Sitting at the bottom of the NFC North, the Detroit Lions know they need to come out of their bye week with a much-improved effort going forward.
While the Philadelphia Eagles share the NFC East lead, Michael Vick knows he must get better at holding on to the football.
The visiting Lions try to avoid a fourth consecutive loss Sunday and beat the Eagles for the first time in a quarter-century.
After going 10-6 and snapping an 11-year postseason drought in 2011, Detroit (1-3) was widely expected to take a big step forward this year. That, however, has yet to happen, with the Lions dropping three in a row since a season-opening 27-23 win over St. Louis.
"That's our challenge right now to dig our way out of this," coach Jim Schwartz said. "There have been a lot of things that have happened that are not indicative of where this team will be after 16 games and like I said, we need to get those corrected."
The Lions saw their woes continue in a 20-13 home loss to Minnesota on Sept. 30, allowing touchdowns on kickoff and punt returns for the second consecutive game. Matthew Stafford, though, is hoping a week off makes all the difference.
"Obviously, you want to head into a bye week with a win," he told the team's official website, "but it's a good time for us to kind of get away from it a little bit, refocus and get ready for a 12-game stretch."
Stafford has been limited to three touchdown passes - he had 41 last season - and his four interceptions equal his total through eight games in 2011. He has yet to find Calvin Johnson in the end zone, though the star wideout ranks second in the league with 105.8 receiving yards per game.
"I'm not real surprised," said Johnson, who had 16 TD catches last year but whose only one this season came from backup Shaun Hill.
"We know teams aren't going to let you do what you did last year. We have to find a different way."
The Eagles (3-2) also are in search of better play from their quarterback. Vick's eight fumbles are three more than any other player and his five lost fumbles also lead the league. He put the ball on the ground three times last Sunday in a last-second 16-14 defeat at Pittsburgh, and lost one fumble at the Steelers' 1.
"I wish I could take back the fumble on the goal line, but I can't," he said. "Ultimately, we put ourselves in a position to win this game, but we didn't win. That's how it goes in the NFL. You wish you could have some things back, and there are plenty of things I wish I could have back through the course of this season, but you can't get them. I will do a better job of protecting the football."
While Vick threw six interceptions in his first two games, he hasn't been picked off in his last three - a trend coach Andy Reid hopes to see with his fumbles.
"We've got to go back and work on ball security and he knows that and he's gonna get it right just like he did with the interceptions," Reid said. "We're gonna get it fixed. It won't be the last time he carries the football. He just has to secure it away, keep it high and tight. When he's in traffic, get that thing covered up with the off hand."
Vick could be in for another long day against a Detroit defense that has nine sacks and has allowed five passing TDs. The Lions are surrendering an average of 213.0 yards through the air to rank 10th in the league.
Besides defensive end Cliff Avril (back) possibly returning, Detroit could receive a boost from safety Louis Delmas, who has a chance to make his season debut Sunday following left knee surgery.
"He's a big-time playmaker," defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said of Delmas. "And, he brings an attitude and energy to our team that really picks everyone up."
The Lions could surely use Delmas as they try to snap a six-game losing streak to the Eagles, including playoffs, dating to a win in Philadelphia on Nov. 16, 1986.
Philadelphia took the most recent matchup 35-32 at Detroit on Sept. 19, 2010, behind 120 rushing yards and a career best-tying three touchdowns from LeSean McCoy. Vick threw for 284 yards and two TDs but fumbled twice.
The Eagles, 3-0 when McCoy rushes for at least 80 yards, are looking to open 3-0 at home for the first time since 2005.
Detroit has lost six of seven on the road, including a playoff loss, while allowing averages of 36.6 points and 441.9 yards.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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