Play­off

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So many teams of Jim Cald­well’s have done that in the past years, so I don’t think this is go­ing to be any­thing dif­fer­ent.

“I think Jim does a great job of let­ting those guys know, ‘ Hey, it’s the fourth quar­ter. Let’s get go­ing.’

“Any­thing can hap­pen now and it’s true.”

Freeney ex­pe­ri­enced it first­hand un­der Cald­well with the Pey­ton Man­ning-led In­di­anapo­lis Colts in 2010. Af­ter tum­bling down the stand­ings fol­low­ing a three-game skid, the Colts en­tered Week 14 with a 6-6 record and needed to win out to have any chance at sniffing the play­offs.

And they did, rat­tling off four straight vic­to­ries — two at home and two on the road — to grab an AFC wild-card spot.

“You re­ally don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen,” Freeney said. “It’s just about play­ing your best ball in De­cem­ber.

“I mean, I think the big thing is that you learn from that ex­pe­ri­ence is that any­thing is pos­si­ble.

“It’s just peo­ple like to write you off when you’re hav­ing an av­er­age year, but you win four straight and all of a sud­den you find your­self in a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion.”

Freeney said the dif­fer­ence down the stretch was the Colts started to play more con­sis­tent in all phases, adding some play­ers just seem to play bet­ter when their backs are against the wall and there are no other op­tions left.

It’s an ex­am­ple of re­siliency Cald­well can point to, but doesn’t need to go that far back to draw from. Dur­ing his first sea­son with the Li­ons in 2014, the team faced a sim­i­lar sce­nario af­ter back-to-back losses to the

right Ari­zona Car­di­nals and New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots dropped them to 7-4 with five games left.

The Li­ons bounced back and re­sponded by win­ning four straight to lock down an NFC wild-card bid.

“We got bet­ter in all the areas where we should get bet­ter in right down the stretch at a good time to give us a chance,” Cald­well said. “So, we ran the ball bet­ter. We threw the ball bet­ter. We didn’t have turnovers. We created them on de­fense. All the things that you need to get done. So, we did all those things bet­ter.

“But the big thing is the way you get it done is that you re­ally nar­row your fo­cus. I mean that’s the key. I mean any­thing other than that, you’re go­ing to have prob­lems, so you got to nar­row your fo­cus and re­ally work on the things you need to get bet­ter at. This is the time of year we have to be click­ing on all cylin­ders.”

The Li­ons, though, have been sput­ter­ing and mis­fir­ing as of late.

The of­fen­sive line has had trou­ble pro­tect­ing a banged-up Matthew Stafford and could be down two starters with right tackle Rick Wag­ner and guard T.J. Lang un­able to prac­tice yet this week, with Stafford’s sta­tus still up in the air.

The run game con­tin­ues to spin its wheel and has never seem­ingly got on track, while the de­fen­sive line isn’t gen­er­at­ing much — if any — pres­sure.

Add it all up and the Li­ons have a 10 per­cent chance of mak­ing the play­offs, ac­cord­ing to FiveThir­tyEight.

But de­spite the long odds, the fact re­mains there’s still a glim-

Matt Ludtke/As­so­ci­ated Press

Dwight Freeney said coach Jim Cald­well “does a great job of let­ting those guys know, ‘Hey, it’s the fourth quar­ter. Let’s get go­ing.’”

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