Lions hoping for stronger finish vs. Ravens

If Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions had been a bit more

productive in the fourth quarter recently, they might have a

playoff spot all but locked up.

Instead, Detroit is scrambling to stay atop the NFC North after

three losses in four games.

The Lions were outscored 49-20 in the fourth quarter over that

stretch, and last weekend, they allowed four touchdowns in the

final period in a snowy 34-20 loss at Philadelphia. Detroit is tied

with Chicago for first place in the division – but if the Lions

miss the postseason, they’ll certainly have a few games they can

look back on with regret.

”Every team has to adjust,” Johnson said. ”We’re a good

fourth-quarter team. We have been. We just have to get back to it.

Whatever it may be – third downs, executing in the red zone –

whatever it may be we just have to get back to it.”

The Lions have had their moments in the fourth quarter,

particularly in wins over Cleveland and Dallas earlier this season.

But they haven’t been at all consistent at finishing games strong.

Detroit allowed two touchdowns in the final quarter of a 37-27 loss

at Pittsburgh on Nov. 17, then let a fourth-period lead slip away

against Tampa Bay the following weekend.

The Lions did put away Green Bay in a 40-10 rout on

Thanksgiving, but last weekend’s meltdown against the Eagles

dropped Detroit (7-6) back into a more precarious position in the

playoff race. The Lions host Baltimore on Monday night.

”We just need to be complete,” offensive lineman Rob Sims

said. ”I don’t think it’s a point of emphasis. We’ve done that in

the past – said, `Hey we’ve got to start fast. Oh, hey, we’ve got

to finish strong. Hey, we’ve got to continue doing this.’ We’ve got

to be complete. That’s what we’ve got to be.”

Although there’s a perception that opponents have limited

Johnson’s influence in the fourth quarter, he does have 20 of his

75 receptions this season in the final period. And Matthew

Stafford’s fourth-quarter passer rating is 91.7 – better than his

overall mark of 88.2

”I feel like we’re pretty aggressive. We’re going for it all

the time,” Stafford said. ”You can’t go into every game with the

same mindset – as far as, `Hey, in the fourth quarter of this game,

if you’re up 10 or down 10 we’re still going to throw it this many

times.’ It’s just about flow of the game. You have to feel it and

play accordingly.”

If the Lions needed any extra motivation this week, Baltimore

safety Matt Elam might have provided some when he said Johnson is

”pretty old” – Johnson is 28.

Friday was Johnson’s day to talk to Detroit-area media, and he

didn’t seem too preoccupied with Elam’s comments.

”I don’t have time to make something out of every time somebody

says something, but sometimes you usually know when to keep your

mouth shut,” Johnson said. ”He’s a rookie, he’ll learn.”

When will Elam learn?

”Hopefully, this Monday,” Johnson said.

And did the Detroit star know who Elam was before this week?

”Nah, I didn’t,” he said.

Johnson did concede that he can use comments like Elam’s to pump

himself up before this next game.

”It’s motivation – but more so coming from somebody’s mouth

that I’m actually playing,” Johnson said. ”I’m playing them, but

I’ll see him, like I say, if I run past him down the field or

something like that. It’s not like he’s lined up on me every

play.”

So will the Lions throw deep in Elam’s direction?

”Yeah,” Johnson said with a chuckle. ”We’ve got to test him

out.”

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