Reality hits hard for the Lions

DETROIT -- The Detroit Lions sure had the look of a disintegrating team Sunday at Ford Field. Understandable but unfortunate frustration emerged in the latter stages of a 24-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers, one that left them with a 4-6 record, including 0-4 in the NFC North, and eliminated their margin of error in the postseason race.

To be sure, the Lions have not yet been eliminated from playoff contention. But they'll almost certainly need to win all six of their remaining games to qualify, an unlikely scenario that began registering Sunday.

Television cameras caught receivers coach Shawn Jefferson screaming angrily at offensive coordinator Scott Linehan near the end of the game. Receiver Titus Young was on the bench for the final series of the game for reasons apparently not related to any injury. And center Dominic Raiola was morose in the postgame locker room.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford said "disarray is probably not the right word" to describe the team. But the point when NFL teams realize they won't make the playoffs is usually accompanied by emotion and a degree of lashing out. The Lions are no different.

"Anytime you're not successful, nothing's going to look good," coach Jim Schwartz said. "I thought there were times when 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."

Why the Lions haven't done enough to win this season is a matter that will require deep analysis. They have won only one game, against the 1-9 Jacksonville Jaguars, that didn't require a fourth-quarter comeback. Have they just "missed opportunities here and there," as receiver Calvin Johnson said Sunday? Or do they have deeper issues that will require some difficult offseason decisions?

I'm not sure yet. But I can't say I expected their Thanksgiving Day game against the Houston Texans to be a relatively meaningless game. They're not happy about it, but the Lions are already playing out the string.