Sunday evening, the football season comes to a close with the Super Bowl, annually the biggest game of the year. Even though the Detroit Lions aren't competing and never have, there's plenty of things to watch from the perspective of the team as the game kicks off.
As Jim Caldwell said a few weeks ago, the goal is to win now, meaning the Lions are angling to make Super Bowl runs of their own in the near future. What kind of elements will they need to remember to make that a reality? Below are five things to watch that will help keep Detroit in focus on Super Sunday.
1. Peyton Manning's Presence. Considering Manning said this week he owes a great deal of his development to Jim Caldwell, how Manning manages the game will be something to watch. What kind of checks does he make? When he audibles, how successful is he? How is his footwork? Can he limit turnovers against a good defense? The work on Matthew Stafford's reclamation begins tomorrow, so watching the most famous pupil of Detroit's new coach is a good idea Sunday. Lions' fans can only hope they're taking a glimpse into the future with Stafford by watching Manning perform confidently on the biggest stage.
2. Seattle's Aggressive Secondary. When the Lions hired Teryl Austin to be their defensive coordinator, they hired a man with a penchant for developing aggressive, ball-hawking secondaries that impact the game with regard to turnovers and toughness. In fact, the last time Seattle was in the Super Bowl, Austin was their secondary coach, and was almost equally sucessful. Now, the Seahawks have written the blueprint to a successful secondary in the NFL with major size, speed and aggressiveness. Will that pay off against a top-flight quarterback like Manning? If it does, Detroit might want to model the next wave of their defensive development off of Seattle.
3. Former Lions. Competing in the game for Seattle will be former Detroit defensive end Cliff Avril. For the Broncos, Paris Lenon and Manny Ramirez will suit up. How will these players show? Which will achieve their ultimate dream of winning the Super Bowl? All three are survivors from Detroit's 0-16 disaster, and deserve credit for sticking things out with Detroit during the tough times. Avril himself should be credited for helping the defense evolve. Though it didn't work out during their tenures, all are exactly the type of "glue guys" the Lions will need to make Super Bowl runs in the future.
4. The Kicking Games. Believe it or not, both kickers also had brief stops in Detroit. Back in 2006, Matt Prater was with the Lions during the preseason but got released, catching on in Denver two years later. Steven Hauschka replaced Jason Hanson for two preseason games in 2010, but met the same fate as Prater. Both have landed on their feet since apprenticing with Hanson, leaving the Lions in desperate need of someone solid since his retirement. If anything, this should provide hope that Detroit might find someone quite easily this offseason to take over, perhaps in the form of a quiet, unknown kicker.
5. Seattle's Bargain Receivers. Between Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, there is no Calvin Johnson, and there might even be a Nate Burleson to be found within the Seattle receiving group. That hasn't stopped the Seahawks from having success with their passing game. Perhaps this provides a new way of thinking for the Lions, who might be searching for a complementary piece for Johnson this offseason. Will the success of Tate (second round) and Baldwin (undrafted) make it less likely the Lions take a wide receiver with their top pick this April? Deals can be found in multiple places, which is a lesson Seattle will prove on the game's biggest stage.
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