Lions grapple with motivation as season winds down

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — As the Lions tried to overcome their 1-7 start, safety Glover Quin regularly said they had a chance to make the playoffs until they're officially eliminated.

The elimination happened Sunday as a loss to the Rams, 21-14, in St. Louis dropped the Lions to 4-9, and now, the Lions will try to find some motivation as they try to win their final three games.

"At this point, you go through everything for a reason, and you've got to learn from it," safety James Ihedigbo said. "It either builds you or breaks you, and us as a team we've got to continue find the good in it somehow and build from it. And we've got to get a win this week somehow."

As the Lions prepare for a Monday night matchup against the Saints (5-8), the expectations won't change. Coach Jim Caldwell didn't want to think about what winning the last three games could mean, just as he wouldn't look ahead all season.

Safety Glover Quin refused to count the Lions out of playoff contention at 1-7. After Sunday's 21-14 setback to the Rams, the team is officially out of the postseason.

"This next game is a big one for us," he said. "It's huge. It's the most important game of the year because it's the next one."

Caldwell said he's not worried about the effort from players because he thinks the guys on the team have the right makeup. The players understand they have a job to do, and even if they're not playing to be in the 2015 postseason, what happens in the next three games could impact their future.

"I get paid to play these three games," tight end Eric Ebron said. "I'm going to go out there to try to earn every penny I get.

"Everybody has something to play for. Every time you go out on the field I hope you have something to play for, or you're in the wrong profession."

Katzenstein: Caldwell's stubbornness a slap in face to fans

Even though Caldwell said he expects maximum effort from the players, he admitted the message might have to change, though he said the approach with the players would remain private.

After the loss Sunday, the Lions will indeed have a losing season, their first in Caldwell's two years, but their 13th since the turn of the century.

Against the Rams Sunday, the Lions allowed 203 rushing yards and scored just 14 points. As was the case in most of their losses, execution was the biggest problem. Like earlier in the season, though, the Lions are confident they can fix their issues in the upcoming games.

"We have to go to work," Quin said. "We officially have a losing season now. All we can finish is 7-9, but 7-9 is a whole lot better than 4-12. So, we have to come back to work, get it fixed and get ready for New Orleans."

With the playoffs out of reach, it would be prudent for the Lions to play some of their young players — linebacker Kyle Van Noy, for instance — to see what they can do. However, with a highly uncertain offseason approaching, for both the players and coaches, Caldwell said the team won't suddenly overhaul how it utilizes personnel.

"We're trying to win," he said. "That's our goal. … Tomorrow's not even promised to us, so we're not looking that far ahead. We're looking right, straight forward at this next ball game and working towards that."