ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The Detroit Lions aren’t a desperate team yet. Coach Jim Schwartz prefers a slightly different description.
“I think our word is `urgent’ — we had six of our first nine on the road,” Schwartz said Monday. “We now have a stretch of three in a row at home. We have to do something with that.”
After a loss at Minnesota on Sunday, the Lions (4-5) remain in last place in the NFC North. Their playoff hopes are looking tenuous, especially with a tough schedule the rest of the way. Detroit does have that stretch of three straight home games coming up, but it starts Sunday against Green Bay — not exactly an easy matchup.
The Lions allowed 45 points to the Packers when the teams met at the end of last season, and the questions about Detroit’s defense haven’t gone away. Adrian Peterson rushed for 171 yards in Minnesota’s 34-24 win last weekend.
“We don’t have a whole lot of wiggle room for mistakes down the stretch. We have to play our best,” Schwartz said. “It’s life in the NFL. You have to do that all the time.”
Schwartz spent some time Monday standing up for his defensive line. Peterson ran for a lot of yards Sunday, but 61 of them were on one play — a touchdown in the fourth quarter that made it 31-17.
Schwartz was particularly encouraged by Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, who had the team’s only sack.
“Nick had one of the best games he’s played since he’s been here, but a lot like the rest of our team, a couple mistakes overshadowed the good things that he did,” Schwartz said. “I thought Ndamukong Suh might have played the best game he’s played since he’s been here. ... Unless they doubled him in pass protection, he was in the quarterback’s lap the whole game.”
Lions fans better hope Schwartz is right about the defensive front, because this weekend they face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Rodgers didn’t even play in Green Bay’s 45-41 win over Detroit in last season’s regular-season finale. Backup Matt Flynn threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns.
Detroit was reeling a bit at that point, and the Lions went on to lose 45-28 to New Orleans in the playoffs a week later. The defense clearly needed to improve, and the Lions were seventh in the NFL in overall defense entering last weekend’s game.
But Detroit was not able to stop Peterson on Sunday afternoon.
“We contained him for most of the game and then kind of let up in the fourth quarter. He got a couple of runs on the outside and was able to get to the house,” linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. “We just have to play a complete game because when you’re playing against a guy like Adrian Peterson it takes four quarters.”
There are more tests to come. After hosting the Packers, Detroit faces Houston on Thanksgiving, followed by another home game against Indianapolis. Then comes a difficult finishing stretch with games against Green Bay, Arizona, Atlanta and Chicago.
“We’ll leave math for mathematicians and statisticians and stuff like that — need to have consistent performance,” Schwartz said. “You need to go out and win the next game that you’re playing. You need to be able to put a win or a loss behind you.” NOTES: Schwartz said CB Drayton Florence has been cleared to return from a broken arm. The Lions released CB Alphonso Smith. ... The Lions took exception to WR Calvin Johnson being hit in the head against Minnesota, but Schwartz said Monday he didn’t think there was any deliberate attempt to injure the Detroit star. “I don’t think anybody in this league is trying to hurt somebody,” Schwartz said. “They’re trying to defend him, but as a result, he ended up getting hit in the head a couple times. Thank goodness he was fine.”
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