Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor punched the ball out of Calvin Johnson‘s hands at the goal line to prevent the game-winning touchdown in the Seattle Seahawks‘ 13-10 victory over the Detroit Lions on Monday night. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Seahawks players told ESPN’s broadcast team that the “room felt unwhole” without alpha-dog leader Chancellor in the first two weeks of the season. Chancellor proved his value not just with the game-saving forced fumble, but also with a bone-jarring hit on Johnson that was reminiscent to his tone-setter on Demaryius Thomas in Super Bowl XLVIII. Since Chancellor returned to the starting lineup, opposing possessions have resulted in 18 punts, one fumble and a field goal. Seattle’s Legion of Boom defense has not allowed a touchdown in the last 18 regular-season quarters with Chancellor on the field. While that is partially attributed to quality of opponent, it’s the sign of a historically great defense clicking on all cylinders.
2. The postgame fallout brought controversy, as NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino confirmed that Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright should have been penalized for batting the ball out of the back of the end zone following Johnson’s fumble. According to NFL rules, the ball may not be batted in any direction in the end zone. The play was not reviewable, as the back judge determined on the field that it wasn’t an overt or intentional maneuver by Wright.
3. From Seattle’s perspective, the game should not have come down to a controversial play. The Seahawks were in control all game thanks to their swarming defense and Russell Wilson‘s improvisational wizardry behind a crumbling offensive line that seems to regress by the week. That sandlot offense resulted in a league-leading 25 fumbles for Wilson over the past two years. While the Seahawks managed to recover all of those loose balls last year, they lost both on Monday night — including one that was returned for 27-yard touchdown, changing the complexion of the game. The backsliding offensive line threatens to betray the Super Bowl formula of Wilson’s escapability, Marshawn Lynch‘s tackle-breaking running style and a lights-out defense. It’s the bill come due now that superstars such as Wilson and Bobby Wagner are no longer competitive advantages against the salary cap — as they are on the gridiron.
4. As is the case with the rest of the NFL’s most disappointing outfits, the Lions have been undone by an offensive line that simply can’t block effectively. Play-caller Joe Lombardi’s ongoing inability to unlock the obvious talents of playmakers such as Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and Ameer Abdullah is exacerbating the issue. Matthew Stafford has now gone seven consecutive games without a 300-yard performance, his longest such stretch since his first seven career starts.
5. After four straight games under 90 yards on the heels of a disappointing 2014 season, it’s fair to wonder if Calvin Johnson has lost “force of nature” status. Johnson must be quietly seething at Lombardi’s failure to get the ball in his hands when he watches Kyle Shanahan force-feeding Julio Jones near the line of scrimmage in Atlanta. At the same time, there’s no way a cornerback with Cary Williams‘ spotty track record should get the best of a game-wrecker of Johnson’s caliber in a one-on-one matchup. One way or another, Johnson has to find a way to make plays.
6. The Seahawks will be in the market for running back depth. With Marshawn Lynch already nursing a hamstring strain, passing-down specialist Fred Jackson went down with an ankle injury. Although NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported X-rays were negative, Jackson will still have to undergo an MRI to determine the severity of the sprain.
7. Ziggy Ansah is carrying the banner for the much-maligned top dozen picks in the 2013 NFL Draft class. The best player on Detroit’s defense — with underrated star DeAndre Levy out of the lineup — Ansah chased Wilson for two sacks and a forced fumble, highlighting a strong performance from the front seven.