DETROIT — In the 728 games the Seahawks had played before Sunday, they had always punted at least once.
But in a wild 48-45 win over the Lions at Ford Field, punter Michael Dickson never took the field other than to hold on field goals and PATs.
Dickson laughed about it later, saying incredulously when asked if he’d still get paid, “Shoot, I hope so.”
Said quarterback Geno Smith, who had his best day as a Seahawk: “We gave him the day off, so that was good.”
Unfortunately, it was also necessary as the offense kept having to answer a score by Detroit and keep the lead as the two teams combined for 1,075 yards.
Detroit had 520, the 13th-most yards Seattle has ever allowed and the fourth most of the Pete Carroll era in a non-overtime game, while the points were the most allowed in the Carroll era.
Carroll said he wanted to enjoy the win and wasn’t going to decipher what happened defensively much until he saw the film. He conceded, “We’ve got a lot of work to do. As (defensive co-captain) Big Al Woods said, ‘Grateful for the offense today. They came through and helped us win the game.’”
It looked for a time like it might be easy.
The Seahawks scored on all four of their first-half possessions to take a 24-15 lead at halftime, and then grabbed a 31-15 lead on the first play of the second half on a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown by emerging star rookie cornerback Tariq Woolen.
“A great play,” Carroll said.
“Dumb,” said Detroit quarterback Jared Goff, who was trying to hit tight end T.J. Hockenson.
From there, the game was almost surreal as Goff and the Lions were unstoppable, scoring touchdowns on the last four drives of the second half with Goff throwing for 235 yards and three TDs.
That allowed the Lions to four times cut the lead to a single possession.
But each time, Smith and the Seattle offense answered, with two touchdowns and a field goal of their own in the second half as well as a final drive to run out the clock after DeeJay Dallas recovered an onside kick following Detroit’s final touchdown. It all made the Lions defense look even worse than its numbers indicated. Detroit had allowed the most points in the NFL coming into the game and is now giving up 35 points per game.
“That’s fun, man,” Smith said of the Seahawks offense responding time and again to a Detroit touchdown. “An old-fashioned shootout. It’s good for our offense to have that happen because we can now see that we can do that. That’s our standard. We’ve got to make sure we maintain that.”
And if Seattle needed all offensive hands on deck to stave off the Lions, all answered the call.
Smith completed 23 of 30 passes for 320 yards, hitting DK Metcalf seven times for a season-high 149 yards and Tyler Lockett six times for 91 more.
And running back Rashaad Penny also had a breakout game after finding not a lot of room to operate the first three weeks, with 151 yards on 17 carries including touchdowns in the second half of 41 and 36 yards. The 41-yarder came on a third-and-two play with just over two minutes left. The 36-yarder came on a third-and-16 play late in the third quarter against a Detroit blitz. Smith said he changed the call on the 41-yard TD at the line of scrimmage — and Carroll implied Smith did that several times in the game without specifying which ones.
“There’s a moment in this game when the crowd was as loud as it could have possibly been for that day, and he had to do something at the line of scrimmage, and he got it done,” Carroll said. “Everybody executed, and we really cashed in in a huge way. There’s a few of those in the day, but there was a moment in there that he’s totally in command of the whole thing, and he had to communicate to everybody, and everybody ran the play right, and we really took advantage of that op (opportunity).”
Carroll said Smith played so well “we should have carried him off (the field).”
But if the temptation is to say that Smith continues to be a revelation after having not been a full-time starter since 2014, Smith insists it’s what he expected.
“I can play better,” Smith said. “I have not exceeded my expectations. I can play a lot better, just playing better.”
If that’s in question when it comes to Smith, it unquestionably isn’t when it comes to the defense, which is now allowing 428 yards per game — far past the 399.4 average of the 2000 team that set a dubious team record for most yards allowed per game — and 6.7 per play.
The points allowed topped the 44 the Seahawks gave up to Buffalo in 2020 that previously were the most allowed under Carroll. According to Pro Football Reference, it tied for the fifth-most points the Seahawks have allowed (the record is 51, done twice), and was the second-most points Seattle had allowed in a game it won (the Seahawks beat Kansas City 51-48 in overtime in 1983).
The Seahawks gave up 10 plays of 16 yards or more, which Carroll typically defines as an explosive play.
And that came against a Detroit team without leading receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, leading rusher D’Andre Swift, the other starting receiver, D.J. Chark, and guard Jonah Jackson, a Pro Bowler last year.
“There’s just too many chunk yards,” Carroll said. “We just have to get those out of our football, and it wasn’t a bad day on third down necessarily (Detroit was 4 of 10), but it was just explosives that have got to get taken care of, and so we’ve got a lot of work to do still and see what we can do to stop that.”
Said safety Quandre Diggs: “Of course you worry but I don’t want to say we’re gonna panic. We’ve got a lot of young guys out there and we’ve just got to pick up the small details of things. You can erase 24 or so points if we don’t have penalties, we play smarter on down and distance. … It’s just small things that you’ve got to be in tune with the game, and I don’t think we’re there yet.”
No, they are not. But on Sunday, the offense was, and that proved just enough.