ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Like it or not, part of being a Detroit Lion is trying to overcome the horrific past.
This 2013 edition has a chance to do just that over the final month of the season. The Lions are in position to win a division title – and host a playoff game – for the first time in two decades.
Receiver Nate Burleson reacted Tuesday as if he didn’t realize it had been that long for the organization, but he’s embracing the challenge and all that goes with it.
“I don’t shy away from the records, whether they’re good or bad, or streaks, whether they’re good or bad,” Burleson said. “I got this jersey on and with that you kind of shoulder the past and what was before us.
“Twenty years of not winning a division? I don’t really think about this stuff. But when you bring it up, it’s exciting to me because we get a chance to change that. When you change something, you’re a part of history.
“I don’t look at it from the pessimistic angle. I look at it optimistically, thinking that we can rid this city of another streak that they’re not proud of. That’s the exciting part for me.”
Even two years ago, when the Lions reached the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons, they did it as a wildcard team after finishing five games behind the Green Bay Packers in the division race.
Burleson was 12 years old when Detroit won its last division title. That was 20 years ago, 1993, in the old NFC Central.
The Lions finished with a 10-6 record before losing their opening playoff game to the Packers at the Pontiac Silverdome, where Detroit used to play before moving downtown to Ford Field.
The Lions (7-5) will enter Sunday’s game at Philadelphia with a one-game lead over the Chicago Bears (6-6) in the NFC North, plus they own the tiebreaker with the Bears because of a two-game season sweep.
The bottom line is that Detroit can clinch the division with three victories in its final four games, but it probably won’t take that much because Chicago doesn’t look like a team ready to go on a winning streak.
More than likely, the Lions will be celebrating even by splitting their four games. Who knows, with the way Bears and Packers are playing these days, maybe Detroit can get in with just one more win.
“Knowing that we control our own destiny is huge,” cornerback Chris Houston said. “You’re not waiting on nobody else.”
Just take care of their own business, and they’re in.
Following the game at Philly, the Lions play the next two at home against Baltimore and the New York Giants before closing out the regular season in Minnesota.
Chicago, which has lost three of its last four and six of the last nine, ends the season with this schedule: vs. Dallas, at Cleveland, at Philadelphia and vs. Green Bay.
Green Bay (5-6-1) also remains in contention, but it’s a tougher road for the Packers, who are 0-4-1 over the last five weeks. Green Bay’s last four games are: vs. Atlanta, at Dallas, vs. Pittsburgh and at Chicago.
The Lions’ playoff push has benefited greatly from injuries to both Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler.
If the season ended today, the Lions would be the No. 3 seed in the NFC and host the San Francisco 49ers in an opening-round playoff game.
The Lions, naturally, want to do their part and finish strong.
Based on how impressive they’ve been when they’re not self-destructing, there’s a legitimate opportunity to wrap up this division sooner than later.
“On the offensive side of the ball, we’ve just got to take better care of the football,” said quarterback Matthew Stafford, pointing to the team’s 17 turnovers while still winning three of its last five games. “We’ve got to find a way to eliminate those. If we do that, I feel good about where we are offensively.
“On the defensive side of the ball, just a repeat of last week every week would be great (Detroit held Green Bay to 126 total yards and no offensive touchdowns). Just keep playing with that same intensity.
“Those guys (the defense) were playing disciplined football. There weren’t penalties flying everywhere. They were doing a great job of creating havoc but at the same time playing within the rules, which is something we’ve worked really hard on.”
Do all of that and don’t start looking ahead. It’s the perfect formula to end the two-decade drought.
“Destiny is Sunday,” Burleson said. “That’s what we have to focus on. We’re in control of what happens in Philly. If we can look at it like that on a weekly basis, the playoffs take care of itself.”
EXTRA POINTS — Houston, who missed the Thanksgiving Day game because of a foot injury, returned to practice Tuesday. He’s hopeful that he’ll be able to play Sunday.
“That’s what we’re leaning to,” Houston said. “I’m just taking it one day at a time, see where I’m at.”
— Despite working out several kickers this week, Schwartz said the club didn’t sign anyone to replace David Akers, who has been inconsistent this season.
“We’ve got to be ready for anything that comes up,” Schwartz said
Asked if Akers had any physical issues, Schwartz said, “No.”
— Schwartz, on the 40-10 victory over Green Bay:
“Their best offensive play was us (rookie Sam Martin) kicking the ball out of bounds.”