ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) - If Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions had been a bit more productive in the fourth quarter recently, they might have a playoff spot all but locked up.
Instead, Detroit is scrambling to stay atop the NFC North after three losses in four games.
The Lions were outscored 49-20 in the fourth quarter over that stretch, and last weekend, they allowed four touchdowns in the final period in a snowy 34-20 loss at Philadelphia. Detroit is tied with Chicago for first place in the division -- but if the Lions miss the postseason, they'll certainly have a few games they can look back on with regret.
"Every team has to adjust," Johnson said. "We're a good fourth-quarter team. We have been. We just have to get back to it. Whatever it may be -- third downs, executing in the red zone -- whatever it may be we just have to get back to it."
The Lions have had their moments in the fourth quarter, particularly in wins over Cleveland and Dallas earlier this season. But they haven't been at all consistent at finishing games strong. Detroit allowed two touchdowns in the final quarter of a 37-27 loss at Pittsburgh on Nov. 17, then let a fourth-period lead slip away against Tampa Bay the following weekend.
The Lions did put away Green Bay in a 40-10 rout on Thanksgiving, but last weekend's meltdown against the Eagles dropped Detroit (7-6) back into a more precarious position in the playoff race. The Lions host Baltimore on Monday night.
"We just need to be complete," offensive lineman Rob Sims said. "I don't think it's a point of emphasis. We've done that in the past -- said, `Hey we've got to start fast. Oh, hey, we've got to finish strong. Hey, we've got to continue doing this.' We've got to be complete. That's what we've got to be."
Although there's a perception that opponents have limited Johnson's influence in the fourth quarter, he does have 20 of his 75 receptions this season in the final period. And Matthew Stafford's fourth-quarter passer rating is 91.7 -- better than his overall mark of 88.2.
"I feel like we're pretty aggressive. We're going for it all the time," Stafford said. "You can't go into every game with the same mindset -- as far as, `Hey, in the fourth quarter of this game, if you're up 10 or down 10 we're still going to throw it this many times.' It's just about flow of the game. You have to feel it and play accordingly."
If the Lions needed any extra motivation this week, Baltimore safety Matt Elam might have provided some when he said Johnson is "pretty old" -- Johnson is 28.
Friday was Johnson's day to talk to Detroit-area media, and he didn't seem too preoccupied with Elam's comments.
"I don't have time to make something out of every time somebody says something, but sometimes you usually know when to keep your mouth shut," Johnson said. "He's a rookie, he'll learn."
When will Elam learn?
"Hopefully, this Monday," Johnson said.
And did the Detroit star know who Elam was before this week?
"Nah, I didn't," he said.
Johnson did concede that he can use comments like Elam's to pump himself up before this next game.
"It's motivation -- but more so coming from somebody's mouth that I'm actually playing," Johnson said. "I'm playing them, but I'll see him, like I say, if I run past him down the field or something like that. It's not like he's lined up on me every play."
So will the Lions throw deep in Elam's direction?
"Yeah," Johnson said with a chuckle. "We've got to test him out."