By Chris Cluff
The Seahawks just can’t seem to put together a complete game on the road. While the offense played perhaps its most complete game of the season, the defense failed to protect a 10-point lead and gave up the winning touchdown with 20 seconds left as the Seahawks dropped a 28-24 decision to the Lions on Sunday.
The Seahawks (4-4) fell to 1-4 on the road, with every loss by seven points or less. Typically, those losses had been the fault of the offense, which failed to come up with rallies at Arizona, St. Louis and San Francisco. This loss, though, fell on the defense.
The second half of the season is a bit friendlier than the first half was. The Seahawks head back to the friendly confines of their stadium in Seattle for games against Minnesota and the train wreck that is the New York Jets. After a bye, the Hawks play two more tough games on the road, at Miami and Chicago, before finishing with three of the final four games against division foes at home. The non-division road game is against the Buffalo Bills in Toronto in Week 15. To make the playoffs, the Hawks almost certainly need to go 6-2 in the second half. Wins over the NFC teams will be especially key.
“We’re going to come back to work, correct our mistakes, try to figure this thing out and try to get on another winning streak,” defensive tackle Brandon Mebane told Paul Silvi on King 5′s “Fifth Quarter.”
Russell Wilson and the offense played their most complete game of the season, starting strong and finishing with a clutch scoring drive that should have been enough to win.
Wilson played perhaps the best game of his rookie season, completing 25-of-35 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. The 71.4 percent completion percentage was the best since he hit 75 percent (15 of 20) in a 27-7 win against Dallas in Week 2. And the 24 points matched the 24-23 win against New England as the most Wilson had been responsible for (special teams led to 10 points against Dallas).
The Seahawks scored on their first three drives to take a 17-7 lead. The first drive was aided by an illegal formation by Detroit’s special teams on fourth down at the Detroit 49. The Seahawks ended up driving to the 5-yard line and kicking a field goal.
After the Lions responded with an 82-yard touchdown drive, the Hawks took the lead on the next play as Marshawn Lynch went 77 yards for a touchdown. The run around right end was keyed by blocks from Michael Robinson and Breno Giacomini and was the longest TD run of Lynch’s career. He carried the ball just 12 times, gaining 105 yards, but he had just 28 yards on his 11 other carries as the running game struggled for any consistency.
The Seahawks struck quickly on their next possession, too, as Golden Tate drew a 41-yard pass interference call against Detroit. Wilson hit Sidney Rice for a 9-yard touchdown pass to finish off the 56-yard, 44-second drive.
The Hawks stalled out on their next four possessions, through the third quarter. The worst drive — and Wilson’s only glaring mistake of the game — was a bad interception he threw that set up Detroit at its 44. Rice had broken open along the sideline, but Wilson threw the ball too deep, and safety Ricardo Silva made the pick.
After the Lions drove 56 yards to take a 21-17 lead on Stafford’s 1-yard bootleg to the end zone, Wilson answered by guiding Seattle on an 87-yard drive that included two 18-yard passes to Rice and a fourth-and-2 conversion to Tate. Wilson capped the drive with a 16-yard scoring pass to Zach Miller, who made a one-handed tip catch in the left side of the end zone. That put the Seahawks up 24-21 with a little over five minutes left.
“When the game’s on the line, we’ve got to rise to the occasion,” Wilson told reporters, “and we definitely did that today.”
Miller’s touchdown was his first in 22 games as a Seahawk. Miller, who caught two passes for 22 yards in Detroit, told Silvi that he and Wilson have worked to get in sync.
“Developing a relationship with Russell Wilson has really helped,” he said. “He has a good feel for me out there, trusts me and — as you saw today — puts the ball out there for me.”
Miller said the offense has grown over the first half of the season.
“I think that comes along with the development of Russell Wilson,” he said. “Playing a rookie, you don’t to make too many mistakes, so you run the football more. As he feels more comfortable, you start to throw it. And we’re kind of moving in that direction. And once we get both the running game clicking and the throwing game, we’ll have a real high-powered offense.” Grade: B
The Seahawks simply could not stop Stafford, who had his best game of the season. He completed 34 of 49 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for one.
Seattle was focused on stopping Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, and Stafford simply used his tight ends and backs. And, with Nate Burleson out for the season for Detroit, second-year receiver Titus Young had his best game of the season: nine catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns, including the winning score with 20 seconds left.
Richard “Optimus Prime” Sherman and the Seahawks kept Megatron from killing them — he made his first reception late in the third quarter and finished with three for 46 yards.
But Stafford took what the Seahawks gave him, checking down to his backs and tight ends all game. Brandon Pettigrew caught seven balls for 74 yards and Tony Scheffler caught four for 46, while the backs caught eight passes. Stafford also found Ryan Broyles three times for 37 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Down 17-7 in the second quarter, Stafford hit Scheffler for 14 yards and Pettigrew for 18 and then hit Young for a 46-yard touchdown.
Sherman, who jokingly referred to himself as “Optimus Prime” in advance of his “Transformers” matchup against Megatron, let Titus get by him on that third-and-11 play. It was the longest touchdown pass Seattle has surrendered this season. That third-down conversion was one of 12 in 16 chances by the Lions.
“They kind of were able to do what they wanted to do,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters, per “Fifth Quarter.” “Stafford did a really good job of moving the ball like he needed to. They had a huge day on third down. Any one of those that you stop, and we’ve changed the game. We have a lot of work to do.”
Mebane told Silvi: “We’ve got eight more games left and we’ve just got to find a way to make it happen. … We just have to see what he can do to help each other and help ourselves. We’ll figure it out.” Grade: D
Jon Ryan was his typically excellent self, averaging 48.3 yards on three punts and placing all of them inside the 20. Jeremy Lane made a great over-the-head catch of a 42-yarder at the Detroit 4, and Ryan also had a 64-yard punt.
Otherwise, the special teams were very average. Leon Washington did not have any big returns, and Steven Hauschka made his only makeable kick, from 23 yards. He missed an ill-advised 61-yard attempt at the end of the first half. Grade: B
Aside from an offensive plan that was one of the best they have had this season, the coaches didn’t have a great day. The Seahawks came out throwing quick-tempo passes, and it worked early on — with some help from Detroit’s penalties. But the offense bogged down at the end of the second quarter.
The strategy at the end of the first half was not clear. The Seahawks had the ball at their 20 with 47 seconds left. It looked like they were going to run the clock out as Robert Turbin ran up the middle on the first play. But he gained 11 yards, and they then started throwing the ball, with Wilson completing passes of 12, seven and nine yards to get to the 50.
They had 12 seconds left to get into field-goal range and yet called a draw play to Turbin that was stuffed by Ndamukong Suh. After using their last timeout and throwing incomplete, the Hawks sent Hauschka out for a 61-yard attempt. Not sure why they think a guy who is just 4-of-9 from beyond 50 yards in his career has the leg to hit from 60. If they wanted to get points, they needed to move with more urgency than that.
Meanwhile, Carroll and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley have got to figure out how to stop teams from converting third-and-longs. They let the Lions convert 12 of 16 third downs, 5 of 7 on third-and-7 or longer. Stafford had too much time on those plays, and it is clear the Seahawks have not solved their pass-rush issues.
Carroll also made a bad challenge early in the third quarter on a third-and-8 play that the Lions converted with a pass to Young. Brandon Browner had been called for holding on the play, so the Lions were going to get a first down either way, yet Carroll challenged the catch, which was upheld, and he lost a timeout.
While Darrell Bevell called a pretty good game — the end of the first half notwithstanding — it was a slightly below-average performance by the coaches. Grade: C-
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Chris Cluff worked as a sports editor and writer for The Seattle Times for 11 years and has written two books on the Seattle Seahawks. Since leaving the Times, he has written about the Seahawks and Seattle sports for Bleacher Report and the blog he shares with a fellow sportswriter, outsidethepressbox.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com.