The running game they thought they had established over the previous two weeks? Back to the drawing board.
The passing magic of Jon Kitna and Roy Williams? Won't work if Williams is on the sidelines injured.
The porous defense coach Rod Marinelli thought he could remedy with a week of hard work? If only it were that easy.
Just when the Lions thought they were getting a toehold on the program Marinelli had outlined for them, they took another backward jolt in the form of a 26-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome.
They're still winless, 0-5 going into their game Sunday against the Buffalo Bills and — to make matters worse — they have a bevy of injuries complicating the situation.
Williams (back), guard Damian Woody (foot), defensive tackle Shaun Cody (dislocated toe) and linebacker Paris Lenon (neck) were forced out of the Vikings game with injuries and running back Kevin Jones was shaken up on a play in the closing minutes.
Two offensive line starters — tackle Rex Tucker and guard Ross Verba — as well as starting strong safety Kenoy Kennedy, did not play at all because of injuries while free safety Terrence Holt played sparingly.
But Marinelli knows better than to look for sympathy in the NFL.
"That's life," Marinelli said. "I'm not going to feel sorry for myself or for them. I expect us to respect our game, come back to work, watch the tape, make corrections on it, teach off those corrections. Some of the areas we were able to improve today and some areas we faltered a little bit in. We have to go back and re-teach it, make sure they understand it and move on to the next game."
They can start with the running game. It appeared Jones was gaining some offensive momentum with back-to-back games of 81 and 93 yards against Green Bay and St. Louis.
And the one area in which the defense had been strong was playing the run; in four games they were giving up an average of 86.5 yards per game and only 3.0 yards per carry.
That all has to be re-evaluated, however, after the Lions finished with a net of 16 yards on 11 carries against the Vikings, including 10 attempts for eight yards by Jones. And their defense was shredded by Minnesota running back Chester Taylor for 123 yards on 26 attempts.
The passing game also proved vulnerable with Williams on the sidelines. Kitna was sacked five times, lost a fumble that was turned into a Minnesota touchdown and was intercepted three times, including one for a touchdown.
Marinelli, a defensive line coach with great motivational skills during his years as an assistant coach, gave extra attention to the Lions defense in practices leading up to the Minnesota game but he is still waiting for a payoff there also.
After five sacks in the season opener against Seattle, the Lions have had only one sack in four games. And their defense got its first interception of the season — by Jamar Fletcher — in the Vikings game.
Clearly, the Lions are not as far along in their recovery as they might have thought after the first month of the season. Their 0-5 start is their worst since the 2001 went 0-12 on the way to a 2-14 start and their cumulative six-season record under team president Matt Millen is now 21-64.