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ALLEN PARK, Mich. – The fourth quarter often was a nightmare last season for the Detroit Lions. Their opener still is months away, but it's never too early to develop a closer's mentality.
The Lions had fourth-quarter leads in six of their nine losses last season, including a Dec. 16 setback against Baltimore that knocked them out of playoff contention. It was the first of three straight final-period giveaways to end the season and likely sealed the fate of coach Jim Schwartz, who was fired after five years and one playoff appearance.
Linebacker DeAndre Levy said it was a lot to process.
"It took about a solid month. It still kind of lingers until you get here and get back with the guys," he said after Tuesday's minicamp practice.
"It's overwhelming when you're so close but keep seeing the same thing over and over."
The Lions were 6-3 and led the NFC North but managed just one more victory after Nov. 10 and disappointed a fan base that's seen just one postseason appearance since the turn of the century.
Not that Levy and the rest of the defense shared all the blame for the late-season collapse. Untimely turnovers, including a late interception in the Baltimore game, and offensive gaffes also helped keep the Lions out of the postseason.
New coach Jim Caldwell, who guided Indianapolis to the 2010 Super Bowl, has a winning pedigree but doesn't appear to be dwelling on last season's mistakes.
"He just says it's a new season," cornerback Darius Slay said. "All that matters is this season."
The way last year ended doesn't seem to haunt Detroit and Levy said the coming season is a great way to shake it.
"When you're in the moment you really don't dwell on it because you can come back next week and still have a chance," he said, adding the real soul searching came long after the final game.
A fresh start with the new coaching staff certainly helps.
"Every year that's the same motivation: To improve on last on last year," Levy said. "It's the easiest way to forget about last year."
The Lions end the minicamp Thursday and won't be back here until training camp opens in late July.
NOTES: Levy didn't learn until the day after the program aired that the NFL Network named him the 59th best player in 2014, but was happy to hear the news. "It's good to be respected by your peers. It's something we all strive to do," he said of the countdown, based on voting by players. . RB Mikel Leshoure, WR Golden Tate and LB Stephen Tulloch did not take part in drills Tuesday. . The Lions have been using a 'ladder cam' to closely track quarterback play during the minicamp. Caldwell said the technique has been around since he was coaching in the early 1980s.