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O'HARA: Lions' tough finish 'eye-opening' for Quinn

The final numbers helped tell the story on where the Detroit Lions stood at the finish of the 2016 season, and the way they added up in the standings told Bob Quinn that there is still a lot of work to do after his first season as the team's general manager.

What happened in the last month – ending the season with four straight losses to teams that made the playoffs in the NFC – was a key entry in determining the bottom line on how the Lions are situated going forward.

It was a finish that Quinn called "eye-opening" at his end-of-season press conference Thursday afternoon.

The Lions were 9-7, but three losses at the end of the regular season and a loss to Seattle in the Wild Card round left the Lions at 9-8 overall. It was a substantial drop from 9-4, which was where they were after winning eight of nine games.

For Quinn, there was no denying what the final record showed, and how it occurred.

"Our record is what it is," Quinn said. "We lost four games to four of the better teams in the NFC. That's our competition going forward."

With three games left in the regular season, the Lions' 9-4 record had them in first place in the NFC North and in position to win their first division title since 1993. Also at that point they could have been one of the top two seeds in the NFC playoff field, with a first-round bye and home-field advantage for their first playoff game.

Game by game, loss by loss, all of that disappeared.

First was a pair of road losses – 17-6 to the Giants when the Lions failed to score a touchdown, and 42-21 to the Cowboys, when the Lions had a 21-14 first-half lead and were outscored 28-0 the rest of the game.

The crusher, in terms of the regular season, was a 31-24 loss to the Packers in a showdown for first place in the NFC North in the regular-season finale at Ford Field. The Lions had a 14-7 lead in the first half, but the Packers went on a 24-3 run to clinch their fifth North title in six years.

Starting the playoffs on the road against the Seahawks in the Wild Card round, the Lions were overmatched in a 26-6 loss. The Lions couldn't score a touchdown, and the Seahawks' dormant running game came alive with 177 yards.

The Lions' last four opponents all had double-digit wins in the regular-season – the Giants (11-5), Cowboys (13-3), Packers (10-6) and Seahawks (10-5-1). The Giants, losers to the Packers in the Wild Card, are the only one of the four that is not playing in this weekend's divisional round.

The four losses do not eliminate all of the good things the Lions accomplished in the regular season. They improved their 7-9 record in 2015, and they showed resilience and resourcefulness in the clutch by coming back to get eight of their nine wins in the fourth quarter or overtime.

However, the way the season ended is a measuring stick for how the Lions compare to the NFC's teams.

If the Lions want to compete with the best, they can't wait for the competition to fall to them. They have to make their own run to the top.

"The Dallas Cowboys are not going to get worse all of a sudden," Quinn said. "The Green Bay Packers aren't going to get worse. Every team strives to get better.

"It was eye opening. Listen, we lost to those four teams. Next year, hopefully, we're playing meaningful games against them again, and things are different."

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