GREEN BAY – Topics one might assume the Lions would be discussing this week are, well, not topics of discussion for the Lions this week.
Yes, the NFC North title and all that goes with it playoff-wise are top of mind, but Detroit’s 23-year drought without a division title is not.
“That’s not even talked about, really,” Lions receiver Golden Tate told Green Bay media in a conference call on Wednesday in advance of Sunday night’s Packers-Lions showdown at Ford Field.
“It’s the reason I play football, for games like this. We’re definitely not going to shy away from the spotlight.”
Detroit hasn’t won a division title since 1993, and consequently hasn’t hosted a playoff game since then despite six postseason appearances.
Coincidentally, the Lions’ last division title came by virtue of a home victory over Green Bay in the regular season’s final game, though the Packers went back to Detroit the following week and knocked off the Lions in the playoffs for QB Brett Favre’s first postseason win.
Be that as it may, not dwelling on the 23-year dry spell is the same approach Lions head coach Jim Caldwell and his players took last year to the franchise’s quarter-century-long losing streak on Wisconsin soil, and that was successfully broken.
“All those things everybody talks about in terms of the buildup is great for the fans, great for those that are watching on television, but the game is still the same between the white lines,” Caldwell said in his conference call.
“It’s the old adage, take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves. We’re focused on the little things, the details of the game, our preparation.”
That preparation got short shrift from the schedule-makers, who had the Lions playing on the road Monday night at Dallas, while the Packers played 2½ days earlier on Saturday afternoon.
But if the Lions view it as any sort of disadvantage, they’re not letting on.
“To us, it doesn’t matter. That’s one of the things people look for built-in excuses,” Caldwell said. “We don’t complain about it, we don’t worry about it. All we do is get prepared.
“It has no bearing on our preparation, it has no bearing on how we view this game.”
Added Tate, who said he got back to his house at 5 a.m. Tuesday after the return flight from the Cowboys game: “It could be tough for a few guys, but it’s the cards we’re dealt.
“If you would have said at the beginning of the season that going into Week 17 we were going to be playing that game for our division, I would have taken it, no matter what day we played or what the circumstances were. I think the best thing we can do is not complain about the days we had or didn’t have and just go out there and play ball.”
As expected, Caldwell was mum about the hamstring injury to his top cornerback, Darius Slay, who missed Monday night’s game. Linebacker DeAndre Levy is “coming along” as he plays more and more following his long injury layoff, and quarterback Matt Stafford has “adjusted” to playing with the dislocated middle finger on his throwing hand over the last couple of weeks.
“I would say if anything, the ball is coming a little bit faster,” Tate said of his QB. “I think (number) 9 is spinning it very nicely, and he’s just making it happen.”
Stafford’s late-game magic was the biggest reason the Lions turned around a 1-3 start with eight wins over a span of nine games. They’ve now lost two straight heading into Sunday night’s clash but, you guessed it, they aren’t talking about that either.
“We’ve got a lot on the line now,” Tate said.