Lions have been snakebit from the start of season
AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) – The Detroit Lions needed a lot to go right for them to have success this season.
So far, everything has gone wrong.
The winless Lions have been hit hard by injuries to Matthew Stafford, Nate Burleson and Jahvid Best – three key players on offense – and their best shot at a victory in Week 1 at Chicago was foiled when officials ruled Calvin Johnson didn’t catch a potential game-winning touchdown.
“It’s been like a domino effect,” banged-up running back Aaron Brown said. “We started off with the dumb call and Matt getting hurt, then Nate, and (Best) and me. We keep churning for that break.”
Stafford will miss a third straight game – Sunday in Green Bay – with an injured right shoulder that makes Shaun Hill a starter. Stafford didn’t practice Wednesday and had plenty of teammates to watch practice with because Best (toe), Burleson (ankle) Brown (hand) and linebacker DeAndre Levy (groin) were among the players not healthy enough to participate.
Detroit didn’t have a big margin for error this season after winning just twice in two years and injuries to several players have led to an 0-3 record, sinking the franchise to another low.
The Lions are 3-40 since midway through the 2007 season, giving them the worst 43-game record in NFL history, and they’re 2-33 since 2008 for the lowest winning percentage over 35 games according to STATS LLC.
“The worse is over because we bottomed out somewhere in that span,” kicker Jason Hanson said. “Everyone can see and feel that we’re a better team and there’s a reason to have expectations. But it wasn’t good to go 0-3 in our situation because the longer you go without getting it done, the more you start to doubt.”
Seeds of doubt were planted when the Lions gave Super Bowl-winning linebacker and TV analyst Matt Millen his first job in an NFL front office in 2001, when he drafted current center Dominic Raiola, and they’ve bloomed into a 33-114 record over the past nine-plus seasons.
Millen was fired two years ago, but his many misses in the draft and free agency left a mess behind for a franchise that already had problems with only one playoff victory since winning the 1957 NFL title.
“You can’t get caught up in thinking we’re cursed,” Raiola said. “I don’t even believe in witches.”
Stafford didn’t throw any passes Wednesday during the part of practice open to the media, then flashed a thumbs-up when a reporter asked him if he threw with his right arm when reporters didn’t have access. The No. 1 pick in the 2009 draft then declined comment and wasn’t in the locker room when it was open for the media.
Detroit coach Jim Schwartz was only slightly more forthcoming.
“Matt’s making good progress and is doing a good job in his rehab,” Schwartz said. “He won’t be ready this week. I’m not going to get into his daily rehab, but he’s doing more and more every day as you would expect. … Matt is continuing in his rehab and throwing is in that rehab.”
The Lions are left to hope Hill can help them end an 18-game, regular-season losing streak on the road against the Packers.
“I’ve never won in Green Bay – that’s mind-boggling,” Hanson, whom Detroit drafted in 1992. “I used to joke about it, but it’s not funny anymore. The streak started the year I came in the league. It seems impossible.”
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the No. 2 pick overall this season, insists it is possible for the Lions to turn it around this season and it’s easy for him to stay optimistic.
“For me, it’s simple,” Suh said. “I know how great we are when we’re playing as a unit, and I don’t think we’ve played our best game. Until we play our best game and we’re still losing, then it becomes a problem.”