The Detroit Lions’ best - and possibly last - chance to notch their first win will come in their home finale.
Looking to avoid becoming the first NFL team to go 0-15, the Lions will try to extend a winning streak against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Ford Field.
Detroit has won all three matchups with New Orleans since a 35-17 loss at the Superdome in 1997, but that’s not to say the Lions have had an easy time. Those victories came by a combined 10 points, the most recent a 13-12 win in 2005 when Jason Hanson kicked a 39-yard field goal with no time left.
If the Lions lose Sunday, they’ll play their season finale Dec. 28 at Green Bay - where they haven’t won since 1991 - facing the possibility of becoming the NFL’s first team to finish a 16-game season without a victory.
“We know the situation ahead of us and the circumstance,” said quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who will start against New Orleans in place of the injured Daunte Culpepper. “We have a really good group of guys who aren’t going to quit. Everyone knows what we’re trying to avoid.”
Orlovsky had one of his best games of the season last Sunday in a 31-21 loss to Indianapolis, completing 67.6 percent (23-of-34) of his passes for 233 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.
In eight games this year - five starts - Orlovsky has passed for 1,266 yards with six TDs and four interceptions.
The expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1976 were the last team to go winless, but that was in a 14-game season. Four years later, the Saints were 0-14 before managing a 21-20 victory over the New York Jets en route to a 1-15 finish.
If the Lions are outscored by six points Sunday, they’ll set a league record for the worst home point differential. Detroit has been outscored by an average of 20.1 points at Ford Field, the worst such margin by a home team since the 1960 Dallas Cowboys fell by 20.8 per contest.
In spite of it all, the Lions’ Rod Marinelli remains upbeat as he heads into what almost certainly be his last home game as head coach.
“I’ve said all along, I’m extremely proud of this team and how they work,” Marinelli said. “We’ve just got to go get a win.”
The Saints (7-7) have alternated wins and losses in their last four games, dropping their most recent contest 27-24 in overtime at Chicago last Thursday. New Orleans fell to 1-6 on the road and is virtually assured of missing the playoffs for the second straight season.
“Yeah, that’s very frustrating,” linebacker Scott Fujita said. “We’re still professionals, we get paid to do a job and we’ll play these last two games.”
The Saints haven’t won more than two in a row this year, and that inconsistency along with injuries to key players have contributed to the team’s woes.
After missing four games earlier this season with a knee injury, running back Reggie Bush sprained his knee against the Bears and will sit out the final two games of the season.
Top receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jeremy Shockey are available, but have missed extensive time with injuries. Four defensive starters, including end Charles Grant and cornerback Mike McKenzie, are out for the season.
One player who’s yet to miss any time is quarterback Drew Brees, who’s coming up on a milestone. With a league-leading 4,332 passing yards, Brees needs 91 more to break his own single-season franchise record set in 2007.
Brees, though, has had problems on the road this year. He’s thrown nine touchdowns and 12 interceptions away from New Orleans, compared to 19 TDs and four picks at home.
On Tuesday, Brees was named to the Pro Bowl for the third time in his career and second time with the Saints.
“It’s always an honor and a privilege to be recognized by your peers, the coaches in the NFC and, above and beyond all else, the fans,” Brees told the Saints’ official Web site. “Obviously this is a reflection of the fine job that our offensive line has done and the playmakers we have.”