Despite a hairy beginning, the Seahawks had their way with the Lions in Detroit, and showed everyone that this team is indeed a playoff contender.
DETROIT — For the final three quarters in a 28-14 win over the Lions on Sunday, the Seahawks pretty much hit everything they swung at out of the park.
That included a baseball-themed celebration following one of their three second-quarter touchdowns, with the receivers reenacting a mound-charging brawl.
“That was fun,’’ said quarterback Russell Wilson, who made a brief unscripted cameo in the celebration, saying “I came in from the bullpen.’’
Matters turned slightly tense in the fourth quarter as the Lions twice drove into Seattle territory as they tried to cut the Seahawks’ lead to one score.
But each time, the defense made a big play — a fumble recovered by Frank Clark, and Justin Coleman’s leaping interception at the 1-yard line.
When it was over, the Seahawks celebrated a win that meant a little more because it was the first game following the death of owner Paul Allen. Bert Kolde, Allen’s close friend and vice chairman of the team, got the game ball in the locker room.
But beyond the emotional significance, this win also served as maybe the clearest illustration of how Pete Carroll envisioned the team playing when he orchestrated an offseason coaching staff and personnel makeover.
Carroll wanted to get the Seahawks back to running the football to set up big plays in the passing game.
Check, and check, on Sunday as Seattle ran a season-high 42 times (“I couldn’t be more fired up about it,’’ Carroll said of that stat) for 176 yards while Russell Wilson completed 14 of 17 passes for 248 yards, an average of 14.5 per attempt that would have tied a team record if he’d had three more attempts.
Wilson also tossed three touchdowns — all during a 21-point second quarter that erased a 7-0 deficit and pretty much decided the game — giving him nine in the last three games and 16 for the season. He had a perfect passer rating of 158.3, the first in Seahawks history.
“Beautiful game,’’ Carroll said of how Wilson played. “It’s really hard to beat you when you play like that.’’
Carroll also wanted to continue Seattle’s reputation for being able to stop the run while getting more sacks and forcing more turnovers.
On this day, check, check, and check as Seattle held a Lions rushing attack that had gained 248 yards last week against Miami to just 34 on 13 attempts. The Seahawks limited standout rookie Kerryon Johnson to just 22 yards, and sacked Matthew Stafford — who had been sacked just 10 times in six previous games — three times.
Seattle also won the turnover battle 3-0, and is at plus-10 for the season.
“We really were able to play right within the framework of how we want to do it,’’ Carroll said. “We want to get the football, we don’t want to give it up. No turnovers today, and take advantage of that and run the heck out of the football.’’
Seattle also won the special teams battle – which Carroll also made a priority to upgrade in the offseason. Tedric Thompson forced a fumble on a kickoff return in the second quarter. That forced turnover set up a Seahawks touchdown that put Seattle up for good.
Then, Seattle clinched the game with the sort of creative, extemporaneous and just plain fun kind of play that good teams seem to make: Punter Michael Dickson’s decision to run rather than take a safety resulted in the pickup of a first down with two minutes left.
“Well, there were a couple superlatives or whatever you call them that came out,’’ Carroll said of what was went through his mind as Dickson took off around the right end when he saw an opening and eschewed stepping out of the end zone to take a safety. “But I thought it was awesome. I can’t love a play more than that.”
And he can’t love the way a team is playing more. The Seahawks have won four of their last five, with the only loss being a 33-31 thriller to the undefeated Rams.
The Seahawks are averaging 134.7 rushing yards per game, almost the same as the 136.8 of the 2013 Super Bowl winners. Wilson is averaging a career-best 8.5 yards per pass, compared to 7.2 of last season.
And while Wilson has a 16-4 TD-to-interception ratio, the Seahawks defense has 10 interceptions and has only allowed 10 touchdowns.
“I talked about it three years ago,’’ said receiver Doug Baldwin. “Run the ball, play stout defense and don’t turn the ball over. That’s successful football. I don’t think it can be any simpler than that.’’
The win also capped a stretch of five road games out of seven to start the season and allowed Seattle, 4-3, to move over .500 for the first time this season. Those are all signs of a team on the rise in a season that many had pegged as a rebuilding year for the Seahawks at best, and at worst, a sad end of the Carroll era.
Also, there were no significant injuries on Sunday, all of which contributed to Carroll’s good mood — which was evident throughout his post-game news conference.
At one point, asked about the “gauntlet’’ the team is about to face with games coming up against teams like the Chargers, Rams and Packers, Carroll turned momentarily sarcastic.
“Gosh, I don’t know,’’ he said. “We’ll seem to find a way somehow. We’re rolling, I don’t know. We’re jacked and we’ll just keep on working on it and busting our tail and practicing really hard and not changing anything. Just do exactly what we know how to do.’’
Indeed, what Carroll liked best on Sunday is that the Seahawks didn’t really surprise the Lions with anything (well, maybe other than when a punter ran out of his end zone).
The Lions knew Seattle would try to run it a ton, but they still couldn’t stop it, not even with newly-acquired defensive tackle Damon “Snacks’’ Harrison reinforcing the middle.
And when the Seahawks had to stop the Lions, they did.
“This a nice team,’’ Carroll said. “I like our team. I like what’s going on, I like the way it’s going and I like how they feel about it. It’s really clear; there’s no mystery how we’re trying to get it done. We’re not going to fool anybody.”
Only, maybe, those who didn’t see this coming.