The Seahawks rumbled over a punchless Lions team in Seattle on Saturday night, 26-6, advancing into the divisional round of the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years where they’ll take on the Falcons in Atlanta.
Here’s what we learned…
1. Seahawks fans have nothing to complain about. What team is going to lose when their quarterback throws just a handful of incompletions, no picks, and steps aside while the starting running back sets a franchise record for rushing yards in a playoff game? Thomas Rawls is not Marshawn Lynch, but his patient, powerful running style was a knife through the heart of Detroit’s defense on Saturday night. There’s no reason to believe that any team the Seahawks might face in the NFC bracket, save for the Giants, can stop that in January. Despite a loss to Green Bay early in December, Seattle’s top three rushers put up more than 100 yards and averaged more than 4.5 yards per carry. Rawls missed the Falcons‘ game. Rawls’ final stat line, 161 yards on 27 carries with a touchdown, is a warning sign to the rest of the teams still alive.
2. This was a typical Seahawks playoff win in that it contained a bevy of wildly unexpected plays and performances. Paul Richardson, who came into the game with 21 catches for 288 yards, caught three balls for 48 yards and perhaps the best touchdown grab we’ve seen all season. With only a hand anchored to an opponent’s facemask for stability, Richardson has upped the ante for the next pass catcher looking to enter the Odell Beckham sweepstakes. While not as obscure as one-time Seahawks Super Bowl star Chris Matthews, Richardson evoked a similar out-of-nowhere arrival onto our screens.
3. Doug Baldwin has three 100-yard games in the playoffs, which is now the most in Seahawks franchise history. That stat, though, does not come close to summing up his importance to this team. Stolen touchdown aside, Baldwin’s feel for the offense and quarterback Russell Wilson is arguably better than any respective receiver in football. Between Richardson and Baldwin Saturday, Wilson threw just two incompletions on 14 total targets. We talk a lot about the unconscious chemistry between Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown or Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, but Wilson-Baldwin seems to work on a more practical level given Seattle’s offensive style.
4. This is going to be a strange offseason for the Lions. The team should be thrilled they were able to traverse a difficult division and reach the playoffs but… Saturday showed just how far they need to come in the future. This will not be the winter of upheaval that so many expected, though the team stands to potentially lose one of their best coordinators, Teryl Austin, to a head coaching job. Austin has already spoken with the Chargers and Rams. Perhaps a healthier Matthew Stafford can elevate this team to the next level, but Jim Caldwell and his staff must have a phenomenal April and August in the drafting and developing department to prep this team for another division run. The Vikings and Packers are not going to sputter like they did in 2016.
5. Sometimes consistent greatness gets overlooked, but let’s not forget how obvious it was that Stafford was avoiding Richard Sherman on Saturday night. Defensive coordinator Kris Richard stationed Sherman on one side of the ball per usual, and that side of the field effectively became outer space wilderness. Detroit’s leading receiver, Marvin Jones, had four catches for 81 yards but the Lions were mostly relegated to dump-off passes to running back Zach Zenner. Zenner had a team-high six catches. This obviously sets up a Sherman-Julio Jones rematch for a trip to the title game. Their last battle produced some gems, a highly-controversial play and a massive 139-yard afternoon for Jones. Something tells me Sherman remembers that well.