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."