GREEN BAY – Gone are the team president and general manager, the victims of midseason dismissals. The Lions team coming to Green Bay this weekend is likely playing for their futures in Detroit.
“It’s the NFL, so there are always going to be some challenges. This is just another form the guys are going to have to understand and deal with,” Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. “It’s a fact. You don’t hide from it. We address it and we move on.”
The Packers are 6-2, a record for which the Lions would love to swap their league-worst 1-7, but the Packers are coming off consecutive losses and they’ll take their own form of desperation into this game. Tied with the Vikings for the NFC North lead, the Packers must win to assure themselves a share of the lead heading into the following Sunday’s showdown in Minnesota.
But what about the Lions? What’s their goal in what’s left of a season ruined by an inexplicable first-half collapse?
“To win; plain and simple. We’re trying to put ourselves in the best position to win. That’s what we do,” Caldwell said. “It’s not over yet. We’ll talk about the reflections of the season when the season is over.”
Caldwell is in his second year as the Lions’ head coach. Last year, his team came within an official’s call from playing in Seattle in a divisional-round playoff game.
“We have to focus on our preparation. This is a very, very good football team we’re playing. They don’t lose many games at home,” Caldwell said of the Packers.
The Lions’ stats reflect the team’s losses on defense in free agency, and to injury. Ndamukong Suh and DeAndre Levy are gone. As a result, the Lions are No. 26 on defense, No. 30 against the run. A year ago, those rankings were Nos. 2 and 1.
“Those are things people talk about when they’re making excuses. We’re not making any. It’s a waste of time,” Caldwell said.
Quarterback Matt Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson embody the Lions’ best chance of winning. Stafford has thrown for 2,083 yards and 13 touchdowns; Johnson has caught 48 passes for 659 yards and three touchdowns.
“We got to get away a little bit, which was nice,” Stafford said of the team’s bye week. “We just got to go out there and focus on this week. Our biggest obstacle this week is the Packers. I think guys came back refreshed and ready to go.”
What does Caldwell, a former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, see in Aaron Rodgers, who’s in somewhat of a mini-slump, though his statistics don’t reflect it?
“He’s a master of that offense. He’s got great touch. He can make every throw. He can kill you with his feet. He makes good decisions. He doesn’t throw very many interceptions, and he wins. That all looks like the same thing he’s been doing for a number of years now,” Caldwell said.
In last year’s regular-season finale, the Packers hosted the Lions in a game that would decide the NFC North title. The stakes will be considerably different this Sunday.
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