So here Detroit comes again, roaring into January. The key to its postseason will be Mitchell, who, depending on what teams make the playoffs, could be the only NFC quarterback in the postseason with no playoff experience. Facing the blitz clearly unsettles him; he was an unimpressive 16 of 36 against Houston, which blitzed on 90% of all passing downs. Walking off the field after the win over the Oilers, Herman Moore was reminded that Houston had just given future Lion foes a blueprint of how to attack Detroit—blitz, blitz and blitz some more. "I know," Moore said ruefully.
To beat the Lions, says Houston coach Jeff Fisher, "you've got to have two things: a physical left corner to play Herman Moore in tight coverage and a blitz coming from everywhere to take advantage of Mitchell's inexperience and Detroit's poor blitz-pickup scheme."
"I don't think playoff football would be a big change for me," Mitchell says. "I mean, if you lose, it's over, right? That's what we've been playing with here, every week, since the middle of November. Same thing with playoff football. We've already lived it. I've lived it."
Detroit owns three-point wins over San Francisco in 1995 and Dallas in '94, so the Lions know they can play with anyone. Historically they have not done so during the playoffs. The Lions are 1-3 in the postseason under Fontes. Perhaps that will change, If so, Fontes again will have walked the tightrope and, this time, found safety in the NFL's promised land. But don't count on it.