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Stephen Tulloch: Detroit Lions hurt by off-field issues

The Detroit Lions have no business entering the final weekend of the regular season with four wins.

For all their deficiencies on defense and in the running game -- and those deficiencies are considerable -- the Lions shouldn't be this lousy. And yet, they are.

Stephen Tulloch believes the Lions lost their way before the season even started. The veteran linebacker told NFL.com's Albert Breer this week that off-the-field issues put the Lions in a hole they never dug out of.

"It started in the offseason, spending all that time on all those issues, and that wound up lingering into the season, those distractions," he said. "And then you look at it, and last year, a lot of things went our way, we were winning games the way we're losing them this year."

The Lions won 10 games last year on their way to their first playoff berth since 1999. The offseason that followed included several arrests that played into the stigma that the Lions were an undisciplined team under coach Jim Schwartz.

"I think discipline is the biggest issue, that kind of selfishness, it hurts the team," Tulloch said. "We've had guys hurt the team through their actions, and it lingered. We had Aaron Berry here, we were really counting on him, he gets dismissed, and now you need someone to fill in.

"And I think we've had changes in the secondary 13 times in 16 weeks because of that. It's hard to get chemistry, when guys are hurting the team like that and you feel like you can't count on them. I try to put my finger on whether there's a bigger problem, but I get lost trying to pinpoint what it is. We need more accountability. Hopefully we can weed that out this offseason."

Tulloch defends Schwartz as a coach who can still lead this team effectively.

"I think if you look at Schwartz, he's in his fourth year here, he's taken it from 0-16 to playoffs, for the first time in 10 years," Tulloch told Breer. "The problem here has to do with players, and learning how to handle success. It's one thing to get there, but just because it's the same team doesn't mean you'll get there again. It's up to us as leaders to enforce things.

"Coach puts us in good position, in a position to win. The only thing I could say, the players need to be more accountable and disciplined."

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.

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