Not A Very Thankful Holiday In Detroit

The Detroit Lions had a hard time holding off a Patriots team that found their rhythm on offense during Thanksgiving's matchup between the team teams. Unfortunately, that's been a familiar theme in Detroit as the Lions continue to struggle late in games. Perhaps now is a good time to look toward 2011.

The immediate task at hand is the Chicago Bears, who play the Lions at Ford Field Sunday.

But with their 10th straight losing season already secure, there will be a dual focus to the remaining five games: Try winning a couple of games, for sure, but also start looking ahead to 2011.

It seems doubtful that quarterback Matthew Stafford (shoulder) will return this season. Even if he could rush his rehab and be ready to play in the final two games, what would be the point? It would seem a very high risk for little reward.

Also, it might be in the best interest to shut rookie running back Jahvid Best (toes) down; if not for the rest of the season, then at least a week or two. He's been trying to play on two bad feet since the third week of the season and it's only gotten worse.

The Lions had their best rushing game of the season with Maurice Morris and second-year back Aaron Brown carrying the load. With an eye on next season, it would behoove the Lions to give Brown some extended work. He has big-play speed but he has yet been given enough reps to find any confidence or rhythm.

Truth is, though, there isn't likely to be much roster upheaval. The entire offensive line is signed at least through next season. The starting skill position players - Stafford, Shaun Hill, Best, receivers Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson, tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler - are also signed at least through next season.

On defense, the defensive line will return intact. In the secondary, only cornerback Chris Houston has yet to be signed (he would be a restricted free agent). Cornerback Alphonso Smith, free safety Louis Delmas and rookie strong safety Amari Spievey will be back. Safety C.C. Brown will be a free agent.

That leaves the linebackers as the next major area of reconstruction. Middle linebacker DeAndre Levy is considered one of the foundation pieces of the defense and he's signed through next season. Veteran outside linebacker Julian Peterson has one year left at $8 million, which almost guarantees that he will be released after the season.

Outside linebackers Ashlee Palmer, Landon Johnson and Bobby Carpenter aren't expected to return.

TRENDING: In the last two losses, against Dallas and New England, the Lions were outscored 63-16 in the second half. It's the mark of a team that hasn't figured out how, or isn't quite good enough, to win. In their nine losses, they have had third-quarter leads in five games.

LINEUP WATCH: The Lions continue to get almost nothing out of their third receiver. Thus, there is a chance that another receiver, perhaps former Eagle Kevin Curtis, will be signed this week. Veteran Bryant Johnson, who has 10 catches in 10 games, is very much on the bubble. Derrick Williams, a third round pick in 2009, got some work against the Patriots and had a touchdown pass bounce off his hands.

PLAYER NOTES

--WR Calvin Johnson caught his 11th touchdown pass of the season and the 32nd of his four-year career on Thursday. He is the first Lion to have 11 touchdowns in 11 games since Barry Sanders in 1991. And his 32 touchdown catches in his first four seasons ties the franchise record held by Cloyce Box (1949, 1950, 1952, 1953).

--LT Jeff Backus started his 155th straight game, the longest active streak among interior linemen and the fifth longest active streak in the NFL. He has started every game since he was drafted in 2001.

--OLB Landon Johnson replaced Ashlee Palmer in the starting lineup and made seven tackles.

--RT Gosder Cherilus (right knee) did not finish the game Thursday and there have been no medical updates from the Lions. Fourth-year T Corey Hilliard would replace him.

--TE Brandon Pettigrew is having a career season. He has, in just 11 games, set a team single-season receiving record for tight ends (55) and he was leading all NFL tight ends going into Sunday. He has 554 yards receiving, already the eighth best in team history.

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