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O'HARA: Defense keeping Lions in games, looking to close one out

The Detroit Lions' defense has played some good ball at times this year, particularly of late.

It just hasn't maintained that level long enough to win a game.

A 16-14 loss to the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving Day was a prime example of the defense not being able close out a game to protect a lead. The Bears drove 69 yards in 18 plays to win the game on a field goal as time expired.

It was one of four games the Lions have lost by three points or fewer this season. Three have been on the last play of the game.

The Lions will be looking for their first win of the season Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, one of the teams they took to the limit in Week 5 before suffering a 19-17 loss on a last-play field goal.

View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021.

Linebacker Alex Anzalone, who has grown into a leadership role in his first season with the Lions, spoke Wednesday about situational awareness being an important trait in getting a young team to the hump and over it.

"If you look at the best teams in the league, that's probably the No. 1 trait as a group that team has," Anzalone said. "I don't even know how many one-score games we've had. It's been a lot.

"I think as you grow and as you get older and wiser and more experienced and the younger guys learn from these things, you continue to grow and learn.

"You're seeing that in certain instances."

Is there hope in the gloom for the Lions with a record of 0-10-1?

"Yeah," he said. "Our record is what it is. We all want to strive to be better. That's all part of the NFL. That's part of being professional – just to be the best at what you do. We all have different reasons why we play. We all want to be the best."

It's hard to pick any game as the toughest loss of the season, but considering the setting – Thanksgiving Day and on national television – the loss to the Bears was a contender for worst of the worst.

The Lions had a 14-13 lead when the Bears took possession at their 21 on a punt with 8:30 left.

It was a good position for the defense to make a stand and force a punt on a three and out. Ideally, the Lions could have added to their lead with a field goal or a touchdown.

That didn't happen. The Bears reached midfield in five plays – still far out of realistic field-goal range.

From there, the Bears drove steadily into range for Cairo Santos to win the game with a 28-yard field goal.

A week earlier, the Browns clinched a 13-10 win with a nine-play, 42-yard possession that ate up the final 2:29. Seven of those plays were runs. The final two were kneel-downs by Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Earlier in the season, the Lions lost two games on last-play field goals by identical 19-17 scores. Justin Tucker made a league-record 66-yarder for the Ravens in Week 3. Greg Joseph made a 54-yarder two weeks later for the Vikings.

The Lions aren't consumed with winning, Anzalone said.

"It doesn't consume us," he said. "All we can do is control one day at a time and one practice at a time. Just keep getting better."

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