Barry Sanders: "I think it takes you a little while to realize how significant every game is"

Posted Dec 5, 2013

Barry Sanders was a member of five playoff teams over a seven-year stretch in the 1990s and says he likes the makeup and playoff potential of this current Lions squad

Barry SandersBarry Sanders says he likes the make-up of this year's Lions' team. (Photo: AP Images)

The last time the Lions won a division title and hosted a playoff game was exactly 20 years ago in 1993.

There's still a month of football remaining in the 2013 season before this Lions team can claim a similar feat, but they've put themselves in good position to do so with four games remaining.

It's a race to the finish and the Lions have a slight head start in the division.

Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders was a member of that 1993 team. In fact, Sanders was at his peak when the Lions went to the playoffs five times over a seven-year stretch from 1991 to 1997.

In the five seasons the Lions made the playoffs over that span, they didn't back into the playoffs. They played some of their best football over the last month of the season. Those teams had a 17-3 record the last four games of the season in the five years they made the playoffs. It didn't lead to a lot of playoff success, but it got them into the dance, nonetheless.

In 1993, the Lions won three of their last four to finish 10-6.

It's the same situation this current team finds itself in. Three wins in their last four games will get them to 10 and clinch the NFC North title.

"I just think it was that sense of urgency," Sanders told, thinking back to those late-season runs to the playoffs in the 90s. "I think it was probably more the mark of a team that had youth here and there and the inexperience of being in championship football.

"I think it takes you a little while to realize how significant every game is in the NFL. Sometimes you think you have a few weeks to play around with, but you don't."

The Lions learned that hard reality when they lost to a two-win Tampa Bay Buccaneers team at Ford Field a couple weeks ago. Lions players said that loss served as a wake-up call.

"I think veteran teams realize how important each win is and I think we were probably a little young and didn't realize that," Sanders said of the early playoff teams he was a part of. "We were very talented, but just hadn't had a lot of deep playoff experience."

The same things can be said about this current Lions team. They are extremely talented, but only had a taste of the playoffs in 2011 after losing in the Wild Card round in New Orleans.

Sanders said he likes the makeup of this current team and thinks they're set up for a similar late-season run and -- who knows -- maybe more.

"Obviously, Seattle is a great team and they're playing great," he said. "But offensively, we stack up well with a Seattle.

"We have as much talent (as any team out there) with the exception of maybe one or two. To me, this team looks good.”