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Once-comfortable Lions now looking in rear-view mirror

Detroit Lions wide receiver Anquan Boldin (80) is tackled by New York Giants' Janoris Jenkins (20), Eli Apple (24) and Andrew Adams (33) during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) ORG XMIT: ERU103

By Larry Lage

AP Sports Writer

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions need a win and a Green Bay loss to secure a rare postseason appearance.

“We control our destiny,” Lions safety Glover Quin said.

While that is a fact, it will be difficult for Detroit to win either of its last two games.

The NFC-North leading Lions (9-5) close the regular season next Monday night at the NFC-leading Dallas Cowboys (12-2), then are home against the Green Bay Packers (8-6).

There’s certainly a chance Detroit could lose both games and plummet out of the playoff picture after being in a favorable position to win a division title for the first time since 1993. Two results Sunday, Detroit’s loss against the New York Giants and Green Bay’s win at Chicago, seemed to change the outlook for a franchise with just two trips to the playoffs in the previous 16 seasons.

Detroit’s 17-6 setback against the Giants ended its five-game winning streak.

“We don’t like this feeling,” Lions receiver Golden Tate said. “We are going to try and change that Monday. We need a great week of practice. And me personally, I’m excited to get back out there and get this taste out of our mouths and keep it moving. We are right where we want to be, still. We just need to worry about us and play fundamental, sound football.

Even with high-stakes games coming up, Lions coach Jim Caldwell isn’t going to go into rah-rah mode. Caldwell doesn’t plan to change his even-keeled approach, trying to say or do something different to help his players simply focus on the task right in front of them and not on the ramifications.

“We reduce everything to its lowest common denominator,” Caldwell said Monday. “What’s most important? What’s important right now? … Everything else will take care of itself.”

Matthew Stafford likely needs time, and perhaps surgery, to heal his hurting middle finger on his throwing hand. The right-handed quarterback, though, isn’t afforded that luxury, and the Lions don’t have a great option behind him with backups Dan Orlovsky and Jake Rudock.

Stafford has thrown three interceptions, playing through the injury, in two games after going eight straight games without getting picked once. He insisted the injury didn’t have an effect on him against the Giants.

“I felt pretty good,” Stafford said.

Caldwell acknowledged it has been a difficult transition for Stafford.

“Here’s a guy that’s been holding a football in his bare hand for years and years and years, and all of a sudden he’s wearing a glove,” Caldwell said. “Do you think there’s going to be a difference? I mean these guys aren’t any different than concert pianists. … There is some adjustment that’s made there. It’s not a non-issue until he doesn’t have it off and doesn’t have it on anymore, so there are things. Now, can he perform with it? There’s no question he can perform with it.”

The Lions hope they can keep standout cornerback Darius Slay in the lineup after he left against the Giants in the second quarter after aggravating a hamstring injury. Caldwell declined to provide an update on Slay’s health, saying to check the injury report later in the week. He doesn’t sound concerned about potentially replacing Slay.

“We’ve had situations where we’ve had a lot of guys that got banged up this year,” Caldwell said. “I think Shakespeare said that often sorrows come, they don’t come as a single spy, they come in battalions. There’s been times where we’ve had battalions throughout the year in terms of problems and issues, but our guys have always hung in there. They’ve always focused and they’ve always been able to overcome whatever the odds are.”