Lions' defense can't stop Seahawks in 51-29 pummeling
Seattle — After showing steady improvement throughout the second half of the season, the Detroit Lions defense imploded in spectacular fashion during the team's final road trip of the campaign.
The Lions allowed the Seattle Seahawks to score on nine consecutive possessions, including five straight touchdowns, in a 51-29 shellacking at Lumen Field on Sunday.
It was the first time the Lions allowed 50 or more points since a 2017 loss to the New Orleans Saints.
"You do take that into account," Lions coach Dan Campbell said about the abrupt step back defensively. "You can't judge it off of one. I don't believe that. Take the totality. But I do think there's something to be said, with two left, if it's the same type of performance.
"... I know this, If we play like this against Green Bay (next week), it'll be the same score," Campbell said. "Those are the facts."
Things started off well enough for the Lions (2-13-1), forcing the Seahawks to go three-and-out on the game's opening possession, and responding by quickly moving into Seattle territory behind a pair of completions to rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown for 27 yards. But after three straight runs left the Lions facing fourth-and-one, running back Jamaal Williams was stopped for no gain, giving the ball back to the Seahawks.
It was all downhill from there for the Lions as they couldn't find a way to stop the Seahawks offense, led by quarterback Russell Wilson.
"I felt like it knocked the wind out of us when we didn't get the fourth-and-inches or half a yard, whatever you want to call it," Campbell said. "We had gotten a three-and-out and we drove it well, and then we don't come away it and then we didn't respond after that."
The Seahawks (6-10) got going by converting a pair of third downs with short passes before breaking through with a couple of long gains on the ground. Running back Rashaad Penny gained 20 yards into the red zone two plays ahead of cutting back against the grain for a 15-yard touchdown to put Seattle up, 7-0.
Penny added 36 more yards on two carries Seattle's next possession, setting up a 51-yard Jason Myers field goal to push the lead to 10-0.
After a shanked punt by Jack Fox, Seattle needed just two plays to return to the end zone. Wide receiver Freddie Swain came wide open on the backside out of play-action for a 56-yard gain to open the series, setting up Penny for a 6-yard capper.
Detroit briefly slowed the bleeding with a five-play touchdown drive, kick-started by a 47-yard kickoff return by Godwin Igwebuike into Seattle territory. On the verge of stalling when faced with a third-and-10, St. Brown took a delayed handoff, picked up a couple of blocks and spun out of a tackle attempt by safety Quandre Diggs on the way to a 26-yard touchdown run.
"I was a little gassed, like, here we go, third-and-10, I've gotta make something happen," St. Brown said. "I got the ball and it was a pretty big hole. One of the D-linemen came off last minute, but he was too late and I broke that tackle. Then, it was one-on-one with me and the safety and just had to make one miss. I did that."
But there was no momentum to be gained from the moment as Seattle countered with another touchdown. Wilson found speedy receiver Tyler Lockett for a 28-yard gain against the coverage of rookie nickelback AJ Parker. Then the veteran quarterback converted a fourth-and-1 in the red zone with a successful sneak.
Trying to limit Seattle to a field goal, Detroit blitzed with three extra rushers on third-and-8. Wilson responded by lofting up a 50/50 ball for supersized receiver D.K. Metcalf, who actually found himself wide open in the end zone after cornerback Will Harris guessed wrong on the route, putting Seattle up 24-7.
The Seahawks added one more score before the half, driving 90 yards on 11 plays behind the running of Penny, who carried the ball six times for 58 yards, including a 37-yard romp up the gut.
After backup running back Travis Homer gained another 13 yards down to the 1-yard line, Russell tapped a pass to Lockett motioning through the backfield left to right for the touchdown.
Penny finished with half with a career-high 144 yards on 16 carries, besting his 137-yard performance against Houston two weeks ago. He finished with 25 carries for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
"Penny is a hell of a player," Campbell said. "He is. But when you let him get going, then you're making that quarterback 10 times better than he already is, and that's tough."
After the break, things only got worse for the Lions. On the second play of the third quarter, quarterback Tim Boyle's pass to KhaDarel Hodge was off target, deflected by receiver and intercepted by cornerback D.J. Reed.
Seattle needed just two plays to translate the turnover into points when Wilson hit Metcalf on a fade route, working against Harris, for a 13-yard touchdown and 31-point lead following Myers' PAT.
Detroit was able to settle down and piece together an eight-play response. St. Brown gained 20 yards early in the drive before Hodge made a diving, 42-yard grab to the 1-yard line.
Playing an expanded role with Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond sidelined with COVID, Hodge caught five passes in the game for a career-high 76 yards.
"I haven't gotten many opportunities the last couple weeks, so I knew I had to prove myself once again, just make plays, just to get the coaches' attention," Hodge said. "I didn't perform as well as I needed to earlier in the season, so I knew I had to come out and make some plays, which I knew I could do."
After back-to-back running plays resulting in a loss of a yard coupled with a false start infraction left the Lions with third-and-goal from the 7, St. Brown scored his second touchdown of the day on a pass from Boyle. The receiver followed that up with a two-point conversion on a carry to cut Seattle's lead, 38-13.
And the Lions immediately got the ball back, successfully executing an onside kick that was recovered by Igwebuike.
Detroit quickly worked across midfield with a 16-yard pass to Hodge and a 11-yard run by Williams. Then on fourth-and-3, Boyle found St. Brown across the middle for 31 yards, setting up first-and-goal from the 8.
That catch pushed St. Brown above 100 yards receiving for the first time in his career. He finished with eight catches for 111 yards and two carries for 23 yards.
"Like I told you guys a few days ago, I think consistency is one of my biggest goals," St. Brown said. "Consistency wins in this league and every week I want to be as consistent as I can so everyone on the team knows what they're getting — quarterbacks, the coaches, my players, my teammates."
After a holding infraction against right tackle Penei Sewell was negated by a facemask penalty against the Seahawks, the Lions got tricky with a 6-yard touchdown pass to left tackle Taylor Decker, the second of the offensive lineman's career.
That touchdown got the Lions back within two scores, 38-22, with 4:50 remaining in the third quarter.
"We actually had a play in two weeks ago, and we didn't call it," Decker said. "Changed it up a little bit, so it was a different play call than in years past. We were using six and seven linemen the whole game, we were reporting the whole time, and you can't hear what numbers they (officials) say are reporting.
"It was a little deception," Decker said. "Had a safety over the top and he was a little late to recognize it."
Any hope of an improbable comeback proved short-lived as Detroit's defense once again failed to get a stop. Methodically working down the field, Seattle drove 80 yards with 13 plays. Wilson scrambled 17 yards down to the 1, setting up a 1-yard pass to Metcalf in the back of the end zone.
That was Wilson's fourth touchdown pass of the game, matching his season-high from the team's Week 1 win over Indianapolis.
With the game out of reach, the Lions added another touchdown, driving 70 yards on 11 plays. Boyle completed three consecutive passes for 38 yards and scrambled for another 14 yards down to the 1-yard line, setting up a 1-yard plunge by Williams.
After a failed onside kick, Seattle tacked on 36-yard field goal, snapping a streak of five consecutive possessions with a touchdown, but extending the lead back to three scores, 48-29.
The Seahawks eclipsed 50 after a Boyle pass intended for Tom Kennedy ricocheted off the receiver's hands and was intercepted by Reed.
Boyle was intercepted for a third time in the closing minutes as Seattle ended the game taking a pair of knees inside Detroit's 5-yard line.
"It's always on me," Boyle said about the turnovers. "It's accuracy, it's decision-making, it's timing. All three of them are on me and that's something I have to assess with myself. Our turnovers, I can't keep doing that to the team. Ultimately the quarterback touches the ball every down and I have to be smarter with the football, and I have to continue to create a plan when kind of things break down or being able to move in the pocket different to see different things."