DETROIT – A stunning 61-yard field goal dealt the Detroit Lions’ playoff hopes a major blow and left them needing a good deal of help to make the postseason.
They’ll now need to concentrate on what they can control, and that’s a home matchup with the reeling and out-of-contention New York Giants on Sunday.
The Lions (7-7) came into Monday’s home game against Baltimore in control in the NFC North, but they dropped to third place with an 18-16 loss on Justin Tucker’s long kick with 38 seconds remaining. Detroit had been tied with Chicago atop the division and holds the head-to-head tiebreaker, but it trails the Bears and Green Bay after its fourth loss in five games.
Detroit now needs to win out and have Chicago and the Packers each lose at least once over the final two weeks to make the playoffs.
”Our emotions aren’t important right now. We have two games to play, we’re one down in our division,” coach Jim Schwartz said. ”So I think that’s the most important thing for us to keep in mind at this point. This was a setback, no question.”
Matthew Stafford was responsible for a good deal of the offense’s struggles, throwing three interceptions, though he was victimized by some drops. Calvin Johnson dropped two big passes in the first half and had six catches for 98 yards, below his lofty standards.
”I didn’t play my best game by any means,” Stafford said. ”We’re capable of playing much better than we did on offense.”
Though he’s passed for 4,211 yards in 2013, good for third in the league, Stafford has committed 12 turnovers over the past five weeks and thrown nine interceptions in the last four. He’s posted a 53.4 rating in the last two – well below his 85.8 season mark.
Detroit has totaled 580 yards in its back-to-back losses. It’s averaging 413.7 on the season, fourth in the NFL.
The Lions have also been hurt by penalties the past two weeks, committing 17 total. They’re just 4-3 at home, alternating losses and wins in the past five games there.
Detroit will try to continue that trend against the Giants (5-9), who are coming off a 23-0 loss to Seattle. Eli Manning threw a career-high five interceptions and passed for just 156 yards as New York lost its second straight and third in four games.
Hints of discord between the offense and defense seemed to emerge after the Giants were guaranteed their first losing season since 2004, as safety Antrel Rolle and tight end Brandon Myers appeared to take verbal shots at the opposite unit.
”Am I surprised by it? No!” coach Tom Coughlin said Monday of the frustration boiling over. ”I was surprised by some of what was made of it. But we have an outstanding group of guys and they are competitive and it was a difficult loss in a frustrating year, to be honest with you, and so some of that came out.
”But today is a day of, as I put it, healing again, recognizing who we are.”
Coughlin, though, couldn’t hide his disdain for the offensive performance, calling it “pathetic.” The Giants gained 181 yards, their second-lowest total of the season, as the four-game winning streak that had moved them into playoff contention became an increasingly distant memory.
While New York won’t be playing for a postseason berth the last two weeks, there’s something of a sense of urgency around the team regarding Manning, as two more poor performances could add to the growing concern surrounding the franchise quarterback. Manning has an NFL-high 25 interceptions and his 69.7 rating is the lowest of his career.
Manning said he wasn’t bothered by Coughlin’s characterization, essentially agreeing with it.
”There wasn’t anything said that I don’t think that was totally undeserved,” he said. ”Offensively, I don’t know whatever word you want to use to describe it, is probably pretty accurate. It wasn’t good.”
The status of top receiver Victor Cruz is uncertain after he suffered a concussion last week. Cruz is two yards shy of his third straight 1,000-yard season.
New York has won the last two meetings with Detroit, the most recent coming in 2010 by a 28-20 score. The Giants have won their only matchup with the Lions at Ford Field, 16-10 in 2007, and they also earned a victory at the venue Dec. 13, 2010, when they beat Minnesota 21-3 in a game that was moved after the Metrodome roof collapsed in a snowstorm.
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