If Li­ons make the play­offs, they have a shot at Su­per Bowl

The Covington News - - SPORTS - By Larry Lage

DETROIT — When Jon Kitna first said he would be dis­ap­pointed if the Detroit Li­ons didn’t win at least 10 games this sea­son, most peo­ple who have fol­lowed the lack­lus­ter fran­chise chuck­led.

The quar­ter­back went a step farther last week, boldly say­ing the Li­ons were ca­pa­ble of spe­cial things such as win­ning the Su­per Bowl.

Eyes rolled, heads shook from side to side and some joked the overly op­ti­mistic Kitna should be lead­ing one of the city’s sag­ging auto com­pa­nies.

But when the Li­ons pounded the Den­ver Bron­cos 44-7 on Sun­day and im­proved to 6-2, even jaded cyn­ics were con­verted into true be­liev­ers.

The odds are in Detroit’s fa­vor to make the play­offs for the first time since 1999, snap­ping the sec­ond-long­est post­sea­son drought in the NFL.

The sched­ule, how­ever, isn’t.

Detroit’s sec­ond half in­cludes road games at Ari­zona (Sun­day), Min­nesota, San Diego and Green Bay in what might be a huge game for both teams in the Dec. 30 reg­u­larsea­son finale.

At Ford Field, where Detroit is 4-0, the New York Gi­ants, Pack­ers, Dal­las and Kansas City each will be tough to beat.

If the Li­ons can get through that and earn a post­sea­son bid in Jan­uary, how­ever, don’t be shocked if they’re play­ing in Fe­bru­ary. Yes, at the Su­per Bowl. Detroit could con­ceiv­ably crum­ble down the stretch. Ev­i­dence sup­port­ing that opin­ion in­cludes two blowout losses on the road this sea­son, a his­tory of one play­off vic­tory since win­ning the NFL ti­tle a half­cen­tury ago, and a league-high 72 losses from 2001-06.

The Li­ons lost to the bot­tom feed­ers in the NFC East, get­ting em­bar­rassed 56-21 at Philadel­phia in Week 3 and 34-3 at Wash­ing­ton two weeks later.

Since then, they have looked im­pres­sive in three straight wins over the NFC South-lead­ing Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers, at Chicago and against the banged-up Bron­cos.

“Let’s not get ahead of our­selves, we’re 6-2 at the half­way point,” said of­fen­sive tackle Jeff Backus, Detroit’s No. 1 pick in 2001. “We’re play­ing our best foot­ball right now, and we need to con­tinue to im­prove to get to that elite sta­tus.

The Li­ons are get­ting con­tri­bu­tions in each facet of the game and are buy­ing into Rod Marinelli’s one-snap-at-a-time mantra that he re­peats so of­ten they prob­a­bly hear it in their sleep.

In his sec­ond sea­son un­der team pres­i­dent Matt Millen, Marinelli has fig­ured out a way to mo­ti­vate one of the NFL’s best de­fen­sive play­ers. Shaun Rogers has sim­ply been un­stop­pable, blow­ing up block­ing schemes to make plays for him­self and team­mates.

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