Lions hope Ford Field advantage saves season

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — With a losing record, an offense that typically struggles for three quarters and a beat-up defense that seems terribly fragile heading down the stretch, the Detroit Lions don’t have many realistic reasons to think they’re headed to the playoffs.

But there’s one thing on their side: Home cooking.

Five of the Lions’ final seven games are at Ford Field. Only one other NFC playoff contender, Dallas, has that many home games in the final seven weeks.

Chicago, San Francisco, Green Bay, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Arizona all play more road games than home games the rest of the way.

“I wouldn’t call it desperate or dire,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said Monday, when asked about the state of his team. “Our word is urgent.

“We now have a stretch of three in a row at home. We have to do something with that. There’s an urgency to that.

“Our margins are a lot thinner. We don’t have a whole lot of wiggle room for mistakes down the stretch. We have to play our best.”

The Lions take a 4-5 record into Sunday’s game against Green Bay, which is a 3-point road favorite.

The team holding the NFC’s sixth and final playoff spot at this point is Seattle with a 6-4 record. The Lions also are trailing Minnesota (6-4) and Tampa Bay (5-4), along with being tied with New Orleans, Dallas and Arizona.

“We’ll leave math for mathematicians and statisticians,” Schwartz said. “You need to have a consistent performance. You need to go out and win the next game that you’re playing. You need to put a win or a loss behind you.

“The last two Super Bowl winners (the New York Giants last season and Green Bay the year before) were 7-7 with two weeks to go in the season. There’s some math right there.”

Besides Green Bay, the Lions’ other home games include Houston (8-1), Indianapolis (6-3), Atlanta (8-1) and Chicago (7-2). The road trips are to Green Bay and Arizona.

“If we make it, we’ll deserve it because we’re playing some good teams,” kicker Jason Hanson said.

For now, the Lions, coming off a loss at Minnesota, just want to prepare for the Packers and not think any further.

“It’s hard not to look ahead and try to map out how you can play it out and what you need to do to get here and there,” cornerback Jacob Lacey said. “But once you do that, I feel like you lose focus on what’s right in front of you and that’s next week vs. Green Bay.”

Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was credited with only one tackle, no sacks, no tackles for loss and no quarterback hits against the Vikings.

That came one week after he wasn’t credited with any tackles at Jacksonville.

It’s a long way statistically from his rookie season when Suh produced 66 tackles and 10 sacks.

The perception is that Suh isn’t playing well, but Schwartz will argue that point. In fact, the coach’s response a little surprising.

“I thought Ndamukong Suh might have played the best game he’s played since he’s been here,” Schwartz said of Sunday’s performance in a 34-24 loss. “He was dominating at times. Unless they doubled him in pass protection, he was in the quarterback’s lap the whole game.

“When you’re a defensive tackle, it’s not always reflected in statistics. When he was a rookie and got 10 sacks, we kept saying, ‘Hey, this is extremely rare for a defensive tackle.’

“We grade him on whether he accomplishes his assignment. It’s not up to him if the ball’s run his direction … (or) if he gets a double-team and someone else is freed up to make a play. I thought he played a very, very strong game and was difficult for those guys to handle.”

Defensive end Cliff Avril apparently is bouncing back well considering he left Sunday’s game because of a concussion.

“He was much improved after the game, probably more so than a lot of the other concussions that we’ve had,” Schwartz said.

… Cornerback Chris Houston injured his left ankle, the same one that forced him to miss the first two games of the season, and is day-to-day. X-rays were negative.

… Cornerback Drayton Florence, who has missed the last seven games following surgery for a broken forearm, is eligible to be activated from the injured list. The Lions will have to release a player to make room for Florence on the 53-man roster.

“He’s physically cleared,” Schwartz said.  “We’ve missed him on the field. He’s a good veteran presence, particularly with the injuries we have in the secondary. It would be good to get him (back).”

… The Lions announced that they have released cornerback Alphonso Smith, who had been re-signed only a few weeks ago after getting cut shortly before the regular season. The move was made to make room on the roster for another cornerback, Pat Lee, who was claimed off waivers after starting seven games this season for Oakland.