Trying to rediscover some of the road magic which seems to have vacated after 2011, the Detroit Lions will try and break through in a location they haven't tasted victory in since 1993.
The Arizona Cardinals, despite plenty of years arid on wins, still give the Lions fits every time the teams tangle in the desert. There's been blowouts, overtime losses and close defeats. The common denominator? Rarely does Detroit's football team leave the valley of the sun feeling good about themselves. Here's five things to watch Sunday which might help that matter out.
1. Can Reggie Bush Have A Repeat Of His Dominance? Bush was dynamic last week, doing everything against Minnesota to the tune of 191 all-purpose yards. He caught the ball and looked explosive, while also putting together a nice effort on the ground, giving the Lions' offense plenty of teeth. As a result, Bush was also dinged up heavily, sustaining a dislocated thumb and mildly pulled groin. How will the Cardinals account for him on defense, and can Bush continue to give the offense a major leg-up, even if they run him into the ground?
2. Which Secondary Receivers Will Step Up? Against a solid pass defense like Arizona's, this is a major storyline. Last week, Bush and Nate Burleson managed to give Detroit a boost without the usual, big yardage production from Calvin Johnson. This time around, someone will have to supplement Johnson's production on the road. If the Lions manage to win, it will likely be due to the fact that plenty of other receivers stepped up and delivered scores and important chunks of yardage. Someone has to help Johnson and Bush out
3. Corey Hilliard. Jason Fox sits this week, so the pressure will be on Hilliard to deliver a solid performance. Last week, he did just that in not allowing a sack or committing a penalty after coming in for Fox. On the road, the pressure will be on Hilliard to stand up to Arizona's pass rush, which includes some roving linebackers that can make life difficult on quarterbacks. Another airtight performance is needed if Matthew Stafford is to have a solid day passing the ball.
4. Ndamukong Suh's Discipline. After another tumultuous week, there's no doubt Suh will be a watched man on Sunday by the officials again. Despite asserting that he won't change his game, will Suh be more careful and mindful of making safer plays which aren't so rogue in nature? The Lions badly need Suh to start acting like a leader, as he was voted a team captain prior to this year. Now, any play Suh makes that's on the borderline will get him in trouble. The team cannot afford such mistakes with plenty at stake this season, especially a week after Suh was forced to cut a $100,000 check to the league.
5. Big Mistakes. Whichever team makes more of them will lose. While that might be a captain obvious-type statement, it proved true last year, as Stafford threw three interceptions, each of which broke the Lions and prevented them from generating any offensive momentum. This time around, the Lions have to be much more in control on the road, confidently managing the game on offense and avoiding the nasty personal foul penalty calls. A few mistakes might not prove costly, but multiple errors like last year certainly will.
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