5 Keys to a Seahawks Win in Detroit …
The Seahawks flew back to their nest in Seattle this past weekend nursing some singed feathers following a frustrating loss in San Francisco. Despite a lackluster performance in the City by the Bay though, the Seahawks have actually fared really well over their first 7 games. They have run the gambit against some of the toughest teams in all of football and now find themselves pitted against a Lions team that in many ways is looking for answers.
Can the Seahawks get in a Rhythm in MoTown … or will they be singing the Blues? Here is an in-depth look in to that question and 5 Keys to a Seahawks victory on Sunday …
Keep On Siphoning the Gas …
Last season, Matt Stafford and the Lions looked like a team poised to make a serious run in 2012. The team finished 10-6, as Stafford racked up an impressive 4,814 yards passing (4th in the NFL) … and 41 TD’s through the air (3rd best in the league).
Oh how times have changed though. While the Lions are on pace to equal their passing yardage totals from a year ago … their aerial attack from a year ago looks a lot more like an airline strike. The Lions come in to this game #1 in Pass Attempts per Game (46.2), so there is very little mystery about what they’re going to do – throw the ball. But can they SCORE through the air? That has been the lingering question for them all season long.
Matt Stafford has thrown for only 7 touchdowns this year … and has been intercepted just about as often (he has 6 picks). Even Russell Wilson has been more productive than that … which is why Lions fans and NFL experts alike are befuddled and starting to ask questions as to just what in the name of Bobby “Night Train” Layne is going on here. After the Eagles game, Lions receiver Calvin Johnson was asked about his team’s scoring drought. He had this to say …
"I'm not really (frustrated)," he said. "If I was dropping touchdown passes, then, yeah. But coverages have been dictating a lot of things down there. The touchdowns will come. We are still moving the ball and that's all that matters."
Coming in to this game, the Lions are scoring an average of only 22.2 Points/Game (22nd in the NFL). That’s because while they may march up and down the field … actually punching the ball in to the End Zone has been an issue. The Lions are scoring TD’s only 47.83% of the time they get in the Red Zone (19th in the NFL). While they’re been nowhere near as bad as the Seahawks in the Red Zone (Seattle has scored TD’s only 33.33% of the time – 2nd to last in the league) … the futility of the offense is noteworthy and a huge concern is you’re a Lions fan.
The Lions are converting only 33.33% of their 3rd Downs (23rd in the league. Seattle is 25th with 32.58%).
In fact, the Lions have only 26 First Downs through their first 6 games … only 5 teams in the NFL have fewer –none of which appear to be playoff contenders at this point in time.
All of that bodes very well if you’re Seattle and without a doubt, there is one man whom they without question have to stop …
Megatron … Meet Optimus Prime …
Going in to their Monday Night matchup with the Bears, wide receiver Calvin Johnson had 558 of his team’s 1579 yards … and 35 of his team’s 148 receptions. In other words, 35.3% of the Lions total receiving yards … and 24% of their total receptions were attributed to Johnson.
Because of his absolute dominance on the gridiron, Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson has earned the nickname “Megatron”, a name that is well deserved as he led the league last year in receiving yards (1681), was 4th in receptions (96), and finished 2nd only to New England’s Rob Gronkowski with 16 receiving touchdowns. Though he’s not been anywhere close to as dominant as last season, there is a strong correlation between Johnson’s performance and the overall offensive production of the Lions …
Rams Game … (WIN 27-23) … Calvin Johnnson caught 6 passes for 111 yards.
49ers Game … (LOSS 19-27) … Calvin Johnson caught 8 passes for 94 yards.
Titans Game … (LOSS 44-41) … Calvin Johnson caught 10 passes for 164 yards a TD.
Vikings Game … (LOSS 13-20) … Calvin Johnson caught 5 passes for 54 yards.
Eagles Game … (WIN 26-23) … Calvin Johnson caught 6 passes for 135 yards.
Bears Game … (LOSS 7-13) … Calvin Johnson caught 3 passes for 34 yards.
So it goes without saying that stopping (or finding a way to neutralize) Megatron is central to beating the Lions. At 6’5” 236 pounds and capable of running 40 yards in 4.35 seconds, Johnson is a load for anyone to stop. But on Monday Night, veteran CB Charles Tillman (6’2” 198) put on an absolute clinic on how to do just that. Tillman shadowed Johnson all night, playing Bump and Run coverage on him and spending most of the game in Johnson’s face. The results … Johnson caught only 3 passes for a grand total of 34 yards. Well, it’s not going to get any easier for him this week. Megatron … meet Optimus Prime -- Richard Sherman (6’3” 195 pounds) who just might be the best CB in all of football right now. Sherman comes in to this game #1 in the NFL in Passes Defensed (11) and looks like he just might be able to cover the wind itself if asked to.
Though Sherman will probably find himself matched up on Johnson for the majority of this game, Brandon Browner (6’4” 221 pounds) has the look of another Prime whose size and physical, aggressive style of play could also minimize Johnson’s effectiveness as well, should he find himself matched him up against Johnson on a few plays.
With elite speed and coverage ability from Earl Thomas and hard hitting support from fellow Pro Bowler Kam Chancellor, Seattle’s secondary might be just the perfect weapon against Megatron as they will undoubtedly look to double team him with those guys during those times they break in to zone coverage.
With wide receiver Nate Burleson out for the season and TE Brandon Pettigrew the only other real threat in the passing game (albeit only more of a short to mid-range option) … the Lions offense appears to be a bit of a 1 trick pony, as RB Mikel Leshoure and the running attack is a far cry from the days of Barry Sanders. Teams that are able stop Megatron essentially stop the Lions offense.
Continue To Be The New Bad Boys …
After last Thursday’s game against the Seahawks, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was asked about the physical nature of Seattle’s secondary. Here was what one reporter asked him and his response …
Speaking of referees, a lot of plays on the outside where your receivers were kind of locked up with cornerbacks. How did you see that confrontation throughout the game going?
"Well, I wouldn't use the words ‘locked up.' There's another word I would use. But, we'll take that up with the officials in New York, and get their view of it. That's the only position that we can be in."
In fact, Harbaugh went so far as to go to the league office this week and complain/ask for clarification on the rules for just how physical cornerbacks are allowed to play.
When told of Harbaugh’s comments during an interview on 710 ESPN, Pete Caroll retorted …
"I'm surprised that he felt like their receivers were so overwhelmed"
During that same interview, Carroll went on to talk about how he learned to value size in defensive backs from former Steelers great Mel Blount and from those Raiders teams of the 1970s. Guys like Blount and Jack Tatum helped to redefine how defense was played throughout the NFL … as those guys are two of the nastiest grittiest players ever to don a football uniform. And now Pete Carroll has instilled that exact same toughness, grittiness, and outright mauler mentality in to this team. In short, the Seahawks have become the very dirt-bags that former head coach Jim Mora always longed for.
The Seahawks are going to need THAT team to show up on Sunday Morning if they’re going to shut down the Lions at home. As mentioned above, the Lions have had their struggles on offense and CAN be pressured in to making mistakes.
For all that Seahawks fans complain about penalties … the Lions have actually been worse, committing an average of 7.8 per game (29th in the league vs. an average of only 7.3/game for the Seahawks). The Lions have committed 47 offensive penalties this season (only 6 teams have committed more including your Seattle Seahawks – who have 51).
Lions have committed 6 interceptions and 5 fumbles this season, many of those in the Red Zone. They are a -5 in the Give Away/Take Away Department (25th in the NFL) … and rank #26 in the league in Turnovers per Game (-0.6).
Matt Stafford is getting sacked an average of 2.0 times per game (10th most – nearly the exact same amount as Russell Wilson) … and he’s been hit almost as often as Wilson as well (Detroit – 27 QB Hits/Seattle – 29 QB Hits). So though they’ve only given up a total of 12 sacks thus far … Stafford’s offensive line is far from an impregnable fortress.
The Lions lost and lost handily to the 49ers, Vikings, and Bears – all teams who have top tier defenses. Against those teams, the Lions allowed a total of 10 sacks … committed 2 interceptions … and fumbled the football 4 times.
Even the Rams (who have a very solid defense and whom the Lions beat in their home opener) gave them fits, as Matt Stafford threw 3 interceptions in that game.
The Seahawks defense comes in to this game …
2nd Best in Red Zone Defense (they allow TD’s in the Red Zone only 30% of the time).
8th Best in Sacks (they have 19)
Tied for 7th Best in Opponent Fumbles/Game (Seahawk opponents fumble an average of 1.6/game). They have forced 9 fumbles (among the top 10 most in the league).
10th Best in Passes Defensed (they have 43 PD’s)
9th Best in Passes of 20 Yards or More Allowed (they have allowed only 17).
So there is very good reason to believe that the Seahawks defense CAN give the Lions similar fits on Sunday if they don’t forget to bring their nasty streak with them. Detroit fans remember well the days of the Bad Boy Piston teams … and Sunday could easily be a very rude introduction for them to the NFL’s new Bad Boys …
Autobots, Roll Out …
Regardless of how well the Seahawks defense does though … you’ve got to SCORE to win. On the surface, some of the numbers suggest that’s going to be far easier said than done …
Detroit Lions DEFENSE …
Passing Yards/Game … Lions are 6th Best in the NFL (210.5 Yards/Game)
Pass Plays of 20 Yards+ … Lions are tied for 2nd Best in the NFL (only 12 such plays allowed)
Red Zone Defense … the Lions have allowed a TD on only 25% of opponents’ trips inside the Red Zone (that is #1 in the NFL).
Sacks … Lions are tied for 12th in the NFL (17 Sacks)
Seattle Seahawks OFFENSE …
Passing Yards/Game … Seahawks are 31st in the NFL (they average only 162 yards/game)
Red Zone Scoring Percentage … Seahawks are 31st in the NFL, scoring a TD only 33.33% of the time.
Points/Game … the Seahawks are 31st in the NFL, scoring an average of only 16.6 points per game.
But Pete Carroll’s primary mode of attack hasn’t been through the air … it’s been almost a resurrection of Old Ground Chuck. The Seahawks and Marshawn Lynch come in to this game with the 8th Best Yards/Game average rushing the football (131.7 Rushing Yards/Game). And while the statistics indicate that Lions are an average defense against the run (they allow an average of 108.8 Yards/Game -- 17th Best in the league) … it should be noted how they have fared thus far against some of the game’s top running attacks …
San Francisco (averages 176.6 Yards/Game on ground – 2nd Best) … Lions yielded 148 yards (5.5 yards/average rush) and a TD.
Minnesota (averages 132.3 Yards/Game on ground – 7th Best) … Lions yielded 127 yards (4.5 yards/average rush)
Chicago (averages 131.5 Yards/game on ground – 9th Best) … Lions yielded 171 yards (5.3 yards/average rush)
So, there is good reason to believe that Marshawn Lynch will have similar success this Sunday. STILL … if this team is going to win … and has any aspirations of getting to and making any waves in the playoffs … they have GOT to open up the offense and allow Russell Wilson to do what he does best – utilize play action pass, create on the run, and let him THROW the football.
From Danny O’Neil, to John Clayton, to Seahawk fans like you and me … the cry is the same – take the chains off this offense and free Russell Wilson. Conservative play calling is killing the Seahawks in so many ways. In the 49ers Game, Russell Wilson completed 5 of his first 9 passes [55.5% Completion Rate] in the first 2 series of the game. The result – Seattle got 2 field goals and led 6-3 at Halftime. But Wilson attempted a grand total of only 9 passes in the entire 2nd Half … only 3 of which ended up being caught (in large part because of the ineptitude of Seattle’s receivers). The result – San Francisco was able to key in on stopping the run, dominated the time of possession in the 2nd Half, and walked away the victors. Seattle comes in to this game having attempted a mere 175 passes so far this season – that ranks dead last in the NFL. That equates to an average of 25 pass attempts per game – far below the league average of 33-34 passes. If the Seahawks really want to contend … that’s got to change.
Keith Myers who writes the blog “12th Man Rising”, had another interesting little factoid this past week …
On first down, Wilson is completing 69% of his passes, has a 9.1 yards per attempt average, and a 101.4 rating. On all those [other] downs his completion percent drops under 60%, just yard per attempt is in under 6, and his rating is in the 50′s.
Why the difference? Because teams are stacking the line trying to stop Lynch in those situations. Play-action or not, Wilson and the offense has been much [more] effective at finding mismatches and making things happen on first down, and they need to take advantage of that.
The issue that Myers points that is currently happening is precisely the exact same kind of problem that the Seahawks Offense had at times under Mike Holmgren – it’s becoming far too predictable. Opposing defensive coordinators KNOW that when Russell Wilson drops back in to shotgun on 3rd down that they’re passing the ball. There is no threat of popping Marshawn Lynch through the hole on the kind of quick hitting trap plays that San Francisco gashed Seattle with last week (the exact same kind of trap plays that Holmgren used to run to near perfection here in Seattle by the way). It may be time to put the shotgun on the shelf, as it:
A] signals to the defense that the upcoming play IS going to be a pass.
B] takes away Wilson’s ability to get a better read on the defense from the line of scrimmage.
C] takes away Wilson’s ability to utilize the play action pass (which he is a master at).
So if Pete Carroll and John Schneider trusted Russell Wilson enough to name him this team’s starting QB … then they should trust him enough to take full control of the offense and let him create. And contrary to what it may appear, the statistics also say that there ARE potential points to be scored downfield IF Darrell Bevell chooses to put the ball in Wilson’s hands more and to allow him to take some shots against this Lions Defense …
Points/Game … the Lions are 22nd in the NFL in points allowed (25.0 Points/Game)
Passes Defensed … the Lions are 29th in the NFL in passes broken up (they have only 24 PD’s)
Interceptions … the Lions are 32nd in the NFL (they have only 2 INT’s)
Forced Fumbles … the Lions are among the bottom 9 teams in the NFL in creating them (their defense has created only 4 FF)
Outside of Louis Delmas (who is a good free safety, but is questionable for this game with a knee issue), Chris Houston, Jacob Lacey, and Amari Spivey aren’t names that should strike fear in to the hearts of anyone. This is a secondary that is just begging to be tested.
Beware of the Revenge of the Fallen …
In nature though, there is nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal. On Sunday, the Seahawks just might find this Lion’s den perilous indeed. While it may be tempting for some to think this game will be a coming out party for Seattle’s Offense … this is a Lions team that comes in to this contest licking its wounds as well. This is a team that was just embarrassed on the road in Chicago in front of a national audience Monday night. That loss dropped them dropped them to 2-4 on the season … and with the schedule that they have coming up their coach Jim Schwartz is more than likely telling them, “This is the season guys. We cannot and will not lose this game.” Playing a desperate team AT HOME following a tough loss is not an ideal formula for a Seahawks team needing a win.
Though the Lions have had their struggles defensively this year ... there is obviously talent on this team. Last year, the Lions defense was able to produce 34 turnovers (Only San Francisco and Green Bay had more [each had 38]). And though they have allowed their share of yards on the ground, they have been fairly stout when it gets down to the Red Zone.
The Lions come in to Sunday’s contest #1 in the NFL in fewest touchdowns allowed in the Red Zone Defense (they have allowed a TD on only 25% of opponents’ trips inside the Red Zone). For a Seahawks team that is 31st in Red Zone Offense and will be without Doug Baldwin … that’s not good.
And while some of their defensive numbers have been down … this is a team that is quite capable of getting in to the opposition’s backfield and causing problems …
DT Ndamukung Suh (7 Tackles for Loss – tied for 10th Best in the NFL)
LB Justin Durant (6 Tackles for Loss – tied with Bobby Wagner)
DE Cliff Avril (5 Tackles for Loss) – Chris Clemons and K.J. Wright both have 5.
LB Deandre Levy (4 Tackles for Loss)
Players like Ndamukung Suh and former All American Nick Fairly are certainly quite able of making life miserable for opposing offensive players. Just ask Jay Cutler, who’s probably still looking for the number of the truck that hit him. (It’s a good thing Russell Wilson can run.) The Seahawks are simply going to have to avoid making critical mistakes and committing dumb penalties. And believe it or not, the Seahawks have done a much better job of that.
Much has been made about the Seahawks and their penalty situation. In their first 3 games, the Seahawks committed an almost unthinkable 32 penalties. But for all the airtime that Seahawk fans have been spending jamming the airwaves with complaints … that trend has actually changed dramatically. For those who haven’t been paying attention … since the Green Bay game and the return of the NFL’s regular referees … the Seahawks have just 19 miscues in 4 games. If you haven’t done the math in your head, let me lay it out for you …
In Games Officiated by Replacement Refs …
@ Cardinals ……………… 13 penalties
Home against Cowboys ….... 5 penalties
Home against Packers ….… 14 penalties
Average Penalties/Game …. 10.66 penalties/game
In Games Officiated by Regular Refs …
@ Rams ……………………. 5 penalties
@ Panthers ………………… 7 penalties
Home against Patriots ……… 4 penalties
@ SF 49ers …………………. 3 penalties
Average Penalties/Game …. 4.75 penalties/game
Over their last 3 games then the Seahawks have averaged just 4.7 penalties/game … which (believe it or not) is the 4th FEWEST in the NFL. If the Seahawks want to win, they’ll have to continue to trend of playing fairly mistake free football, as Ford Field (like the CLINK) is one of the toughest venues in all of the NFL to play in (they have 100 False Start Penalties there since 2005 – 4th Most in the league over that time). Getting an early (and hopefully comfortable) lead on this team is going to be crucial to keeping this crowd from becoming a factor in this game.
At 2-4, this Lions team is one that looks to be teetering on the precipice. Their fans are discouraged and they have a long and not so distinguished history of losing football. The Detroit Lions opened up the 2011 Season a staggering 5-0 … ever since though, they have gone 7-11. So if the coaching staff takes the training wheels off Russell Wilson … and the team plays good, solid fundamental Seahawk football … and doesn’t beat themselves … the Seahawks have a very good chance of marching in to MoTown, getting in to a Rhythm, and making the Lions and their fans the ones who are singing the Blues by the end of this game.
The Seahawks put a hurting on Megatron and show the rest of the world that THEY are More Than Meets the Eye …