Seahawks’ offense and defense ace test against the Lions during their wild-card game against the Lions.
Any review of the stats of Seattle and Detroit heading into Saturday’s wild-card playoff game indicated that the Seahawks should win the game handily.
And ultimately the Seahawks did, doing so in what Seattle coach Pete Carroll called the kind of “formula’’ the team likes: punishing rushing, stifling defense, big-play passing.
A few numbers spoke to Seattle’s dominance. The Seahawks held the ball for a season-best 36 minutes and 39 seconds while the Lions ran just 50 plays, a Seattle opponent season low.
“They helped us out,’’ said Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett of the Seattle offense, already looking ahead to what will be a tougher challenge this Saturday at Atlanta.
Indeed, Detroit largely lived down to its billing, with three drops and a few untimely penalties helping Seattle pull away.
And true, how the Seahawks perform in Atlanta and how far they advance in the playoffs will determine if Saturday was a real return to form or merely a fun afternoon that will be remembered mostly for the handful of circus catches turned in by Paul Richardson and Doug Baldwin and a franchise-best playoff rushing performance by Thomas Rawls.
For a day, though, there wasn’t much to really complain about.
This was old-school Seahawks football, with the run truly setting up the pass.
Rawls, who grew up near Detroit in Flint, had his best game of the season with 161 yards on 27 carries, and while he had some big holes at times, he also created a lot of yards for himself with tough running and on-a-dime moves rarely seen of late. With that Rawls, Seattle might indeed have a chance to go a ways in the postseason.
While coach Pete Carroll insisted later the team didn’t change things much, the emphasis on the run was apparent in the use of fullback Marcel Reece, who got his most significant playing time of the year, lining up often as the up back in I-formation sets.
With the Detroit defense forced to pay attention to the run after Rawls rushed for 107 yards in the first half, Russell Wilson got hot in the fourth quarter to end up with a typical Wilson game: 23 of 30, two touchdowns, no picks, 224 yards.
Wilson completed 17 of 20 passes for 179 yards in the second half.
The only real nit to pick with Wilson was not getting rid of the ball more quickly on a few plays. He admitted as much later, saying “those few sacks (the Lions had three) were on me.’’
Receiver Doug Baldwin also had something of a career night with 11 catches — one off the team’s post-season record — for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Carroll said it was the best run-blocking performance of the season for the line, and the pass protection seemed largely good other than a couple of times George Fant was beaten by Ziggy Ansah.
This was the best the defense has looked since Earl Thomas was injured, keeping Detroit and Matthew Stafford in check throughout.
The Lions averaged just 5.2 yards per pass, and less than that until getting a few big plays on the final two drives, when Stafford threw for 64 of his 205 yards.
Seattle moved cornerback DeShawn Shead inside at times to cover 220-pound Anquan Boldin and Shead proved up to the task. Shead broke up a pass on a third down late in the second quarter on a toss to Bolden to force a Detroit punt and had another third-down pass breakup on a throw to Marvin Jones late in the first half that forced a Detroit field goal. Shead finished with three pass defenses.
Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright teamed for a key stop on fourth down on the first play of the second quarter when the game was scoreless. Wagner, the regular-season NFL leader in tackles with 167, had 10 more to lead Seattle Saturday.
Cliff Avril led a Seattle pass rush that picked up steam late with two sacks. Bennett had the other.
A somewhat spotty day.
Steven Hauschka was low on a 43-yard attempt in the first half but it had just enough oomph to get across for three points.
Later, a Hauschka point-after attempt hit the right upright and bounced away for what was his seventh missed PAT of the season.
New snapper Tyler Ott downed a Jon Ryan punt at the 4-yard line in the third period.
Jeron Johnson had huge hit on Detroit returner Andre Roberts that forced the Lions to start at their own 16 following the Hauschka field goal that put the Seahawks up 13-6 early in the fourth quarter.
But newly-signed returner Devin Hester made little impact and let one punt drop in the fourth quarter that along with a Seattle penalty resulted in the Seahawks starting at their own 18 on a play that snapped from the Lions’ 17.