Seattle Seahawks 32, Detroit Lions 20
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Play of the Day: Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck rolled out to the right and threw a low pass to T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who came up with the catch while sliding into the end zone to give the Seahawks a 22-17 lead that they'd hang onto to get to 3-5 on the season.
Handouts to the Standouts
Hasselbeck completed a career-high 39 passes, breaking his own single-game completions record on his way to passing Dave Kreig as the franchise's all-time leader in completions (2,124). After throwing an interception on his first pass attempt, Hasselbeck completed fifteen consecutive passes on his way to a 76% completion percentage on the day, his highest completion percentage since completing 25-of-30 passes (83.3%) against the Lions in the 2007 season opener. Hasselbeck also had a season-high 329 yards—his first 300-yard game since November 18, 2007—and a touchdown, for a passer rating of 91.1. Hasselbeck nearly boosted his passer rating on well-thrown fourth quarter fade route to Houshmandzadeh in the corner of the end zone, but Houshmandzadeh couldn't make the play on the ball.
Middle linebacker David Hawthorne led the ‘Hawks with 9 tackles and a pair of interceptions, giving him a team-high 3 on the season. Hawthorne is really emerging as one of the bright spots on the defense this season.
Julius Jones, the receiver version. Limited to 36 yards on 16 carries, Jones augmented that with a team-high 78 yards on six receptions, including taking a screen pass 49 yards to set up a 24-yard field goal. Jones also scored on a 3-yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter.
Nate Burleson had a team-high 7 receptions for 75 yards, a third of which coming on a 25-yard grab on a "Sluggo" route that faked Lions cornerback William James out of his shoes. Burleson also had a comical highlight, signaling for a first down while being tackled on a 5-yard reception midway through the fourth quarter.
Cornerbacks Josh Wilson, Marcus Trufant, and Kelly Jennings limited Lions wide receivers Bryant Johnson and Calvin Johnson to three receptions and 33 yards. Bryant Johnson did make an outstanding 29-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter on Ken Lucas, who would be replaced by Wilson shortly thereafter.
Things That Made Me Go "Blech!"
Seattle won the toss and deferred, giving Matt Stafford and the Lions the ball first. Considering Stafford's a rookie, making his first trip to Qwest Field, it was disappointing to see the Lions chew up 8:32 of clock on a 14-play, 61-yard drive that ended with Jason Hanson doinking a field goal attempt off the right upright. Detroit converted a pair of 3rd-and-mediums on that drive, and gained 18 yards on a 3rd-and-20, which they'd converted on 4th down when Seattle got caught with 12-men on the field.
Turning the ball over two times on their first two offensive plays, which resulted in 14 points for the Lions, was about as worse a start as the Seahawks could've had.
Jim Mora's decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 on the Seahawks' 38-yard line when the Seahawks' trailed 14-0. With 3:40 to play in the 1st quarter, it was far too early and too close to Hanson's field goal range to attempt that 4th down conversion. Seattle was stuffed on the 4th-and-1 and Detroit was able to use the excellent field position to take a 17-0 lead on Hanson's 41-yard field goal.
Despite the Seahawks gaining nearly 400 yards of total offense, and converting 7-of-15 third down attempts, the Seahawks were plagued by some perplexing play-calling in the red zone, resulting in the offense doing just enough to barely beat a horrible team at home.
It was clear that Seattle's gameplan was to get Houshmandzadeh, whose temper tantrum last week was fodder for the local and national media, involved early and often in the offense. Hasselbeck's interception on the first offensive play was intended for a well-covered Houshmandzadeh. Before his checkdown on the second play to Justin Griffith, who would fumble on the play, the first read was Houshmandzadeh, who again, wasn't open.
The result of force-feeding Houshmandzadeh? A pair of turnovers and a 14-point deficit.
After three runs lost three yards on the third possession, Mora insisted that Knapp put the ball into Hasselbeck's hands. Knapp did just that, sprinkling in an occasional run, using designed screens and dumpoffs as an extension of what was a fairly ineffective running game. Seattle running backs combined for 17 receptions and 160 yards on Sunday, which almost makes one forget the 17 carries for 50 yards Jones (16 carries, 36 yards) and Forsett (1 carry, 14 yards) combined for on the ground.
It's worth noting that the Seahawks' best runs of the day came out of three-wide sets (Forsett's 14-yard run in the 2nd quarter; Jones' 11-yard run in the 4th) or when Owen Schmitt spelled Griffith as the lead blocker. The effectiveness of Schmitt as a lead blocker segues into pointing out some questionable play-calling by Knapp.
Schmitt was the lead blocker on an 8-yard run by Jones on first down to open their second possession of the second half. Schmitt stayed in the game on a second-down pass play that went incomplete, and on a third-down completion to Houshmandzadeh to move the chains. Jones was the single back on his 49-yard catch-and-run, but Schmitt came back on the field for 1st-and-10 from the Lions' 15-yard line and paved the way for 5-yards on first down, and caught a 4-yard pass on the next play, setting up 3rd-and-1 from the Lions' 6-yard line. Regular personnel stayed on the field, but instead of running the ball behind the 250-pound fullback, he rolls Hasselbeck out to one side, away from the two wide receivers on the play, for an incomplete pass and field goal attempt.
Not counting the 15-yard facemask penalty that gave them ball inside the Lions' 20-yard line at the end of the first half, Seattle was a horrendous 2-of-5 inside the red zone. Choosing to pass on 75% of those downs led to too much Olindo Mare, which was partly why the Lions had a chance to win the game in the final minute.
On the bright side, it was nice to see Knapp use Seneca Wallace correctly. As the back-up quarterback, defenses know that Wallace is no threat to run, so giving it to him on an end-around and letting him use his arm to make a play downfield was an actual surprise wrinkle from the "Senecat" package. There also seemed to be a determination to get John Carlson involved in the offense, as the second-year tight end was targeted 9 times, catching six balls for 42 yards.
Rookie wide receiver Deon Butler, however, continues to be an after-thought on offense. Seattle paid 5th, 7th, and a 3rd round pick in 2010 to acquire Butler, and with his speed, he really should be more than just a blocking receiver, decoy, and part-time gunner on punt coverage units midway through his rookie season.
Seattle's offensive line is doing a decent enough job of keeping Hasselbeck clean, but really isn't getting the job done in the running game. The left side of the offensive line—which didn't include Sean Locklear, who was active but did not play—committed a pair of penalties (holding on Rob Sims, false start by Damion McIntosh) and the line's inability to generate any push on that 4th-and-1 play will surely be dissected in the film room on Monday.
Two positives on the offensive line:
1. Max Unger's alertness in recovering a fumble by Houshmandzadeh that gave the Seahawks their first 1st down conversion of the game.
2. Ray Willis' crushing crack-back block on Wallace's 15-yard completion to Burleson.
Nearly half of Detroit's offensive possessions ended with an interception and the Lions' three first-quarter scoring drives covered just 7, 34, and 25 yards, so Seattle's defense played fairly well considering the early holes the offense dug for them.
Hawthorne was the defensive star, leading the team in tackles and intercepting a pair of passes, which proved contagious as Deon Grant, Marcus Trufant, and Josh Wilson all come down with picks. Wilson, who appears to have passed Ken Lucas on the depth chart at right cornerback, returned his interception 62 yards for a game-clinching touchdown. Wilson also jumped routes to break up passes intended for Calvin Johnson and Casey FitzSimmons, two players who are considerably larger than the 5-9, 192-pound Wilson, who is pound-for-pound the toughest player in the Seahawks' secondary.
Not to be outdone by his brother Jonathan's 2 ½ sack day for the Atlanta Falcons, Jordan Babineaux had a sack of his own and dropped Aaron Brown for a six-yard loss on one of the several end-around plays called by Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, which put Detroit in a 3rd-and-16 that led to Hawthorne's second interception of the afternoon.
Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane had a solid outing, finishing with 5 tackles and did his best to set the tone with a crushing stop of Kevin Smith on the game's first play. But the rest of the defensive line really didn't have much of an impact on Sunday. Detroit gained 114 yards on 21 carries (5.4 ypc), and while that could be attributed to the decision to deactivate defensive tackle Red Bryant, the more likely explanation was poor gap control that led to some big runs by Smith and Brown which slightly inflate the rush totals.
Defensive end Patrick Kerney was credited with a sack/forced fumble, though Stafford appeared to drop the ball before Kerney contacted his arm. For the first time this season, Lawrence Jackson was having just an average day before he hit Stafford on Wilson's interception. Craig Terrill also got a hit on Stafford on the final drive.
To be fair to coordinator Bruce DeHaven, Seattle's special teams units bore the brunt of the roster moves this week, and took another hit when Ben Obomanu wasn't active.
As a result, the first kickoff by Jason Hanson hits the turf in between Justin Forsett and Louis Rankin and an over-excited Roy Lewis is flagged for a 15-yard personal foul penalty that special teams captain Lance Laury contributed to.
There was no change at long-snapper or holder, though, and Kevin Houser and Jon Ryan had some adventurous moments. Ryan couldn't handle a bad snap from Houser, which led to an improvised two-point attempt after the go-ahead touchdown, which failed. Houser's snap on Mare's 20-yard field goal in the fourth quarter appeared off the mark, as well. (If anyone is curious, long-snapper Bryan Pittman signed with the Atlanta Falcons last week.)
Seattle's coverage unit got off to a great start, with D.D. Lewis forcing a fumble (which Lions return man Derrick Williams recovered), but Mare didn't appear capable of getting good depth on his kickoffs towards the south end zone, where five of his eight kickoffs were towards. Usually good for a touchback on nearly 40% of his kickoffs, Mare only put two kicks into the end zone—both when kicking towards the Hawks Nest—and none were kneeled down.
As a punter, Ryan wasn't called upon until the second half, but all three of punts were either fair caught or downed inside the Lions' 15-yard line. Ryan finished the day with a 36.3 yard net average.
After losing three yards while running east-to-west on his first punt return, Burleson sprung for 18 yards on his second return, which improved Seattle's field position on the go-ahead touchdown drive. Kick returners Forsett and Rankin combined to average nearly 29 yards per return, each breaking off a 40+ yard return.
Game Notes: Mike Teel (3rd QB), Mike Hass, Ben Obomanu, Cameron Morrah, Mike Gibson, Mansfield Wrotto, Red Bryant, and Jamar Adams were inactive for Seattle…As part of the pre-game ceremonies in honor of Veteran's Day, World War II veteran Huston Riley raised the 12th Man flag…Julius Jones' touchdown run was his first rushing touchdown since the season-opener…Right tackle Ray Willis is now wearing a captain's "C" on his jersey…Retired Seahawks guard Chris Gray was spotted on the Seahawks' sidelines.
If any team could make a double-digit home win featuring a record-setting performance by its quarterback, and a five-interception outburst from the defense feel like a loss, it'd be the 2009 Seattle Seahawks.
By starting slow and digging an early hole, the Seahawks continued to be their inconsistent selves, doing the bare minimum and getting lots of help from Detroit's rookie quarterback to avoid what would've been a catastrophic loss to the Lions.
Since style points still aren't awarded in the NFL, all that matters is that the Seahawks won a must-win game and moved into a tie for 2nd place in the NFC West. They've kept pace with division-leading Arizona, who they'll face next week in what will be their last chance to convince anyone, perhaps even themselves, that they're a playoff-caliber team.
Fortunately for Seattle, you can say pretty much the same thing about the Cardinals.In addition to writing for NorthwestFootball.net, Brian McIntyre blogs daily at Mac's Football Blog. You can follow Brian on Twittah, and if you'd like to e-mail him, you can always do so by clicking here.