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5 things to watch: Lions at Seahawks

The Detroit Lions are in the playoffs for the second time in three years, and will begin what they hope is a long run Saturday night (8:15 p.m. ET) in Seattle to face the NFC West champion Seahawks.

Regular season records, winning streaks and losing streaks can be thrown out the window in the playoffs. It's a one-game season, and the Lions will be looking for their first playoff win since 1991.

Seattle will be looking to win their 10th straight playoff game at home dating back to 2004.

Here are five things to watch out for in tonight's contest:


The Lions didn't do a good job at all of containing Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the pocket in last week's loss to the Packers. He was able to escape and create plays with his legs both as a runner and in the pass game.

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has made a career out of using his legs just as much as his right arm. A high ankle sprain and a sprained knee limited him some in that regard earlier in the season, but he looks to be past those injuries. He's making plays both as a runner and a quarterback who escapes the pocket to extend plays in the passing game.

He's thrown seven touchdowns and just one interception with passer ratings of 122.1, 117.8 and 95.6, respectively, the last three weeks.

Keeping Wilson in the pocket and forcing him to make throws from there is a big point of emphasis this week for Teryl Austin and Detroit's defense. 


Zach Zenner ran for a career-high 67 yards two weeks ago in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys on just 12 carries, then topped that with 69 yards rushing last week in a loss to the Packers. He also had 41 receiving yards against the Packers, giving him 110 total for the game.

Zenner took every rep at running back for the Lions last week.

Seattle employs the league's seventh best run defense (92.9 yards per game), but they also notched 42 sacks, third most in the league.

Developing some kind of run game early on will be of utmost importance if Detroit hopes to keep that talented front seven of Seattle's off Matthew Stafford.

Zenner has a knack for finding space and getting the yards that are there to get. He'll have to continue to do that in Seattle. Even if the Lions are slowed up in the run game early on, they have to stay with it. Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has to almost be stubborn with it.

"When the run game is going, the whole offense goes," Cooter said this week. "It's very difficult in this league to throw the ball every down, so the more you run it, the better the whole thing works and that's for sure true in the playoffs, that's for sure true, you know, the more outdoor games you play, weather games, all that stuff."


Seattle's been in a bunch of big games in the playoffs over recent years. In all, the 53-man active roster for Seattle totals 205 games of playoff experience, with 16 players playing in Super Bowl XLVIII and 20 playing in Super Bowl XLIX.

The Lions have 19 players that were on the 2014 team that went to the playoffs, and players like Golden Tate, Haloti Ngata and Tavon Wilson have won Super Bowls in other stops, but Seattle as a unit is more experienced playing in big games together.

"We have a pretty decent number of guys that have been in playoffs, we're probably somewhere between 25-30 I would assume," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said. "Some guys have had extensive experience, Haloti (Ngata), Anquan (Boldin), a number of guys. Golden (Tate) has been in quite a few, so there's a few guys that have been in quite a few.

"I think those guys being able to kind of relate to the younger guys what it's like, what the sense of it is. There is a bit of a difference, it really is and you can tell when that ball is snapped even though guys always play hard, it's always tough, it's always gritty, playoffs are different. It just kind of goes to another level of acceleration almost in every phase."

Can the Lions come out firing and handle the magnitude of the moment on the road in a hostile environment? We'll know early on.


The Legion of Boom is a man down, and the loss of All-Pro safety Earl Thomas to a broken leg has been a big one.

Thomas has some of the best pure football instincts in the game, and can cover sideline to sideline like no other safety in the game. Steven Terrell has filled in admirably, but he isn't the same player.

Since Thomas went down, Seattle has been giving up 10 points more per game than they were with him, and opposing quarterbacks are averaging 7.73 yards per attempt, which ranks Seattle 29th in that category.

Teams have been able to make more plays down the field in recent weeks. When the Lions get their opportunities down the field in the passing game, they can't miss some of the shots they've missed the last few weeks.


For the first time since Stafford injured his right middle finger in the second series vs. Chicago Week 14, he wasn't listed on Detroit's injury report this week. Make of that what you will.

Stafford's powered through the injury and hasn't used it as an excuse for anything, but the numbers are the numbers. He's thrown three touchdowns (one was a Hail Mary) and had five interceptions with a passer rating of 74.1 since injuring it.

He's now had four games to adjust to the glove, and looked to really be whipping the ball around much better this week in the open portion of practice.

The Lions need the player who was talked about as an MVP candidate before the injury to return to CenturyLink Field Saturday. In big games, teams need their best players to perform, and Stafford is the best player on Detroit's offense.

If Detroit's going to go on the road and get this thing done, it needs all three phases to play well and it starts with the quarterback.

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