The situation facing the Detroit Lions is so clear that there is no need to attach a label to it as they prepare to face the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field Sunday afternoon.
"Must win" is a handy tag that fits as well as anything else, although on its face that might seem a little extreme for Game 4 of any season.
But the ramifications are clear as the Lions try to rebound from two straight losses that have dropped their record to 1-2.
A third straight loss – especially to a winless Bears team that has lost its last six games to the Lions -- would push the Lions further along the path of another of the recent lengthy losing streaks that have wrecked their seasons.
The Lions have been in that hole often enough – including last year, when they started the season with five straight losses – to know the pain of losing.
"Must win ... every single opportunity we go out and get, we want to take advantage of," said head coach Jim Caldwell. "There's no question, we only get 16 of them, and they're all important.
"They all carry the exact same weight. It's the biggest one we have. It's the next one. The thing is, you never want to get in a situation where you are so far back you can't dig yourself out of a hole."
Breakdown: It's a good time for any team to catch the Bears. They're reeling with three straight losses and have injuries. It's possible, but unlikely, that Jay Cutler will return from an injury on his right (throwing) thumb to start at quarterback.
Teams have thrown on the Lions, and the Bears have a play-making tandem in Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White. Either one could change the game in the Bears' favor with a big play – or two or three.
Prediction: The Lions have lived on the edge for three weeks, and they will again – and survive.
Lions 24, Bears 20.
Series history: Chicago leads the all-time series, 96-71. The teams have played five ties. The Lions have a six-game winning streak.
2015 series rewind:
Game 1: Lions 37, Bears 34 at Ford Field. Calvin's six-yard TD catch with 21 seconds left gave the Lions a 34-31 lead, but Chicago tied it with a field goal on the last play of the game. Matt Prater's 27-yard field goal in overtime won the game and snapped Detroit's five-game losing streak.
Game 2: Lions 24, Bears 20. Eric Ebron's TD catch with 8:46 left gave the Lions a 24-17 lead. Robbie Gould's field goal cut it to 24-20. The Lions' defense held the rest of the way, and the offense ran out the clock with the help of Calvin Johnson's third-down catch for a first down.
Lions focus defense: Get turnovers, stops -- The defense has been on the short end of a battle on three fronts – creating turnovers, stopping drives on third down and giving up big plays.
Through three games, the Lions have given up a 50-percent conversion rate on third down (19-38), have been burned often by big plays, and their only turnover was on safety Glover Quin's interception in the loss to the Tennessee Titans in Game 2.
Quin is well aware of the need for the defense to do better and expressed his views on all three categories.
On third-down stops: "Unless you stop them on third down, they keep drives going."
On turnovers: "You definitely want to find ways to get the ball back, especially with an offense as potent as ours."
And on giving up plays, including big penalties: "A big play for the offense is just like a turnover for the defense. It's that momentum."
Based on how the Bears have performed in the first three games, the Lions should fare better in those categories Sunday.
However, the defense can't have the lapses that occurred in the first three games.
The Colts scored three points in the first 28:23 of the opener and 32 the rest of the way.
The Titans scored three points in the first three quarters and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win Game 2, 16-15.
And last week in Green Bay, the Packers scored 31 points in the first half and only three in the second half.
"We've just got to be able to put two halves together, and I think that's more consistency," said defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. "I'm not concerned with our guys getting it. If we're playing this way at the end of the season then you can say, 'Yeah, it was a challenge.' But, I think our guys will rebound and will be better."
Bears focus: Cutler update, injuries -- Quarterback Jay Cutler has begun some light practice, but head coach John Fox didn't seem overly confident about the possibility of him starting Sunday when he spoke to the Detroit media Thursday afternoon.
If Cutler can't go, Brian Hoyer will make his second straight start.
Cutler did some light throwing Wednesday but was held out of Thursday's practice.
"He is improved," Fox said. "It's his throwing hand. He tossed it around a little (Wednesday). We didn't want to do it two days in a row. We'll have a better understanding (Friday).
"Right now he's really not able to play. You go out there and take snaps, but to throw the ball into tight windows and do the things in this league to perform at a high level -- if we feel good about that Sunday, we wouldn't hesitate to put him in."
Injuries have hit the Bears even harder than they have the Lions. They sustained another one in Sunday night's loss at Dallas when running back Jeremy Langford went out with an injured ankle. However, Fox says the team is starting to get some continuity, even if it's incremental.
"Football is such a team game," Fox said. "Continuity does help. We haven't been as fortunate in the first three weeks. Hopefully, from Sunday night's game in Dallas to this weekend's game, we can keep primarily the same starters going. We have some guys that we have seen play now."