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Lions face challenge of playing without LaPorta and Raymond against Stafford-led Rams in playoffs

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DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Lions are holding out hope Pro Bowl tight end Sam LaPorta and standout return specialist Kalif Raymond will be healthy enough to face the Matthew Stafford-led Los Angeles Rams in the playoffs on Sunday night.

LaPorta and Raymond both left the win over Minnesota with knee injuries.

“LaPorta’s got an outside shot now, so we’ll see,” coach Dan Campbell said Monday. “We’ll know a lot in 48 hours.”

Campbell said Raymond’s status is similar, adding tight end Brock Wright and receiver Jameson Williams are recovering well from injuries that kept them out against the Vikings.

The Lions played their starters in the regular-season finale, aiming to win and hoping to improve from the No. 3 to No. 2 seed in their first postseason appearance since 2016.

It didn’t work out because of LaPorta and Raymond’s injuries along with Dallas’ win, which secured the No. 2 seed for the Cowboys.

If LaPorta can’t play against the Rams, Detroit will lean on tight ends James Mitchell, Wright if he’s healthy and perhaps Anthony Firkser. Even though LaPorta set a rookie record by a tight end with 86 catches, the Lions have overcome injuries all season at various positions and are confident they can do it again if necessary.

“We’ll work it out,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “If it’s James, if it’s somebody else, if it’s Brock’s back, if Firkser’s playing, I have no idea.

“We’ll be fine.”

Likewise, Campbell is confident his players will find a way to thrive as they have for much of the season in the face of adversity.

“We bounce back,” Campbell said. “I feel like that’s one of our qualities, that’s one of the things about us that I think makes this group special. It is a resilient group. They’re able to overcome adversity, snap back, and they’ve done that again.”

WHAT’S WORKING

The Lions strike a balance on offense, setting an NFL single-season record with passing and rushing touchdowns in 15 games. They tied league records with 325-plus total net yards of offense and rushing touchdowns in 16 games.

Detroit set a single-season franchise record with 58 touchdowns, including a team-record 27 rushing scores.

The Lions joined the 2013 Denver Broncos as the two teams in NFL history to have four players with double digits in touchdowns. Running back David Montgomery had a team-high 13 touchdowns, rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs was second with 11 while LaPorta and Amon-Ra St. Brown had 10 scores each.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Detroit’s secondary struggles in coverage and that’s potentially a big problem because Stafford is playing well and his go-to target, record-breaking rookie receiver Puka Nacua had 105 catches for 1,486 yards this season.

Minnesota’s journeyman quarterback Nick Mullens threw for more than 800 yards against the Lions in two of the past three games.

STOCK UP

WR Amon-Ra St. Brown had seven catches for 144 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown. St. Brown, who was not selected to the Pro Bowl, had 119 catches, 1,515 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns.

STOCK DOWN

Kicker Michael Badgley missed an extra point Sunday for the second time in three weeks.

INJURY REPORT

Campbell expects to know by Wednesday whether LaPorta and Raymond will bounce back well enough from knee injuries to play. He’s more encouraged about Williams and Wright.

“I think Jamo’s going to be good here,” he said. “Brock’s s going to be good to go.”

KEY NUMBER

20 — The Lions are 20-7, including a franchise-record-tying 12 wins this season, since starting the 2022 season with a 1-6 mark.

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

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