Finishing out the season 4-0 could be the catalyst the Lions need heading into the playoffs

Posted Dec 29, 2011

Winning Sunday against the Packers is more important for the Lions than just earning the fifth seed in the playoffs or ending a 20-year losing streak at Lambeau Field.

With a victory Sunday against the Packers, the Lions have a chance to end the year on a 4-0 win-streak, just as they did a season ago.

It shouldn’t be understated how important that is for this Lions team.

Success breeds confidence and confidence is one of the key ingredients to any up-and-coming playoff team.

The momentum built at the end of last season was one of the springboards for how the Lions started this season with an undefeated preseason and a 5-0 start.

“Having that 4-0 finish last year and then coming into the preseason and starting the season 5-0, we were on a streak there where we literally knew nobody could beat us,” said Lions receiver Nate Burleson.

“That may sound a little cocky and we were in that locker room trying to say the right things in front of the media, but we honestly felt like no one could beat us. If we could get that hot again and quietly stay confident and know ‘Alright, cool, it’s just four games to the Super Bowl, we’ve done that against good teams.’”

There’s something to be said about learning how to win, something this franchise wasn’t used to doing before the end of last season.

“Well you got to play your best in December so you can get to January and we didn’t get there, but we talked about it (last year),” said Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. “We knew that is wasn’t something that we could just pick up and do. We were going to have to learn how to do it and we had a lot of things we had to get done last year.

“One thing about winning is it instills confidence and you got to prove you can do it and once you do, then it makes a lot easier to do. I am not sure it is ever easy, it is pretty hard to win, but it certainly makes it something more realistic.”

A loss to the Packers on Sunday would be the Lions’ fifth this season against a team that’s qualified for the NFC playoffs. The momentum they’ve built up over the last three weeks --- gone.

Lions center Dominic Raiola said earlier this week the last thing the team needs is to lose the final game of the regular season and feel bad about the previous week as they prepare for their first playoff run since 1999.

“I really think people don’t understand how important (finishing 4-0 last year) was for this year,” Raiola said. “We know how it is to close out a season 4-0 and anytime you do something before, it’s easier to do the second time around.  That’s a big deal for us.”

The Lions say the 4-0 finish last year was a catalyst for how they started this season.

It would make sense, then, that a 4-0 finish this year would breed the same type of confidence for a playoff push this season, right?

“Throughout my career here, before this year, when we finished a season, it was about play for pride and what type of character do you have even though we were out of the playoff race,” said Lions tackle Jeff Backus, who will play in the first playoff game of his career next week.

“I think we finished last season with a lot of confidence that I think carried over to this year. It helps you build momentum and it helps you build confidence and we rode that momentum this year. It’s about just continuing the momentum we have and keeping it going as long as we can.”