Lions self-destruct in playoff loss to Seahawks
Seattle — Some things never change.
The Lions couldn’t get it done in the postseason — thanks in large part to execution errors and boneheaded penalties — and the game was marred by its fair share of officiating controversy. Par for the course as the Lions fell to the Seattle Seahawks, 26-6, Saturday in the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs.
There’s little doubt that Monday’s water cooler talk will center around two non-calls that went against the Lions, but the team inflicted plenty of its own wounds in defeat.
Veterans Anquan Boldin and Haloti Ngata, the two players with the most postseason experience on Detroit’s roster, combined for three personal-foul penalties. Safety Tavon Wilson added a roughing-the-passer call in the fourth quarter for good measure.
And dropped passes continued to plague the team as tight end Eric Ebron and receivers Marvin Jones and Golden Tate put four balls on the ground, including two would-be first downs on third-down plays.
“Some things are inexplicable,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “Our guys have usually been pretty sharp with catching the ball. We had some drops out there that we customarily don’t have. We lost our poise a couple of times is the fact of the matter. It was a couple of older guys. There were a couple of them that were debatable but I do think that is uncharacteristic.”
On defense, the Lions made coordinator Teryl Austin look like a prophet. Earlier in the week, discussing season-ending losses to Dallas and Green Bay, he emphasized the importance of stopping the run against the Seahawks.
“When people run the ball on us we have no shot and that’s basically what happened the last two weeks,” Austin said. “They’ve run the ball on us for 150-plus yards and we got our teeth kicked in both times.”
The Seahawks churned out 177 yards on the ground, thanks to a season-high 161 from Thomas Rawls. The Flint native and Central Michigan product was unstoppable in the first half, gaining 107 yards on 15 carries.
“The identity that we always try to maintain is running the ball,” Rawls said. “We want to run hard, tough. We want to run it, and that’s exactly what we did. So, when we are true to our identity and things of that nature, it feeds the crowd. It feeds the offense. It feeds the special teams. That’s one thing we want to maintain and carry out through the rest of this journey.”
The game started as a defensive struggle with both teams failing to score in the opening quarter. The Lions worked into Seahawks territory to end the frame and opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the 38-yard line to open the second quarter.
Instead of running up the gut with running back Zach Zenner, offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter got cute, attempting an awkward rollout screen pass to tight end Matthew Mulligan that was stopped for a loss. Mulligan had caught exactly one pass during the regular season.
Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said Mulligan was a fourth, last-ditch option after the Seahawks defended the play’s original design well.
The Seahawks got on the board on the ensuing possession, punishing the Lions defense with nine straight runs into the red zone. Facing fourth-and-goal from the 2, quarterback Russell Wilson rolled out and found Paul Richardson in the back of the end zone.
The receiver made an incredible one-handed catch despite being run into by Tavon Wilson. But replays showed Richardson grabbed the defensive back’s facemask to make the grab, an infraction an official reportedly told Lions coach Jim Caldwell they missed.
The offsetting calls would have required the down to be replayed. Instead, the Seahawks grabbed a 7-0 lead.
Seattle extended the advantage on its next possession on a 43-yard Steven Hauschka field goal, set up by a 26-yard run by Rawls and a 19-yard reception by Richardson.
The Lions got on the board and cut the deficit to 10-3 just before the half with a 51-yard Matt Prater field goal.
Prater hit another lengthy field goal in the third quarter, this one from 53 yards out. The Seahawks countered with a 27-yard chip shot from Hauschka, making it 13-6 with 14:15 remaining in the game.
After Boldin’s second personal foul — for shoving the face of a Seahawks defender — had the Lions facing a second-and-17, the officials again became part of the story.
On a Stafford deep throw down the sideline to receiver TJ Jones, the referee pulled his flag out and started his throwing motion before deciding to put it back in his pocket. The would-be pass interference call against a Seattle defender was negated by what was announced as an uncatchable pass.
“I took a look at that. I thought it was pretty close,” Stafford said. “I thought it was pretty catchable.”
Detroit would ultimately punt and Seattle would put the game away with an eight-play, 82-yard touchdown drive, 42 yards of which came on a bomb from Wilson to Doug Baldwin out of play-action. Rawls capped the series with a 4-yard scoring run, putting Seattle up, 19-6, after Hauschka missed the extra point.
The Seahawks added a touchdown with 4:15 remaining when Wilson found Baldwin from 13 yards out.
With the loss, the Lions’ playoff woes continue. The franchise has won just one playoff game since winning the NFL championship in 1957. That came 25 years ago, a 38-6 victory over Dallas in 1991.