Playoff hopes fading for Lions

DETROIT — Whether it’s fact or fiction the next six weeks will decide, but the perception after another agonizing loss Sunday is that the Lions are a team coming apart at the seams.

Their high-powered offense has devolved into a slow-starting outfit that can’t get its best player the ball in crucial situations.

Their overachieving defense played 3 1/2 good quarters against an MVP quarterback, but couldn’t get off the field when it needed to most.

And TV cameras caught coaches fuming on the sideline in the heat of a loss that pushed them to the brink of playoff elimination.

“Anytime you’re not successful nothing’s going to look good,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. “I thought there were times we hit on things really well. But we didn’t do enough to win. Anytime you don’t do enough to win it’s going to look that way.”

Matthew Stafford turned the ball over three times and Aaron Rodgers found Randall Cobb for the game-winning 22-yard touchdown pass with 1:55 to play as the Packers beat the Lions for the 13th time in their last 14 meetings, 24-20, at Ford Field.

At 4-6, the Lions probably need to win their remaining six games to have a shot at an NFC wild-card spot. They host the AFC-leading Texans in their annual Thanksgiving game Thursday.

“The season ain’t over, man,” receiver Calvin Johnson said. “We got six games left. I don’t know what the (playoff) picture looks like, but that’s what we’re fighting for.”

Johnson caught five passes for 143 yards and the Lions’ only second-half touchdown, but he only had one pass thrown his way in the fourth quarter, a desperation final heave that he caught 40 yards from the end zone and that ended in a fumbled lateral.

Stafford didn’t throw a pass in Johnson’s direction during a nine-play field-goal drive midway through the fourth quarter or on the Lions’ four-and-out possession after Cobb’s touchdown, which ended shortly before Fox cameras caught receivers coach Shawn Jefferson yelling at offensive coordinator Scott Linehan about receiver Titus Young.

Young, who had two incompletions thrown his way on the four-and-out drive, was benched for the Lions’ final three offensive plays.

Schwartz wouldn’t comment on the confrontation after the game.

As for his underuse, Johnson said “it’s not unusual” for passes not to go his way near the goal line because of the double- and triple-coverage he sees.

“The coverage kind of dictates what happens a lot of times,” Johnson said. “They were playing a little two(-man) trap, so it made it tough.”

While Johnson still managed his third straight 100-yard receiving game, Stafford was ineffective most of the day.

He completed just 17-of-39 passes for 266 yards, threw an interception in Green Bay territory in each half and lost a fumble late in the second quarter. Packers safety M.D. Jennings returned Stafford’s second pick 72 yards for a touchdown on the Lions’ opening possession of the second half to give the Packers a 14-10 lead.

“I didn’t play my best,” Stafford said. “We didn’t play our best as an offense. Gave them too many opportunities, turned the ball over too many times. I just didn’t make enough plays.”

Rodgers didn’t make a ton of plays for the Packers, either, but he was at his best in the game’s final minutes.

After the Lions settled for a field goal with 4:25 to play, Rodgers led Green Bay (7-3) on a six-play, 82-yard go-ahead drive.

Jermichael Finley turned a short pass into a 40-yard gain on the third play of the drive, and Cobb beat Jacob Lacey on a corner route for the game-winner on third-and-1.

Lacey couldn’t locate the touchdown pass in the air, and safety Ricardo Silva, starting in place of the injured Louis Delmas, wasn’t quick enough with help.

“We got to find the ball in the air,” Schwartz said. “We’ve got to be able to get that ball down. The quarterback just threw it straight up in the air. I mean, he just threw a jump ball in that situation. We’ve got to be able to come down with it.”

Rodgers finished 19-of-27 passing for 236 yards, Cobb had a game-high nine catches, and Finley caught a 20-yard touchdown in the first half for the Packers, who survived two missed field goals from kicker Mason Crosby.

Mikel Leshoure (19 carries, 84 yards) scored on a 1-yard second-quarter run for the Lions.

“It hurts,” linebacker Justin Durant said. “To play as well as we did for basically the first 57 minutes of the game, then to lose it like that, it hurts. Just got to finish, and that’s something that we didn’t do (Sunday).”

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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