DETROIT (AP) -The Detroit Lions raised hopes and expectations with a surprising 6-2 start.
Since then, they have collapsed with six straight losses and reverted to being regarded as the same-old Lions.
If Detroit doesn't stop its second-half slide Sunday at home against the Kansas City Chiefs, it will likely make NFL history. No team has won six of its first eight games, then finished 6-10.
Without a win against the Chiefs, that will likely be their final mark because the Lions close the season at Green Bay. They have not won on the Packers' home field since 1991, when Brett Favre was an Atlanta Falcons rookie.
Lowly lore, indeed.
``That can be motivating,'' guard Ed Mulitalo said. ``Our focus is on this game and if we take care of it, we won't have to worry about that kind of stuff.''
Not counting the strike-shortened season in 1982, the last team to start 6-2 and lose the rest of its games was the 1960 Baltimore Colts. The NFL began using 16-game schedules in 1978.
Second-year coach Rod Marinelli and his players have struggled to explain why they plummeted from the top of the wild-card race to out of the playoffs.
Some statistics define the slump.
Detroit has had the toughest schedule during the skid, with their opponents combining for a .643 winning percentage, after taking advantage of playing the fourth-easiest slate during the first half of the season.
When the Lions were 6-2, they led the NFL with 14 interceptions, 24 takeaways and 90 points off turnovers. Their plus-8 turnover margin trailed only New England and Indianapolis.
Since then, the Lions are tied for last in the league with two interceptions, tied for 20th with nine takeaways, and 29th with 10 points off turnovers and a minus-8 turnover margin.
Despite having a defensive-minded coach, who perhaps can't overcome team president Matt Millen's moves, Detroit has allowed an NFL-high 319 first downs, 32 touchdowns inside the red zone and a .459 conversion rate on third downs.
When the stakes were high for the first time for many Lions, they crumbled.
Detroit was an NFL-worst 24-72 from 2001-06 and its roster is filled with players that had no idea what it was like to play meaningful games in November and December.
``It's different when you have things to play for late in the season, certainly,'' quarterback Jon Kitna said. ``The intensity level goes up. It's something you have to learn.
``It will be a learning process for us, if we go about it the right way mentally.''
Kitna, with some fanfare, said before the season he would be disappointed if the Lions didn't win at least 10 games this year. His disappointment is sealed, but he is still setting goals.
``We still have an opportunity not to have a losing season,'' Kitna said in a somber tone. ``Nobody wanted to hear that. You can't believe you're saying that, but the reality is that's where we're at.''
To make matters worse, the Lions seemed to give up in their last game.
San Diego beat Detroit 51-14, making this team the first in franchise history to give up 50 points twice in a season and the first in the NFL since the 1980 Packers.
``It's inexcusable,'' said Marinelli, who has tried to take the blame for his team's collapse.
The Lions also were embarrassed at Washington and Philadelphia, losing 56-21 and 34-3 early in the season.
But for each of those setbacks, they had impressive wins over NFC North-leading Tampa Bay and Denver that made many think twice before cracking a cynical joke about the Lions.
Now, they need to win to avoid infamy and to distance themselves a little from the only stretch in NFL history that compares to their futility.
If Detroit loses out, it will have at least 10 losses in seven straight seasons - all under Millen's leadership - to hang around the Buccaneers for the unwanted distinction of worst franchise in NFL history over an extended period of time.
Tampa Bay had 12 seasons in a row with double-digit losses from 1983-94.
After playing for a spot in the playoffs, the Lions have to generate enough motivation to compete for pride and to avoid unflattering comparisons.
``It makes it that much harder because we were playing for something in December and now all of a sudden it's like taking the air out of a balloon,'' center Dominic Raiola said. ``But as professionals, you got to find a way to come out and play and turn it back up, because Kansas City's still doing it.
``And we don't want to lose these fans. They have every right to come out and see their team perform. To go out there and lay an egg at home is unacceptable. We can't do that even though we're out of it and even though we're not playing for anything but ourselves right now.''

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