Football is football, right?
No matter the opponent, no matter the situation, the game will be played on a 120-by-53 yard field with a prolate spheroid shaped ball and 11 players on the field representing each team.
So, the fact that this week’s matchup with the New Orleans Saints is a playoff game shouldn’t matter? Wrong.
“It’s a playoff game, intensity level changes, a lot more at stake,” said defensive end Willie Young who is eager to participate in his first post-season contest. “Either win or go home type of deal. It’s the playoffs, who knows what’s going to happen during the playoffs.”
Saturday will represent the first taste of playoff action for many players on the Detroit Lions roster, while many of those who have actual playoff experience look back with less than fond memories.
“I’m excited to get an opportunity to try and win one myself,” said defensive end and 11-year veteran Kyle Vanden Bosch. “I’ve been in three times. I’ve been a six seed, I’ve been a one seed and it has been one and done for me every time. I’m fighting just like everyone else in this locker room trying to get a win. It’s been four years since I’ve been in the playoffs and I don’t take anything for granted. It’s not automatic that you get in every year and you don’t get this opportunity every year.
"I feel like guys in this locker room understand that and understand this opportunity.”
With opportunity comes pressure, and on the surface Detroit's lack of post-season experience is viewed as a determent to playoff success -- especially given their opponent won the Super Bowl two seasons ago.
The reality is, the lack of playoff experience leaves the Lions as an enigma. Much of the roster hasn’t experienced such an important game but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are unable to handle the pressure.
“It all depends on the person, certain people react to certain situations differently,” said linebacker Justin Durant. “Playoffs are definitely a pressure situation and I’ve played in them before and I’m just trying to tell some of the guys that it’s a totally different level. You hear people say it and you may not believe it but it really is. It’s another level of football. It all depends on the person, whether or not the experience comes into play.”
Sometimes, lack of experience can create hunger and if that is true, many of the Lions are starving.
“You have your people that are experience but you have your young ones that haven’t been there and are hungry to get there,” said third-year defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill. “It’s another ball game and a whole new season to play and you’re trying to be one of the last two teams that make it to the championship game. It’s a big part in what we’ve got going on and what we’re trying to accomplish as an organization, as a group and as a team.”
Hunger seems to be the common trait displayed within the Lions locker room. The team is excited, enthusiastic and anxious to play in such a meaningful game this Saturday night.
Those who have been there before are attempting to set the proper expectations for those who have not. Those who have not been there before are chomping at the bit to get on the field.
One thing is for certain, previous playoff experience – or lack thereof – isn’t necessarily an indicator for future post-season success.
This Saturday – win or lose – will shed significant light on the true identify of this football team.
We’ve seen the Lions play football. Now we will see them play in a different game: playoff football.
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