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Lions Would Love To Start Faster

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PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 14: Quarterback Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions looks to make a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half in a game at Lincoln Financial Field on October 14, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Lions defeated the Eagles 26-23 in overtime. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA, PA – OCTOBER 14: Quarterback Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions looks to make a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half in a game at Lincoln Financial Field on October 14, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Lions defeated the Eagles 26-23 in overtime. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)

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ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions are averaging a little more than two touchdowns in the fourth quarter this season. Finding that same production before the start of the final period has proved elusive.

The Lions (2-3) have scored 73 points in the fourth this season, trailing only Denver’s 79, and both victories came after final-period rallies. Detroit scored a pair of late touchdowns to upend St. Louis in the opener and had a 17-point fourth quarter to force overtime before winning at Philadelphia last Sunday.

The same offense has produced just 50 points and two touchdowns in the first three quarters five games into the season.

“If I had the answer, I’d take the pads off and start coaching,” said receiver Nate Burleson, who caught a fourth-quarter scoring pass in Sunday’s 26-23 win against the Eagles. “We’ve got to go out and find that spark at the beginnings of games.”

Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who threw for more than 5,000 yards last season, is the league’s best final-quarter passer this fall. He’s 57 for 89 for 714 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. The runner-up, Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton, is more than 125 yards behind.

Last Sunday’s victory, which ended with a Jason Hanson field goal, was the eighth game-winning drive of Stafford’s career. He was 15 for 24 for 220 yards there.

“We can’t make it this hard on ourselves every week. We understand that,” he said, “but at the same time, a win’s a win in the National Football League and they don’t always come easy.”

Coach Jim Schwartz and several players lauded the team’s perseverance, but were quick to add they’d rather see less drama in the final 15 minutes.

“There’s talented guys here who can come back and make games out of nothing and win games when we’re down by double-digit points,” center Dominic Raiola said. “But at the same time, we’re not trying to put ourselves in that situation. We like to think we have the weapons to always get ourselves back into games, but let’s keep that in reserve.”

Detroit is averaging seven first-half points in its three losses. That kind of performance could be too much to overcome Monday night when the Lions visit Chicago. The NFC North-leading Bears have allowed the fewest points in the league this season, are third-best in total defense and tied for most takeaways.

Schwartz said he’d be a lot happier if his team wasn’t playing from behind.

“We have to be efficient in all four quarters,” he said. “It can make a difference for us if we can get a lead and hold a lead. We certainly want to score in all four quarters. “

NOTES: Cornerbacks Bill Bentley (shoulder) and Jacob Lacey (concussion) did not participate in practice Wednesday. Rookie CB Chris Greenwood practiced for the first time since offseason abdominal surgery. . DE Cliff Avril (back) and DT Corey Williams (knee) also did not practice. . Schwartz wouldn’t elaborate on RB Jahvid Best’s future. Best (concussion) was not cleared to play last week and the coach would not say if he will under more tests. . The Lions will reach the halfway point of the season having played just two NFC North opponents.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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