Thirteen years ago, the Detroit Lions became the first team in NFL history to go 0-16.
If they don’t stop making self-inflicted mistakes in all three phases of the game, one player said the organization is headed for an even more shameful finish this season.
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“We can’t sit here and linger behind it, we can’t sit here and allow those to be excuses,” Lions safety Tracy Walker said. “We have to fix it right now because obviously it ain’t going to fix itself or we’re going to be 0-17. So at the end of the day, we got to go out here and be better as a team.”
The Lions fell to 0-8 with a 44-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at Ford Field and remain the only winless team in the NFL heading into their bye week.
They gave up points on seven consecutive drives Sunday, failed to score until the fourth quarter for the second time in three weeks, and committed a bushel of errors.
Walker, who was 13 during the Lions’ last winless season of 2008, said he is confident the Lions will turn their season around after the bye. Still, he is the first player on this year’s team to bring up the possibility of going 0-17 unprompted.
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“That’s not a possibility in my mind,” he said. “I mean, I’m just saying, if we don’t fix it, if we continue with the same problems, obviously we ain’t going to win a game, so we got to fix it.”
The Lions are not expected to be favorites in any of their final nine games, five of which are on the road.
They play AFC playoff contenders the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns in their first two games after the bye, then return home for division games against the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings.
The Bears game on Thanksgiving seems like the most winnable game left on the schedule — Chicago fell to 3-5 with a 33-22 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. But the Bears beat the Lions handily in Week 4, 24-14, with rookie Justin Fields at quarterback.
The Lions, whose coach, Dan Campbell, was a player on their 0-16 team — Campbell spent most of that season away from the team rehabbing from injury at his home in Texas — also play three road games against teams with losing records in December and January: The Denver Broncos, Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks.
“We go one game at a time,” Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson said. “I mean, this bye week, like I said, I’m going to reflect on these last eight games. We got nine left, and so we got a few ahead of us. This season’s not over and we’re able to write the story. And it’s what guys want to do, what we want to do as a team and where we want to go and move this organization and move this city. And that’s something that you got to look right in the mirror and just reflect and understand where we want to go and what we want to do these next few games.”
Campbell made the unusual decision to take the ball first after winning the coin toss to the start the game, a decision that backfired when the Lions were forced to punt after three offensive plays.
“We wanted to be more aggressive,” Campbell said. “We actually did. That was going to be the whole thing, man. We started off the game, we’re going to rip it, all go, see if we can hard count them (and get them to jump offsides). They didn’t jump, which is fine. We hit Hock on a big play. Man, we’re flowing. Then it’s just, man, we couldn’t even — I wanted to be aggressive on third down but we weren’t close enough to get into manageable fourth down.”
Campbell said he felt his offense had an advantage against an Eagles team that ranked near the bottom of the league in scoring and total defense entering Sunday and had allowed 28 or more points in four of its five losses this season.
The Lions had 142 yards of offense through three quarters and scored their only points on a meaningless touchdown with 7:14 to play.
Along with that decision, Campbell was critical of his handling of a two-minute drive late in the first half, when the Lions hurried a third-and-1 handoff to D’Andre Swift that went for no gain then allowed a sack after a timeout on fourth-and-1.
“I hate what I did before halftime, freaking hate it,” Campbell said. “Now, I don’t hate going for it, but I should’ve used a timeout going into third-and-1. So that didn’t help either. Look, I got out-coached, man. I got out-coached. I didn’t help these guys.”