Lions still control playoff fate despite loss to Giants
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Fans tend to view the Lions push to the playoff as a two-game season.
Coach Jim Caldwell and his players refuse to look that far ahead. After losing 17-6 to the Giants on Sunday, Detroit's focus is solely on the Cowboys and their meeting in Dallas on Dec. 26.
''I view it like I've viewed it all season long, like I've viewed it since I've been here,'' Caldwell said. ''One game. That's all we're looking at. Get through this one, take a look at the film. Get ourselves corrected and look forward to the Cowboys coming up.''
The Lions (9-5) still control their playoff future. They can lock up the NFC North title by winning out. They are a game ahead of the Packers, who beat the Bears 30-27 on Sunday.
Detroit closes out the season at home against Green Bay.
But nobody in the Lions' dressing room was looking beyond the Cowboys.
''It's going to be one,'' quarterback Matthew Stafford when asked about the two-game sprint to the finish. ''We just keep taking one at a time.''
The loss to Giants was a tough one. Both teams fought hard in a defensive struggle that snapped the Lions' five-game winning streak.
A positive for the Lions was another stout defensive effort. It was the eighth straight game in which they held an opponent to 20 or fewer points.
Aside from Odell Beckham Jr's one-handed touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, the Lions were nip and tuck with a surging Giants team that has won eight of its last nine games.
The Lions, who rallied in the fourth quarter to win in eight of their nine victories, never came close to a comeback in this one as the Giants made them play on a long field all day.
Stafford didn't show any major issues playing with an injured middle finger on his throwing hand. He finished 24 of 39 for 274 yards and an interception, finding Golden Tate eight times for 122 yards.
''He hung in there and fought,'' Caldwell said of Stafford. ''Obviously it's going to be a little bit different for him, in terms of his adjustment. We'll battle through it. That's not the reason we lost the game today. We're not looking for any excuses.''
The biggest play for the Lions was a 67-yard throw from Stafford to Tate that gave the, first-and-10 at the Giants 11, trailing 7-3 in the second quarter. On first down, Zach Zenner fumbled at the end of a 7-yard run and Olivier Vernon recovered in the end zone.
''I thought I had it good on the exchange, but I'll have to look at the tape and see what happened,'' Zenner said. ''I thought I had a good grip on it and then the worst feeling in the world happened when the ball was loose.''
Matt Prater accounted for the Lions' points with field goals of 48 yards in the second quarter and 33 in the third. The second cut the deficit to 10-6; New York had gotten a 47-yard field goal from Robbie Gould late in the second quarter.
However, the Lions never got closer as New York limited Detroit to 5 of 14 on third downs and 324 yards in total.
Now it's on to Dallas for the Lions' final playoff push.
''We don't like this feeling,'' Tate said. ''We're going to try and change that Monday (against Dallas). ''We need a great week of practice. Me personally, I'm excited to get back out there and get this taste out of our mouths and keep it moving. We are right where we want to be. We just need to worry about us and play fundamental, sound football.''
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