SEATTLE – Detroit Lions-Seattle Seahawks Final Thoughts: Eric Ebron a trump card for the Lions in the Wild Card matchup; scouting tip from the trenches; impact from Cliff Avril; turning 2015 failure (run game, included) into success; Sam Martin a special-teams plus for Lions:
Eric Ebron: He was as much in character in an entertaining session with the media earlier this week as he was out of character when he clammed up Sunday night after the Lions' loss to the Green Bay Packers.
Both of those displays of emotion show a real side of Erbon at the end of his third season with the Lions.
Ebron is all in on competing and winning, and he's not reluctant to operate in the spotlight. For Ebron, the brighter the better, and it has gotten brighter by the game in the Lions' last three games – on the road against the New York Giants, at Dallas on Monday Night TV, then the Sunday night loss to the Packers on NBC.
The spotlight's even brighter – and likely more revealing – in tonight's game on NBC.
"I'm cool with it," Ebron said. "More cameras, more fun. I love it, man. It doesn't bother me at all."
The playoff game is not all about the show for Ebron. Performance counts, and Ebron has been an important contributor.
At 6-5 and 250 pounds, and with speed and a willingness to go inside to make catches without fear of contact, he gives the Lions a dimension in their passing game that they need to make up for some other deficiencies. He had 61 catches with an average of 11.7 yards per catch in the regular season.
"He's a big guy," said head coach Jim Caldwell. "Not just big. He can run. Obviously, that creates some problems with matchups with his ability – not only to catch passes inside, but down the field."
Ebron was asked why he wouldn't talk to the media after the Green Bay game.
"I'm a sore loser," he said. "You can call it what you want. I'm a sore loser, especially that magnitude, that big of a game. I just kept my comments to myself."
Scouting from the trenches: Richie Incognito might be considered one of the NFL's bad boys for some misadventures in the 10 seasons he has played on the interior offensive line with three teams. But there is no denying that the two-time Pro Bowl guard is one of the NFL's toughest players.
In a podcast on Peter King's MMQB website this week, King asked Incognito for a key for the Lions in beating the Seahawks.
Physical toughness and mindset were key items Incognito referenced from how Buffalo attacked the Seahawks in a 31-25 loss in Week 9. Buffalo had 30 first downs, 162 yards rushing, 425 yards in total offense and controlled the ball for more than 40 minutes.
"It's an incredibly difficult place to play," Incognito told King. "It's super intense. You won't be able to hear anything on the field.
"Our mantra was, 'Let's go up there and punch them in the mouth.' We went in there with our heavy run-game package – run downhill, bring in the extra offensive linemen, run traps, get after them up front and really take it to them."
Lions – play like it's 2015, but better: The Lions' 13-10 loss to the Seahawks in Week 4 last year ended in controversy because of a missed call by the officials. The Lions should have had first and goal, with a chance to score the winning touchdown.
What shouldn't be forgotten is that if Calvin Johnson hadn't had the ball punched out before he reached the end zone, there would have been no official's call. One man's opinion: the fumble overshadows any officiating mistake.
Here are three takeaways from last year's game that can be applied to tonight's game, and how the Lions can turn them into their favor:
Run game: The Lions had 18 carries for 53 yards and a 2.9-yard average. Zach Zenner had two carries for nine yards. It would be hard not to do better, and it's vital that the Lions do so.
What Zenner has done in the last two games -- 17 carries for 67 yards vs. the Cowboys, 20 for 69 vs. the Packers – is a running boom by the Lions' meager standards.
It is only the second time in the last two seasons that a Lions' running back rushed for 60 or more yards. Ameer Abdullah did it last year with 63 and 67 yards in Weeks 12 and 13.
Scramble plays: Seahawks QB Russell Wilson made them last year. He was sacked six times, fumbled three times and lost two of them. One fumble was returned for the Lions' only touchdown.
However, Wilson also escaped the rush to make big plays. One was a 24-yard completion to Jermaine Kearse on a third-and-12 when Wilson avoided a free-rusher to get the pass off. If the Lions have Wilson trapped – and that's a big if given their lack of pass rush – they have to get him on the turf.
Find a way: They need something to turn the game in their favor, whether it's an official's call, a big play on offense or a turnover they convert to a touchdown.
Anything they can do to swing the momentum in their favor will be a plus.
A little luck would help, but that isn't something you can count on.
Cliff notes: Cliff Avril has given the Seahawks pretty much what he gave the Lions for five seasons before signing with Seattle as a free agent in 2013. Avril had 39.5 sacks in 73 games with the Lions, with a high of 11 in 2011. He has 33.5 sacks in 63 games with the Seahawks, with a high of 11.5 this year and his first Pro Bowl appearance.
Avril is one of the NFL's premier edge rushers. He can disrupt a passing game even when he doesn't get to the quarterback. Avril has had 30 forced fumbles and 32 pass breakups.
Net gains: Punter Sam Martin is rightfully proud about the 44.193-yard net punting average he compiled in 2016 that was third highest in NFL history.
Just as proud of it are the players on the coverage team.
"That's great," said Don Carey, one of the Lions' special-teams aces. "We've done something that very few people in the league have done. It hasn't been Sam only. It hasn't been coverage only.
"I tell Sam every single game, 'It's kick and coverage.' As much as it's a record for him, it's a record for us."