Fourth Quarter Dogs Lions

While Vikings coach Brad Childress talks about the Vikings making a surge in the fourth quarter of the season, the Lions haven't warmed to the idea of playing well in the fourth quarter of games.

If past performance is any indication, the Lions will have to play extremely well in the first three quarters Sunday to have a chance at beating the Minnesota Vikings.

You see, the fourth quarter has not belonged to the Lions.

In fact, it has been quite the opposite. On the way to their current 2-10 record, the Lions have been outscored seven times in the fourth quarter and twice have surrendered substantial leads in the final period.

The Lions led in their first game against Minnesota 17-3 going into the fourth quarter and were outscored 23-0; in the game last Sunday at New England they led 21-13 with 13 minutes to play and were outscored 15-0.

Overall, the Lions have been outscored 85-53 in the fourth quarter. Part — but certainly not all — of the responsibility for the weak finishes falls on quarterback Jon Kitna, whose passer rating has slipped to 78.3 for the season.

Kitna's fourth-quarter numbers all reflect the problem — from completion percentage (56.6) to his touchdown-interception ratio (2:7) to his passer rating (63.5). And he is also among the NFL's least effective passers on third down (51.0 percent completion).

Coach Rod Marinelli is quick to explain, however, that the fourth-quarter problem is team-wide, not just a quarterback problem.

"I can go back through and show you mental errors on defense — the same thing," Marinelli said. "It's not Jon, it's the Lions.

Marinelli says also includes himself and his staff as those sharing responsibility for the team's poor performance in the deciding portions of the game.

"It's the team, the franchise right now," Marinelli said. "We're getting ourselves in that position — into that fourth quarter — we're getting there and then we're missing it by that much.

"The pleasing part is we go on the road against a heck of a (New England) team and we fight our way into this thing and do a heck of a job. And then we don't close the deal."

As a result, Marinelli is staying focused on the need to finish strong, even though the Lions have been out of the division and playoff race for weeks. He is hammering away at the need to do things right and is grading his players hard. He doesn't want them going into the remaining four games feeling loose and relaxed. He wants them to feel the pressure they would feel in a playoff race.

"I'm just going to keep the screws down," Marinelli said. "I'm looking forward to the fourth quarter; I can't wait, really.

"We get these divisional games, we get a chance, another crack at these (teams) and we're that far away and we've just got to close that gap. I know it's repetitive what I say but that's the game of football. It is about repetitive. It's who can keep doing something better and better and better and improving."

NOTES

  • DT Shaun Rogers was put on injured reserve (knee) and will miss the rest of the Lions season. The two-time Pro Bowl selection had arthroscopic surgery while serving a four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance and his recovery has not allowed him to even return to practice.

  • CB Fernando Bryant has been listed as out for the Lions' game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. Bryant suffered a concussion early in the 28-21 loss Sunday at New England and has not yet been cleared to return to practice. Stanley Wilson or Keith Smith is expected to start in his place.

  • LB Ernie Sims, the Lions' first-round pick in the NFL draft last spring, ranks third among all NFL rookies with 100 tackles in the first 12 games of the season. Sims has started every game at WLB.

  • PK Jason Hanson is the 13th all-time leading scorer in NFL history with 1,502 points. His 461 PATs is the fewest of any player in the top 15 scorers, a reflection of the weak offensive teams for which he has played during the latter part of his career.

  • LT Jeff Backus, who has never missed a start in six years with the Lions, missed the team's Wednesday practice with a foot injury but coach Rod Marinelli listed him as probable on the injury report and said he expects him to return to practice Thursday.


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