The Detroit Lions are searching for a formula to score points in the third quarter, and they are running out of time to find one.
Their lack of production in the third quarter of Sunday's loss to the Chicago Bears was an extreme example of a problem that has haunted them all season.
The Lions failed to gain a first down on four possessions in the third quarter. They were also shut out in the fourth quarter.
The Bears took advantage of the Lions inability to score and turned a 13-10 halftime deficit into a 28-13 victory.
With four games left in the regular season, the Lions have a 9-4 won-loss record going into Saturday night's home game against the Denver Broncos.
The Lions have a two-game lead over the Vikings in the NFC North. The Lions are facing a Broncos team that is legitimately better than its record indicates. The Broncos have won six of their last seven games.
Every unit has to carry its share of the load for the Lions to win the North and the first-round home game that goes with it. Getting some scoring production in the third quarter would help.
The Lions have scored only 46 points in the third quarter. That's almost a no-show compared to what they have done in the other three quarters – 88 points in the first quarter, 108 in the second and 98 in the fourth.
"We're very aware of it," said quarterback Jared Goff. "I wish there was one thing that we could point to as the reason why, or one thing that fixes it, but there isn't."
Copy cat: Broncos head coach Sean Payton went to a familiar source when he was looking for a model to show how a team can turn around its fortunes.
The Detroit Lions, with a 1-6 record in 2022 in Dan Campbell's second season as head coach, fit what Payton was looking for.
The Broncos started this season with a 1-5 record in Payton's first season as their head coach.
He talked about grittiness and other traits when he compared what the Lions had done with that 1-6 start to what the Broncos wanted to accomplish.
"He's a close friend and a fantastic coach," Payton said of Campbell. "Someone I always enjoyed working with. At 1-5, we just pointed to a similar situation a year ago."
The Lions had a 3-13-1 record in Campbell's first season. With the 1-6 start, he had a combined record of 4-19-1. His future in Detroit did not look promising.
The Lions' turnaround was nothing short of amazing. The Lions were 8-2 in their last 10 games last year.
Offense: Protect the ball. Convert turnovers into points. Simple as that.
Defense: Create turnovers. Tackle better. Don't give up extra yards and points.
The Broncos have been on a good run to get to a 7-6 record. The Lions have been on a better run, going 8-2 at the end of last season and 9-4 to lead the NFC North this year. That counts for more.
My pick: Lions 27, Broncos 16.
Who ya got?