"We've got to get to 10," Kitna said after the Lions' 37-26 Thanksgiving Day loss to Green Bay. "That's what gets you in. In the NFC, it's going to get you in. We've got to get to 10. We've got five games left."
It's going to be pretty tough. The Lions must go 4-1 down the stretch to win 10 games, now that they have lost three games in a row and sunk to 6-5. And this is their schedule: at Minnesota, Dallas, at San Diego, Kansas City, at Green Bay.
Kitna said the Lions still control whether they make the playoffs. But in reality, they don't. They could win out and still sit out in January.
They have almost no chance to catch the 10-1 Packers in the NFC North. Each of their competitors in the wild-card race — the New York Giants (7-3), plus Arizona, Philadelphia and Washington (all 5-5) — also have beaten them and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
"We're still in a good position," Kitna said. "We're right where we need to be. It's not where we want to be, but where we need to be. We've got five games left, and we've got a lot of character in this locker room."
They're going to need a lot of character. This franchise hasn't been to the playoffs since 1999, and the mood around Detroit is already one of despair.
"You just need to grit your teeth, look at your teammates and say, ‘Hey, let's not give up, let's not pack in the tents and just call it a season and quit,' " defensive tackle Cory Redding said. "We can't dwell on this, be all sad and down."
Coach Rod Marinelli keeps preaching the same message.
"We've just got to get right back to it," Marinelli said. "I'm never going to change — ever. I think you know me well enough. There's no panic in my life. I just don't live that way.
"I do look forward to the challenge that's ahead of us. It's a tough challenge. I've been down this road many a times. I just believe in the players. I believe in work habits. I believe in work."