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Slumping Lions have quick turnaround, looking to keep edge in NFC North

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions have a short week before hosting the Denver Broncos in prime time on Saturday night.

Coming off Sunday’s 28-13 loss at the Chicago Bears, the Lions (9-4) are still atop the NFC North but face a tough four-game schedule.

Along with the Broncos (7-6), who have won six of their past seven, they will face the Cowboys (10-3) at Dallas and the NFC North’s Minnesota Vikings (7-6) twice in the past three games.

The Lions have lost two of their past three, but are still alive in the hunt for a playoff berth, their first since the 2016 season.

“Here is the most encouraging thing about what happened yesterday, some of our best players on the team did not play well,’’ coach Dan Campbell said on Monday.

“That’s encouraging going into this one because those are prideful guys, those are our dudes and, believe me, those guys are going to come back, no different than us as coaches. We’re going to be at our best. I know what kind of locker room, what kind of players (we have). We will respond."

In the short week, the Lions have work to do to tighten the defense and find a consistent offensive rhythm which they had early in the season.

Campbell also has a little extra motivation going against Broncos coach Sean Payton, whom he worked with for five seasons in New Orleans as an assistant.

“It means we better be on our stuff because he’s going to come here and try to embarrass us. That’s what it means,’’ Campbell said.

“And so that’s our motivation, that’s my motivation. It’s about winning, man. All we have to do is find a way to win. We’re going to have to be at our best. We will be at our best."

WHAT’S WORKING

The Lions ran for 140 yards against the Bears. Running backs David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs each finished with 66 rushing yards. Gibbs’ yardage included a 12-yard touchdown run.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Eight penalties hurt the Lions on Sunday. Penalties have not been an ongoing issue, but they played a critical role including back-to-back calls on linebacker Alex Anzalone for holding (5 yards) and unnecessary roughness (15 yards), offensive lineman Graham Glasgow for tripping (15 yards) and a delay of game all in the first quarter.

STOCK UP

LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who excels on special teams, had his first full sack against the Bears in his 100th NFL game. He also had a pass defensed, playing just 11 snaps on defense.

STOCK DOWN

WR Amon-Ra St. Brown’s production has fallen off for two straight games with a combined five catches for 70 yards. In the win over the Saints on Dec. 3, he had two catches on six targets. In Sunday’s loss, Jared Goff targeted St. Brown nine times and he caught just three.

INJURIES

Center Frank Ragnow (knee, back, toe) and DL Bruce Irvin (ankle) did not play. Campbell said both are improving, but he is unsure if they will play Saturday.

KEY NUMBER

700 — It’s the first time in NFL history that a team has a rookie running back (Jahmyr Gibbs) and rookie tight end (Sam LaPorta) with 700-plus scrimmage yards in the same season. Gibbs has 980 scrimmage yards (692 rushing) while LaPorta has 706 (702 receiving).

NEXT STEPS

Host the Broncos on Saturday night.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

Paula Pasche, The Associated Press