ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -A month ago, everything seemed perfect for the Detroit Lions.
They were 6-2 after a 44-7 rout of the Denver Broncos, and their long-suffering fans were looking forward to the team's first playoff berth of the Matt Millen era.
Things have certainly changed.
A 42-10 loss in Minnesota on Sunday dropped the Lions to 6-6, and three of their final four games are against division leaders Dallas, San Diego and Green Bay. Suddenly, finishing .500 for the first time since Millen took over in 2001 looks like a long shot.
``We just have to start playing better in every facet of the game,'' said defensive tackle Cory Redding. ``It is as simple as that.''
As always, Lions coach Rod Marinelli was quick to shoulder the blame at his Monday news conference, but he acknowledged that he can't win games alone.
``A lot of this has to do with non-talent issues, and those are on me,'' he said. ``We were a step slow and we had a high number of 'loafs,' and those are failures on the part of my staff to teach our players the right way to prepare for a game.
``But if it is an ongoing issue, we have 53 players, and we can reduce playing time and make changes until we get the players that we need on the field.''
Marinelli was asked repeatedly whether he thought a simple lack of talent was a major factor in the slump.
``I don't think about that, because we have a limited number of players and I have to coach the ones we have,'' he said. ``My job is to get the most out of the players we have on this team and get them ready to play.''
The Lions have given up at least 30 points in three of the last four weeks, and haven't reached that total on offense in a single time.
``On defense, it is an issue of playing our gaps and making tackles,'' Marinelli said. ``On offense, we're missing too many opportunities.''
The Lions got another dose of bad news on Monday, when tests showed that WR Roy Williams has an injured posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Williams is expected to miss the last four games of the regular season.
``It looks like several weeks,'' Marinelli said, calling the injury similar to one that ended the season of cornerback Stanley Wilson on Thanksgiving Day.
Williams was injured on Detroit's longest offensive play of the game, a 43-yard pass that set up its only touchdown.
``I get a big play and I hurt my knee,'' he said. ``I tried to go a couple times after that, but it wasn't happening. I know they've told me weeks, but I don't know what that means - I've never had a knee (injury) before.''
NOTES: The Lions play 11-1 Dallas at home on Sunday, with the Cowboys coming off a 10-day break after beating Green Bay on Nov. 29. ... Two Lions players - LB Boss Bailey (Georgia) and DE Ikiaka Alama-Francis (Hawaii) - were unhappy that their schools aren't playing in the BCS championship game next month. ``It's all about money, and LSU is closer, so they took LSU,'' Bailey said. ``But it definitely should be us.'' Alama-Francis felt that the only unbeaten team should have a chance to play for the title. ``It shouldn't even be a question,'' he said. ... S LaMarcus Hicks will miss the rest of the season after breaking his ankle against Minnesota.

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