‘Hawks Shine, Swarm Struggling Lions

The 6th seeded Detroit Lions dropped their fourth consecutive game on Saturday in the second NFL Wild Card matchup of the night, and the 3rd seeded Seattle Seahawks dominated at CenturyLink Field with a 26-6 victory in the NFC’s first postseason battle. It marked the 10th consecutive home playoff win for the Seahawks, and a return to the strong defense and relentless rushing game that has marked so much of the team’s recent success.

OTTO GRUELE JR. • GETTY IMAGES
OTTO GRUELE JR. • GETTY IMAGES

Seahawks RB Thomas Rawls (No.34) finds open space to run.

For Detroit, it was a stinging defeat that throbbed worse than Matthew Stafford’s injured middle finger. After 25 years without a playoff win, the Lions were hoping the strained tendon on Stafford’s throwing hand could be ready to take advantage of a depleted Seattle secondary. Despite the absence of All-Pro Safety Earl Thomas, and a battered Kam Chancellor, the ‘Hawks defense was able to contain and force errant Stafford passes. The result was a mere 6 points coming from two 50-plus yard field goals at the game’s midpoint.

The Seahawks meanwhile found an old groove which marked much of their 2013 and 2014 dominance. The rushing game was once again the bread and butter of the ‘Hawks offense, and Thomas Rawls torched Detroit for 161 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown. The solid ground made by the running game took pressure off of Wilson, who completed 23 of 30 pass attempts for 2 TD’s and a 119.3 passer rating. The Lions had no answer, allowing the ‘Hawks to convert 9-16 3rd downs, and own the game’s time of possession.

Much of the talk around the Lions fall late this season had to do with Stafford’s injury. Since hurting it in Week 14 against the Chicago Bears, Stafford threw 5 interceptions over Detroit’s remaining games after throwing just 5 total the previous 13 weeks.

“I don’t think it affected me too much,” Stafford said. “Obviously I’m not 100 percent, but I battled. I feel like I threw the ball accurately enough.” Accurately enough, maybe. However, connecting on only 18 of 32 passes for 205 yards and no TD’s on the road certainly does not win you games. When the Lions really had to convert, they were an abysmal 2 for 13, including two failed fourth down attempts. The result—Stafford and company never reached the Seahawks 30-yard line, let alone the end zone.

In a game many felt would rest on Russell Wilson’s shoulders, it was Thomas Rawls who dictated the pace and intensity of Seattle’s offense.

“We wanted to run the ball, we wanted to do it on the ground, we wanted to maintain our identity and stay true,” Rawls said after the win. “That’s exactly what we did.”

Where Rawls established ball control, it was the mediocre receivers who put on the Seahawks biggest fireworks. Paul Richardson and Doug Baldwin whipped out the circus tricks in a number of highlight reel catches, and both added touchdown grabs to their offensive contributions. “Fired up to see us run the football like that,” Coach Pete Carroll said of his resurgent Seahawks offense. “The receivers across the board played great, there were incredible plays.”

Most surging Wildcard teams do so with strong late season runs, and it remains to be seen if the inconsistent offensive performance of Seattle will be enough to beat the awaiting 2nd seeded Atlanta Falcons next weekend on the road. Though Seattle beat Atlanta 26-24 in week six, the ‘Hawks were just 3-4-1 on the road while the Falcons finished 5-3 at home, setting the stage for an epic divisional round battle.

Les may be reached at
ltobias@su-spectator.com

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