ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Matthew Stafford’s banged-up hand is only one of many problems the Detroit Lions have in what was a potentially promising season.
Detroit (6-6) has dropped two straight games, falling from a favorable position to make the playoffs to having slim hopes.
At least that’s how it looks to most people not named Jim Caldwell.
“The season’s not over yet,” the coach told reporters Monday. “You guys are talking as if it’s all is lost and that kind of thing.
“That’s the great thing about our game. It’s going to challenge you. It’s going to be tough. It’s not going to be an easy road. And it’s either going to polish you up or grind you down. And, it’s our job to make certain that we get polished up. We got a lot of work to do, but that’s all part of what we do.”
Caldwell insists the Lions can do what it takes to keep their fading postseason hopes alive by winning the rest of their games: Sunday at Tampa Bay, home against Chicago, at Cincinnati and against Green Bay at home to finish with a 10-6 record that might not be good enough to quality for the playoffs in the NFC.
“I’ve been 6-6 before, and pulled it out,” he said. “So, let’s see where we are at the end.”
In Caldwell’s second of three seasons as coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2010, he helped them go from .500 to 10-6 to make the playoffs and lose as an AFC wild card.
If he can’t help them start faster and get 11 players on the field for every snap, it will be tough for Detroit to win.
The Lions have been outscored 36-3 in the opening quarters of the past four games.
“We have to fix this,” cornerback Quandre Diggs said. “And I know we can do it because we’ve made runs before.”
Detroit lost 44-20 at Baltimore and 30-23 to the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings, who padded their lead in the division on Thanksgiving in the Motor City instead of letting the Lions pull within a game.
The Lions are struggling to run the ball, as they have for years, and that is putting more pressure on a shaky offensive line to protect Stafford.
He was stepped on Sunday in the loss to the Ravens and left the game with what looked as if it might be a serious injury.
X-rays were negative, though, and he had bandages wrapped around his pinkie, ring and middle finger on his right hand on Monday.
“Nothing new has popped up,” Stafford said. “He’s just pretty sore right about now.”
Caldwell has declined to let injuries become an excuse about his team’s plight. He’s also taking the hit for not having 11 defenders on the field for a snap for the second straight week.
“Completely my fault,” he said. “Got to get it straightened out. Not acceptable. Horrendous, actually.”
The Lions have been bad on defense, too, giving up 74 points in the past two games.
“We’ve got to figure it out,” safety Glover Quin said. “Time is running out.”