The Detroit Lions have sustained another heartbreaking loss, but amazingly, the NFC North division is not out of reach. Believe it or not, the Lions could still come out ahead if things fell their way in the next two weeks.
Think it's impossible? So did the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers, new controllers of their division destiny, after several of their recent losses. If the Lions want to be considered winners in the whole sense, though, they'll have to avoid quitting on the season themselves. Fans and media routinely quit prematurely. They're the ones who are allowed to, but with plenty still on the line, the players are always the ones who simply cannot.
"We'll have the team ready," Jim Schwartz said Tuesday afternoon, regarding his team's mental readiness sandwiched between a tough loss and another important game. "We can't control our own destiny, but we can control how we play."
In spite of that, finishing strong has been something the Lions have avoided as a franchise. When things don't go their way and tough losses build up, the team usually folds its tent and gives up. History as recent as 2012 suggests that. The Lions' eight game losing streak last year came after several similar losses. Down the stretch, the players seemed to become disinterested and give up.
Is it coaching? Partially. Mostly, though, the players around this franchise just seems to have a knack for mentally giving up, especially during crunch time after things haven't gone their way. If the players love Schwartz as much as plenty of people claim, they would have come ready to play and dominate on Monday night. Now, a crushing loss and a short week sets up what could be a nightmare finish for Detroit.
Should the Lions play as uninspired and sloppy as they did against the Ravens, they'll lose to the New York Giants on Sunday. The team that suited up on Monday night would find a way to kick yet another game away against the turnover prone Giants, who may have already quit. And forget about beating the Vikings in that scenario during the season finale, who will be hosting their last ever game in the Metrodome, a place the Lions rarely win anyway.
Mentally, it's going to take perhaps biggest about-face in franchise history to save face. If for nothing else other than their own professional dignity, the Lions need to play better and avoid another complete collapse in the final two weeks created simply by giving up. Even if the team doesn't win the games or make the playoffs, they could set the proper tone for what should be an offseason of change with a strong final push.
Accountability starts with every player in the locker room, first and foremost. Quitting on the season now would be the ultimate slap in the face to the fans.
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