The Detroit Lions throw the ball 46 times a game, most in the NFL. The Seahawks' secondary is excited about the challenge.
RENTON — The biggest challenge in Detroit will also be Seattle’s biggest chance.
The Lions throw the ball. A lot. More than anyone in the league, in fact, with 46 passes per game. Seattle’s defensive backs don’t shudder at that thought, they salivate.
“It definitely gets me excited,” free safety Earl Thomas said. “Just like when we played the Patriots or Green Bay. If you’re a DB, you want to be able to play in that game. I think your opportunities go up.”
Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford comes armed with a green light to throw deep — repeatedly.
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“He’s got a loose arm, man,” safety Kam Chancellor said, “So you know he’s always going to look downfield to throw the deep shot. You’ve just got to stay disciplined and stay back.”
It’s not just Stafford’s arm, but the players he’s throwing to. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson is 6 feet 5 and catching the ball even more frequently than he did a year ago, when he led the league in receiving yards.
“We know that’s their deep threat and major weapon,” Thomas said. “That’s where the ball wants to go, but I think we match up well just with our size and our corners’ aggressiveness.”
Johnson sat out Friday’s practice in Detroit with a sore knee, but is listed as probable, which means it’s virtually certain he will play Sunday against a Seattle secondary that is known for its size. Chancellor is 6 feet 3, and so is cornerback Richard Sherman. The other cornerback, Brandon Browner, is 6 feet 4.
“It’s like a junior-college basketball team out there with their great length,” said Jim Schwartz, the Lions’ coach.
Don’t forget the attitude, because Seattle’s two cornerbacks don’t back down. Not on the field. Not in their words. Sherman was asked about the challenge a receiver like Johnson poses.
“Same challenge as every week,” Sherman said.
Really? Same challenge? Johnson was the No. 2 pick in the 2007 draft, matching the highest a receiver had been chosen since Keyshawn Johnson was the first pick in 1996.
All Johnson did last season was finish with 1,681 yards receiving and catch 16 touchdown passes, more than four NFL teams totaled in 2011.
“No different to me,” Sherman said. “I don’t care who’s out there. It’s the league, boy; they’re going to have a good receiver out there every week.”
Well, how about Johnson’s size? What does it mean that he’s 6-5?
“Nothing to someone who’s 6-3,” Sherman said. “Actually, it might be a little less of an issue due to height. Closer to size, you move similar to him. It’s better than the small little guys who you don’t move the same as. He’s got a long stride, I’ve got a long stride.”
Johnson is going to have his chances Sunday, but so is Seattle’s secondary. The biggest challenge posed by the Lions will also be the Seahawks’ greatest opportunity.
• DT Jason Jones traveled with the Seahawks to Detroit, but is listed as doubtful. Jones, signed this offseason as a free agent, is used mainly in passing situations, and he’s part of the team’s nickel package, along with rookie Bruce Irvin. Jones has 2.5 sacks this season. Rookie Greg Scruggs will have a larger role if Jones is unable to play.
• G John Moffitt practiced this week, but is listed as questionable as he comes back from a knee injury that kept him out the past four games. Even if Moffitt is available, he won’t start, according to coach Pete Carroll.
• WR Doug Baldwin (ankle) and CB Byron Maxwell (hamstring) are out.