DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit Lions have taken a leap forward by ending an 11-season playoff drought. They have work to do on defense if they want to make it beyond the first round.
All their deficiencies showed up when the Lions gave up an NFL postseason-record 626 yards to New Orleans in a 45-28 NFC wild-card loss Saturday night.
"A loss like this makes us want to return to the playoffs even more," defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said. "It will be no surprise to everyone when the Detroit Lions start to make the playoffs each and every year."
The Lions, though, will have to figure out a way to improve their roster enough to stop good teams from piling up points and yards. They allowed an average of 122 yards rushing and 312 yards passing in six losses to playoff teams - two times to both Green Bay and New Orleans, and once to San Francisco and Atlanta.
Stafford's goal has a huge obstacle: Green Bay isn't leaving the NFC North.
Detroit coach Jim Schwartz wasn't in the mood to reflect on the season after it ended in New Orleans, but he's expected to Monday.
Three seasons after sealing NFL infamy as the only 0-16 team, the Lions have plenty of building blocks to become consistently competitive.
"We're going to be around for a while," said kicker Jason Hanson after completing his 20th season with the Lions.
Stafford threw for 5,418 yards with 44 TDs - 18 to Calvin Johnson - and 18 interceptions in 17 games that provided hope for a franchise that has desperately needed it at quarterback.
Johnson earned All-Pro honors for the first time with a league-best 1,681 yards receiving. He followed up with 211 yards receiving against New Orleans, setting a league record for a player in his playoff debut and perhaps made his contract extension this offseason even more lucrative. He will be entering the final season of the deal he signed as the No. 2 pick overall in the 2007 draft.
Johnson flourished because Stafford stayed healthy after being hampered by injuries his first two seasons.
The Lions, on both sides of the ball, need running backs Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure to bounce back in 2012 because their absence led to the Lions ranking 29th in the league in rushing offense. Best, a first-round pick two years ago, played six games before going on injured reserve with a third concussion. Leshoure, a second-round rookie, hasn't played a snap because he tore his left Achilles tendon in training camp.
General manager Martin Mayhew, Schwartz and scouts will likely be searching for players who can help the defense improve after it ranked 23rd against the run and 22nd against the pass in the regular season.
Ndamukong Suh's production slipped with four sacks after having 10 as a rookie and his reputation took a hit by stomping on a Green Bay lineman's arm and getting suspended for two games. Suh will have a better chance of getting to quarterbacks again next season if defensive end Cliff Avril, who had a career-high 11 sacks, isn't lost in free agency.
The secondary, other than safety Louis Delmas, might get a makeover because Brees and Flynn averaged 473 yards passing in the last two losses to expose a serious problem.
"I would definitely see this team as one that's going to be in contention year in and year out," Payton said. "And, I think that that's encouraging for the fans of Detroit."