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Another rally leaves Lions 1 win from playoffs

By Noah Trister

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Dec. 19 2011 5:53 p.m. MST

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — After yet another thrilling comeback, Detroit coach Jim Schwartz kept an even keel during his Monday news conference.

Turns out there was a reason for his detached demeanor.

"I'm just tired as hell," he said.

Schwartz and the Lions have a big week coming up after Sunday's 28-27 victory at Oakland. With a victory over San Diego on Saturday, Detroit can clinch its first playoff berth since the 1999 season, which would be quite an accomplishment for a team that went 0-16 three seasons ago.

Less than 24 hours after the emotional victory, Schwartz was already downplaying it and looking forward.

"We need to beat the San Diego Chargers," Schwartz said. "We are not playing the out-of-town scoreboard. We are not playing anything other than the Chargers. The team does a good job of getting the focus each week and that is what we need to go do this week. Everybody knows where we are. Everybody knows what is at stake."

After a 5-0 start, the Lions fell back a bit, but a pair of touchdowns in the final 4:59 on Sunday enabled them to erase a 27-14 deficit. Detroit is the first team since at least 1950 with four comeback wins in one season from deficits of 13 points or more, according to STATS, LLC.

Detroit (9-5) won behind its three biggest young stars. Matthew Stafford threw for 391 yards and four touchdowns. Calvin Johnson caught nine passes for 214 yards and two TDs, including the winner with 39 seconds left. Ndamukong Suh, quiet for most of the day in his return from a two-game suspension, blocked Sebastian Janikowski's 65-yard field-goal attempt on the final play.

"I think that we have a good mix of older players, younger players and players that have had different experiences in the league," Schwartz said. "I think there's some confidence that comes from that experience. This is uncharted territory for this franchise for a long time, but there are a lot of guys in our locker room that playoff runs in December is not uncharted territory."

Even when Stafford underthrew a deep pass to Johnson on the winning drive, it worked out well for Detroit. What could have been a touchdown instead went for a 48-yard gain to the Oakland 13.

"Looking back, maybe we are glad that we didn't score right then because it would have been an awful lot of time for Oakland's offense with an extremely good field goal kicker," Schwartz said.

Suh sat out two games for stepping on Green Bay offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith's right arm during a loss on Thanksgiving. He saved his biggest play for the end against Oakland.

"I got off the ball as hard and as fast as I could — put up my hand," Suh said. "It hit my thumb. I looked back and saw it twirling."

Detroit and Atlanta (9-5) would be the two NFC wild-card teams if the season ended today. Chicago, Arizona, Seattle and the New York Giants are 7-7. Dallas is 8-6, but the Cowboys lead the NFC East.

The Lions don't have to worry about any of those teams if they beat the Chargers in another big home game at Ford Field. Earlier this season, Detroit hosted Chicago in a Monday night game, which was a rarity for the Lions.

There's more at stake this week.

"Our fans have been great the last couple years. We have turned Ford Field into a significant home-field advantage because of our fans," Schwartz said. "They don't just watch the game, they participate in the game and they affect the game. ... It has been a long time since they have had the opportunity to do that in a December game. We would expect them to take every advantage of those situations. It is going to be a lot of fun."

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