.

    MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Lions LT Jeff Backus, who has been solid lately, vs. Chiefs RDE Jared Allen, who has 11.5 sacks and is going to the Pro Bowl. QB Jon Kitna said Backus is feeling better physically after playing through some injuries he wouldn't talk about publicly, and that is a reason -- along with Damien Woody's play at RT -- the pass protection has improved lately. Backus must be at his best against Allen.

    Lions RB Kevin Jones, who had only five carries for 16 yards Sunday at San Diego, vs. Chiefs run defense, ranked third worst in the NFL. When Jones gets a chance, he usually runs pretty well. Only three times this season has he had at least 20 carries. In each of those games, he had at least 92 yards and a touchdown. He should get a good opportunity Sunday playing at home against Kansas City.

    Lions coverage units, which have struggled badly this season, vs. Chiefs KR Eddie Drummond, who has struggled himself but has the ability to get back at his former team. Drummond went to the Pro Bowl as a Lions returner and hoped to have a role in Mike Martz's offense, but the Lions released him before the season. Drummond found work in Kansas City. He has not played well, but he's still explosive and will be at Ford Field, where he once was a fan favorite.

    INJURY IMPACT: If LG Edwin Mulitalo can't play because of his concussion, that will be a blow to the line. Blaine Saipaia will have to step in.

    CB Fernando Bryant should be limited by a quad injury if he plays, but he has been playing through minor injuries all season.

    DT Langston Moore's quad problem might provide more opportunity for rookie DL Ikaika Alama-Francis.


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