Lions’ playoff dreams becoming just that . . . dreams

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    The Detroit Lions had regenerated hope from its faithful, that last week’s victory over a good Seattle Seahawks team would propel them forward for the second half of the second.

    In fact, I had coined the Lions the Comeback Cats after their thrilling 28-24 victory over the Seahawks at Ford Field.

    So, it was with great anticipation, hope and wonderment when the Lions went up to Minnesota to face the Vikings that the recent streak would continue. Even though the Lions lost to the Vikings at home early in the season and dropped to 1-3, the loss appeared to be a game they should have and could have won.

    At the time, for the second consecutive game the Lions gave up two special team return scores that became the margin of victory in each loss (Tennessee and Minnesota). Against Minnesota, Percy Harvin took the opening kickoff 105 yards and Marcus Sherels sprinted 77 yards with a punt return in the third quarter in a 20-13 loss.

    After the game Lions coach Jim Schwartz told the media that the team would fix the special teams’ gaffs and they did. Coming into the Vikings game last Sunday Detroit had posted a 3-1 record and appeared to be on a roll. It was safe to assume that they had a shot at making the NFL Playoffs again..

    However, after the Lions disappointing 34-24 loss, at Mall of America Field, their playoff hopes are becoming a distant dream.

    With only seven games left in the season, the Lions have to win six of them, and, a 10-6 record may still not be enough to make the playoffs. Three of their next four games are at Ford Field – Green Bay, Houston on Thanksgiving and Indianapolis. Closing out the 2012 season Detroit has a road game against Arizona and season-ending home games against Atlanta and Chicago, the highest-ranked teams in the NFC.

    “It’s hard to make sense of it all,” Lions center Dominic Raiola told reporters after the game. “It’s hard because three out of the last four games we found a little rhythm and we found a little consistency. We felt good about ourselves and to come in and lay an egg early in the game, and scratch and claw, we had a chance there to tie it up and we didn’t take advantage of that and they came back out and (Adrian Peterson) put his stamp on this game. That was it.”

    Peterson, one year removed from a seriously torn left ACL, indeed stuck a running dagger in the Lions comeback attempts. The NFL’s leading rusher ran for 171 yards on 27 carries and broke open the game with a 61-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter.

    “Our game plan was limit him (Peterson), limit his production, not let him get any breakout runs,” defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch exclaimed, “but it’s easier said than done. He’s a dynamic player. He may be the most dangerous back in the league right now and we just didn’t get it done.”

    Peterson and the Vikings (6-4) dropped the Lions record to 4-5. Detroit is now 0-3 in division games and in last place in the NFC North, and have absolutely no room for error over a grueling final seven games.

    “It hurts bad,” cornerback Chris Houston told reporters. “Our shot for the playoffs is still kind of slim, but if we come back and win these three home games (the next three weeks) we still have a shot.”

    Calvin Johnson caught 12 passes for a season-high 207 yards and scored a late touchdown on an 11-yard pass. Matthew Stafford completed 28 of 42 passes for 329 yards and three touchdowns; however, as has been the case all season, much of his yardage came playing catch-up in the second half.

    Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII
     

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